This last post of the year is a review of the ups and downs and “meh” moments from 2018. It’s a personal reflection, a public display of vulnerability, and most definitely not a “how to review your year and plan for the next” type of post. If you’re looking for that kind of resource, check out Rosetta Thurman of HappyBlackWoman.com she has a great guide on it.
Personally, I’ve been using a tweaked version of the Life in a Notebook annual planning system that my friend, C.J. Hayden developed. I typically start with a brain-dump of desires, searching questions, and intentions for the year, and then I convert them into projects, goals, and/or commitments. I utilize both a coach and accountability buddies to aid in my own self-determination to turn my desires and intentions into reality. I’ll share more about the planning system in my upcoming event, More Than a Vision Board Party.
If you’re still here with me though, my hope is that through my personal experiences and the resources I’ve personally used and will share with you, you’ll gain some clarity, confirmation, new insight and fresh perspective.
As I’ve shared before in previous reviews, I center my intentions for the year around 6 areas or slices of life: Spiritual, Personal, Physical, Social, Professional, and Financial.
I also usually have a word and/or theme for the year that gives me a focal point for all the desires, intentions, commitments and goals I set for the year.
My word for 2018 was “Cherish” and my personal theme was “Love is as Love Does” with an emphasis on connections and community.
I have actually had my themes for 2016, 2017, and 2018 since the end of 2015 when I felt a message stirring deep in my gut, to be intentional about “The Work of Transformative Love”. And so this year was about taking all that I learned about self-love and authentic expression (2016), having a love ethic in work (2017), and going out into community “the world” to actually put love into practice where you have no control of the reaction you’ll get and no expectation of reward. (When other people are involved the real lessons begin.)
Let me back up some…I chose the word “cherish” because around Christmas time in 2017, during a routine exam my doctor found a lump in my breast. I’m not sure how other people react to such news but I actually laughed in her face. I was sure only women who had big boobs had breast problems, certainly not I of the itty bitty committee. And I did immediately think worst case scenario, because that’s my default setting and clutch when I need to make sense of things I feel I have no control over. I believe I mentioned before that when I was younger I had a phase where I constantly thought about death; it was the only way for me to stop letting a fear of it control me. I think I looked over my life and grieved for about an hour or two before I prayed for peace of mind regardless of the results, but told G-d that I wanted to live because I still had work to do. The lump hasn’t gone away yet, but it’s benign and I’m gonna take that as the “go ahead” to keep on living and doing the work I was called to do. So, cherish became my word this year.
After I got the good news report of no cancer, I landed myself in the hospital about 3 days into the new year. I’ve never been hospitalized in my adult life and the experience sparked a new passion for me to really integrate physical health with mental health. I gave up meat and became a Pescatarian (vegetarian who eats fish/seafood) with significant reduction of dairy products and more intake a vegan inspired meals. I worked with a functional nutrition health coach. I started a food and health journal to track my eating habits, my water intake, days of GERD attacks, days of intense migraines, etc. so I could see pattens but also to have a track record for better advocating for myself in the care of doctors who aren’t always patient first. While I still love and cherish the experience of walking in nature or doing some yoga stretches in quiet solitude, I also wanted to cherish the connections I made and the communities I was a part of that I often neglected because of my need for a lot of alone time.
After doing more research on my Enneagram type, I considered taking up dance class and/or martial arts. I did both when I was younger and knew from experience that I felt most alive in the movement arts. In a class setting, I’d connect multiple slices of life such as personal, physical and social. I ended up going to a ballroom dance class after a Facebook friend invited me out. It was fun, but not really my style. Nevertheless, I hope to host more dance meet ups in the future, and I’ve already found a fantastic instructor to facilitate. By coincidence (maybe) I happened to be reviewing my life in a notebook and thought, ‘oh man, the year is almost over and maybe I should see if there’s a decent dojo near me where I can at least go watch a practice’. I got an email from Meetup about a Kendo and Iiado group and took it as a sign to check out. Well, I went into full practice on the 1st day instead of just observing and pretty much got hooked. It’s kicking my butt, I have like level 0 stamina right now, my coordination is waaay off, and I’ve already aggravated an old knee injury, but I am very happy with my choice and looking forward to seeing my growth while hopefully making meaningful connections to cherish for a lifetime.
When I first came up with the word cherish, it was about cherishing my life because the fragility of my humanity became spotlighted with health issues. However, somewhere along the lines I got caught up in the cycle of enough/not enough and began to think I needed to create a life worth cherishing more. *sigh* I said ‘yes’ to a lot of things this year. But this time, which much greater discernment. Some cool things included: a trip to San Diego for work, a trip to North Carolina to have sister time, a comic con, a trip to DC to visit the African American Museum, and a hiking adventure with my bestie. However, my favorite ‘yes’ adventure was an opportunity to go to Spain. I realized that because of all the hard work I had put in the year prior (2017 theme) and the gift of a grant from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Quakers), I was able to afford something I had always wanted to do, go on a spiritual pilgrimage! So, I went. I wasn’t quite sure why I wanted to go or why I wanted to go with the group I went with (Mystic Soul Project) until I saw this quote during my museum trip…
When I came back, I felt refreshed! I met some amazing people, new friends I hope to see again next year at a conference we all intend to go to… yet still, something was missing. I was trying to wrap my mind around the experience and what I got out of it, but struggled to find meaning out of what I saw and felt. I struggled long after the trip was over to write the right words to convey what having this space and place to ‘be’ did for me. Hence, I never blogged about it.
