Last New Year’s Eve, I wrote this post, The Year After “Next Year.” In it, I took a retrospective look at 2014, a period where vague ideas I struggled with for so long finally coalesced. These two sentences really get to the heart of that transformation: “I am still traveling, but learning to enjoy the scenery and finally beginning to trust the internal compass. A solid year of slower, adrenaline-free decision making will do that.”
2015 began full of vigor and confidence. Vigor I’ve always known, but the cool underlying certainty with which I greeted the year was something new altogether. As I returned to the office post-holidays, I confided in a friend and colleague. The work I’d done in 2014 was moving in positive directions. 2015 was going to be big – even if I didn’t know what exactly that meant.
As I take stock of this year, one clear truth emerges. The highest expectations I had of myself and the last twelve months have been exceeded. Pick a life element: health, career, home, family, friendships, recreation or romantic love. Huge strides everywhere. The soundtrack in my head alternates between mental to-do lists, show tunes and reminiscences of things Bob said that made me laugh – the way my life was meant to be lived. A huge drop in the permitted white noise which rendered inertia has left me free to move in multiple new directions.
Hesitation and self-doubt hover, but are mostly relegated to the periphery where they belong. Because I’ve stared worst case scenarios in the eye, spit in them and started over. I can do that as many times as needed. But I don’t have to call up those survival skills as often now. Harnessing a commitment to change and a solid professional support team, centered decisions have resulted. Selfishness isn’t always a bad thing. The worst results of efforts made for and by myself exceed the helpless mediocrity I let others dictate in the past.
None of this insight means I’ve stopped requiring others, or become an island. Contrary to a co-dependent legacy, where I insisted that martyrdom was its own limp reward, I’ve added three important sentences to my vocabulary:
“I’m sorry I can’t/won’t do that.”
“I need help.”
I was raised to look at these utterances as weakness, when they actually represent strength. The power comes from using them judiciously. I remember sitting in session with a marriage counselor during the summer of 2011. He compared my then-husband to a “vending machine into which money is placed but no product released.” Smugly I turned that familiar look of martyrdom on the two men. I’d been vindicated. Yes. I’d invested so much in the relationship and just look at the results. Poor moi.
But then the therapist asked a follow-up question that seems so obvious from a healthier vantage point. If the vending machine continually cheated me, why did I keep depositing coins?
I don’t waste my metaphorical currency anymore. I let go of a friendship this year with someone I find tremendously talented and full of promise. Yet to misquote Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, I can’t afford to love the highest potential of a person more than who they actually are today.
I apply this value to myself as well. There’s less disconnect than ever between the ideal Becky I “should” be and the one who walks the dogs in board daylight wearing footie pajamas and a Storm Trooper winter cap. She’s no peerless Madonna (Virgin Mary or Material Girl – take your pick), But I kind of like her style. Owning that has attracted better quality opportunities that are exactly what I need.
So that’s my 2015. Justified faith, not in karma, the universe or some force beyond my control, but in my instincts and movements. They weren’t always right and were frequently ridiculous. But even the missteps offered something important.