I’ve been ruminating on this post for nearly two weeks now, yet haven’t found time to write. This round of treatment has been more difficult and I’ve been struggling to find the energy. I’m feeling better now and so I ponder… what do I want to say? I don’t want to simply highlight the things that happened in 2014, so I’ll try to reflect forward, sharing how I’ve grown over the last year.
In some ways 2014 was a tough one – heck it brought a cancer diagnosis. Yet in many ways, it was a great, if not awesome, year – I completed my Doctorate, hiked the West Coast Trail, saw the wide-open skies of the prairies, took in New York, dipped my toes in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, returned to Uganda, moved to Victoria, tried my hand at love again, saw family and friends and met new ones, co-taught my first graduate course, tried my hand at love again (despite it not working out), attended a bunch of awesome retreats, and after just one round of chemotherapy my tumours shrunk! Not such a bad year really!
Yet despite all of this, the thing that affected me most in 2014 wasn’t something I did, rather it was something I felt. Throughout 2014 I re-discovered my ability to love and respect myself, and in doing so I learned some valuable life lessons:
1. I am enough. For much of my life I’ve tried to improve myself to be better, more, or different, and I’ve tried to prove my worth to both myself and others. Now I realize I’m great the way that I am and I don’t need to be anything else but me. Plus, if anyone has a problem with that, I likely don’t want them in my life anyway.
2. I am strong and vulnerable. Being strong and vulnerable aren’t mutually exclusive; I can be both. In fact, in the words of Criss Jami “to share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” Through life, and this journey in particular, I am choosing to be honest and real, even if it means being vulnerable.
3. I am loved and supported. Despite being single, I am frequently reminded that I am not alone on this journey, and that I don’t have to be. I have an amazing network of friends and family who offer me love, care, and support. I am deeply blessed to feel this around me.
4. Change happens and sometimes it sucks. For the most part I’m pretty good with change, and I often thrive and grow within it. Yet over the last year I’ve learned that some changes just suck. Period. Recognizing this, I’m learning to accept all change (both the good and the not so good) as a moment in time, and I’m trusting that within each change an opportunity awaits.
5. Healing is a holistic, multifaceted process. When I was initially diagnosed with lymphoma, I blamed myself; I wondered what have I done for grow in my body. Since, I’ve realized that it isn’t helpful to beat myself about why; cancer is here now. Yet rather than relying on conventional medicine to heal, I can take a more active and holistic approach to healing that focuses on the body, mind, soul, and spirit, and in doing so I am adopting healthier habits and reprogramming some old patterns that may have contributed to the cancer (just in case!).
6. Letting go offers space for new beginnings. This lesson has been a struggle for me, yet it was clearly an important one to learn. In spite of my struggles with letting go, I was challenged to “shed” or let go of many of my identities in 2014, including, among others, student, partner, being “healthy,” and international consultant. While this process was – and continues to be – difficult, I’ve realized that these terms don’t define me, and that by letting go I invite space for the mystery and possibility to unfurl. According to Paulo Coehlo, “if you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” I’m putting my trust in the unknown.
And so, while 2014 had some difficult moments, it was also a year of reflection and growth. I am grateful for all of it – the good and the not so great – for it has catalyzed a process of self-discovery. I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I trust that 2015 has many more gifts in store.