It wasn’t until I came across this text,
“this experience and others like it showed me how the collective unconsciousness of the external world can determine how we experience things as individuals. I came to realize just how much I had internalized external messages of racism and homophobia and projected them onto myself. I saw that I had internalized the message that I was not worthy to be in the space, a part of this practice, in this community, in this lifetime.”
that I understood what I needed to clear out, and how having this space gave me enough breathing room to finally do so. I could fully grieve the pieces of myself that had been hurting for years, to find relief that I wasn’t alone in both the feeling of this deep sense of unworthiness that creeps up in the places of shadow, manifesting as self-sabotage over and over again. And now that I could pinpoint a cause and effect, I could consciously give myself permission to be at ‘home’ within myself and anyplace in the world. The author, Larry Yang then goes on to reflect, “that was for me a moment of waking up. And waking up gives us the power to choose to move toward what is calling us to be free.” Wow! and heck Yes!
I already knew how important spiritual community was to me but after being in a POC-centered setting for spiritual enlivenment, I realized how much I really desired to be in and lend my gifts to communities that gave precedence to people who felt “other”, who were unorthodox, who wanted to simply “belong” and were tired of a inauthentic sense of belonging aka just trying to fit in by way of conformity to mainstream thought and practice even if it conflicted with and often times contradicted their own principles and values for living. Through my involvement with the organization I’d pilgrimed with, I started a POC-centered monthly fellowship where we explore the intersections of contemplation, activism, and healing together. You’re welcome and encouraged to come, (or any of the community groups if you’re not in my neck of the woods). This journey also led me to seeking more knowledge about spiritual activism, healing justice movements, philosophy, physics and theology. I may be going back for my Masters in the near future, or at least taking more spiritual studies coursework. I’ll keep you posted!
In growing my spiritual life, and staying true to wanting to support people who feel “other”, I launched the in-person meet up aspect of my mental health for business owners initiate, Love Yourself Love Your Business. It was decided that we would form a nonprofit organization in 2019. I’m feeling hopeful and grounded about the project and could use all the help I can get with it!
Taking a step back, I realized that one of my biggest motivations for even caring about my financial slice is any contribution I can give to help build healthy and “beloved” community, protect our environment, and create more peace in the world. But it’s a balancing act. Sometimes an overwhelming balancing act, but boredom will never be an issue! I admit, was more lax in my efforts to make money this year compared to last year which meant more money going out than coming in. On the plus, it forced me to redo my budget and my numbers AND reach out to the finance community with questions regardless of feeling embarrassed about my lack of know-how. I’ve concluded that I can be more impactful with money in my pocket and food in my belly so yeah, I’m going to be operation pay off debt and save money next year.
This brings me to how I actually do that and find balance. I chose to work in the Virtual Assistance industry because it offered me an opportunity to leverage skills I already had, but also left the door open to possibilities for growth in ways that I feel only entrepreneurship/running a business can give. Being an independent professional, I get to choose the type of clients I want to work with and in turn they choose me as their partner.
As much as I love seeking deep truth and meaning in the world. as much as I could literally spend all day getting lost in my own personal research, I go nutters if I’m not getting things done in a practical and graspable way to aid the bigger picture. Setting up a crm system so a client can follow up with someone who is willing and able to pay top dollar is instant gratification for me. Learning that said person who paid my client top dollar no longer has to take pills for diabetes or was able to turn a new leaf in their organization because workplace culture improvement…that’s the sweetest reward and satisfaction. I wanted to honor our partnership by increasing my skills, the kind of skills that a robot can’t fulfill such as emotional intelligence, being more ethical in my work, etc. I enrolled and graduated from AssistU and am now connected to a whole community of highly skilled professionals with extensive networks. (And quite frankly, they are just really amazing women.)
And because I feel at peace in my work, I am more creative and intentional about how I spend my time outside of the work that pays the bills and funds my heart-work projects. As I grew more intentional about how I spent my time, I came back around to the original reason why cherish became my word for the year. I didn’t need to go out and create more “worthy” life experiences to cherish. My life is already full. Even as things fall apart and build back up, as we learn and unlearn lessons, war within ourselves, find peace within ourselves, life is beautiful. Sleeping in a warm bed through the night is cherished experience. Eating good food to heal my body is a cherished experience. Drinking clean water is a cherished experience. Laughing until tears run down my cheeks is a cherished experience. Hugging my friend as she mourns the loss of a relationship is a cherished experience. Feeling deep sadness and disappointment for mankind because of the hate and anger in the world is a cherished experience. Finding a spark of hope from a kind gesture that reminds you that people still care, is a cherished experience. Looking at all the amazing accomplishments of peers via the limited scope of their social media posts and deciding, plus believing that my life matters and is just as valuable even without “all that jazz” is a cherished experience.
When I view love as a verb, I understand that I do not have to earn my place of belonging. Because “love is as love does” is more about how I live in accordance with the truth that I am already worthy of belonging. That you are already worthy of belonging. And how we honor and cherish the sacredness of this inherent sense of belonging is by how we treat ourselves and one another.
Until Next Time…Peace!
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