Saturday, January 2, 2010

Going forward

Happy New Year!
As is evident from the sporadic posting I've done here, I've been having a bit of a hard time with exactly what and how I want to share things here. I find general accounts of travelling and photos of famous places to be fairly boring, but that's what I've been slipping into. It's easy. It doesn't take much time. I'll spare you the early-'00s-style agonizing over what to write on the Internet and what to keep to oneself. Suffice it to say that I'm tired of boring even myself.

I'm very excited about this new year, though. 2009 was an epic year for me, incredibly challenging and rewarding beyond anything I imagined:
  • I became bilingual.
  • I lived on California's central coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  • I was challenged intellectually and emotionally in ways I never had been challenged before.
  • I moved twice in eight months . . .

. . . from the west coast . . .

. . . to the east coast . . . .


to Europe.

  • I celebrated a landmark birthday (at the beach, as is my custom).
  • On that birthday, I had earth-shaking revelations about events and beliefs that had been shaping my life for decades.
  • I spent most of the spring, summer, and fall fighting to pull myself out of depression over and over again.
  • I spent most of the spring, summer, and fall doing intense personal work, examining what I was realizing, what was being revealed.
  • One day back in January, I realized I was about to start shrieking from stress and despair, so I put on my tennis shoes and went for a walk. As the year went by, I ended up losing 15 pounds and getting in the best shape of my adult life.

  • I ran my first 5K and finished seven minutes faster than I anticipated.
  • I learned how to make a life and keep going without a job, without friends close to me geographically, without a church home.
  • I made so many new and wonderful friends.
  • I saw spectacular fireworks, unobscured by fog.
  • I adored my first crab boil.

  • I drove all the way across the country, from sea to shining sea.

  • I lived in the east for the first time.
  • I got to visit my best friend twice in one year.

  • I traveled by train.
  • I learned a new and foreign public transportation system.
  • I sold my motorcycle, making the last quarter of 2009 the first time in 11 years that I didn't own at least one motorcycle.

  • I bought a bicycle, making the last quarter of 2009 the first time in 17 years that I owned a bicycle.

  • I discovered the joy and miracle of Skype.
  • I climbed a volcano.

  • I was continually astounded and humbled by my husband's love, integrity, work ethic, consideration and generosity.
  • I was continually moved by the love and generosity of my friends and family members around the globe.
I haven't made New Year's resolutions on a regular basis for some years. Instead, for last couple of years I've followed Christine Kane's practice of choosing a word for the year. I usually review my word on my birthday, since I was born just a few days off from the exact mid-point of the year. Back in San Diego, my friend B and I would go to the beach on the day between our birthdays (we were born two days apart) and review our paths and our words for the year.

Coincidentally, my word for 2009 was release, the word Christine Kane used as an example in the 2007 post that I linked above. I didn't choose it for any of the reasons she mentions in her post, and it didn't particularly resonate for me in any of the ways she describes as possible outcomes. That's the beauty of choosing your word for the year -- it will work on and within you in a completely personal way.

I chose release thinking that I needed to let go of the need to control everything, to be right, to be perfect or at least appear that way. I scrawled the word on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall across from where I sat in my home office so that I saw it whenever I looked up from working or doing homework. And as the year went by, there were many times when I laughed -- often somewhat bitterly -- over having chosen that word. I could almost hear God saying, You want to learn about releasing? Really? Okay . . . here you go . . . 

With each challenge I had, I found the need to release was key to moving on: release my desperate attachment to San Diego, to California, and to people I met and bonded with there; release my habitual ways of reacting and making decisions; release my identification with my past job; release my fear of feeling anything, of reaching out, of letting go.

When I let go, I found myself always in a better place -- that place was the present, where I was actually living.

I can't say that I mastered release. The word, the act, could be a lifelong project.

I can say that I am a different person now from who I was 12 months ago, just about all for the better. I am awed by how far I have come, how much I have learned, and how that has transformed my world. 2009 was, I guess, objectively agonizing. But looking back, all I see are miracles and grace.

My word for 2010 is unfold, inspired by a birthday card sent to me by my dear friend S, and by a transformative conversation I had with my dear friend E.

I'm excited. It's going to be great -- it already is great! With release, I felt that I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to gain from the word, although I knew, of course, that I'd get so much more than that. What a ride it turned out to be.

With unfold, however, I do not have that same sanguine confidence that I had a year ago. Unfold is already, right from the very beginning, a mystery, a little scary, a gloriously big box of wonder.

It's already begun to work in my life, as we look at the possibility of trying to move from our gorgeous little community down into the city. I have no idea if it will happen, but I've put out my intention and I feel joy and contentment as I walk forward to see what will unfold.

2010 is unfolding all around me, and I wish you a year full of both exhilaration and peace, of joy and discovery.


Barb said...

Hey Jess,
Just had to say that I loved your post. I am in awe of the insight and strength you have to look back at this past year. I'm not sure I can look back at 2009 with such an open mind.

I love the thought of having a word for the new year. Such possibilities....guess I have some thinking to do!

Hope 2010 brings you and Ian many, many blessings!

Love ya,

Jessica said...

Oh Barb, thank you. One of my biggest regrets is that I was having such a hard time, and I knew you were, too, and I didn't reach out and connect. Nothing but joy to you and your boys in 2010. Love you so much!

molly said...

You inspire me, continually!

Elizabeth MacCrellish said...

This may well be my most favorite post of your of all time! It captures SO much and my god, woman-- what a rich, beautiful life you are living!! And how much do I love that Daisy's butt is in your pic of Janelle? heee so much!

Smooch to you unfolding ROSE!


Leah said...

What a wonderful post. I've been feeling very unsettled lately, but for no particular reason. After reading this, I'm thinking that lately I haven't allowed myself this degree of self-reflection. I'm sorry that you had a rough 2009. You're an inspiration!