Today is the last day of a year that really hasn't felt that good for a lot of us. Me included. Ah well, it was what it was and it is what it is and I got to experience it in whatever way I chose to. And because of the way I chose to, I am not the same person that I was on December 31, 2015.
2016 has been, for me, a personally and intensely toxic year, and I did not consciously recognize that until the beginning of November.
For me, 2016 was a year of self-sabotage, and a feeling of disappointment in myself so profound that it twisted and warped itself into intense self-hatred... Self-hatred so big and so deep that it could not be contained in just my emotions and so it manifested into an auto-immune disorder called myasthenia gravis. My own immune system currently thinks that my voluntary muscles are an infection, so when I use them it tries to kill them (not entirely accurate, but an easy-to-understand explanation). On November 3rd, when the neurologist told me, "Your body is attacking itself," I instantly, clearly knew the reason why. You cannot treat yourself hatefully for 11 months solid and not have it show up in some form in your physical experience. In my case, it happened to show up as a physical dis-ease.
Talk about a wake-up call. That woke me up. I began right away attempting to be kinder to myself, which - as with all shifts in direction - had to start with noticing when I WASN'T being kind to myself. I was shocked when I began to be deliberately aware of how I was treating myself. Shocked. And angry. And disappointed. And frustrated with myself for allowing my feelings of self-hatred to reach that level of intensity. Frustrated and disappointed in myself as I began to see that I had basically forgotten every single thing I had learned over the last 17 years about how to live a happy and fulfilled life.
However, the best thing I have going for me is that I HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE. I know what to do and I know how to do it. The last time I felt that hopeless and powerless was when I was still in relationship with my last abuser, in 1999-2000. At that time I chose to be willing to do the inner work - on myself - that would be required for me to change my own life for the better. At that point in the relationship it was either that or resign myself to dying at the hands of a man who constantly and repeatedly SAID that he loved me, but who treated me like he hated me. In August of 1999 it was basically a foregone conclusion that at some point he was going to murder me.
By November 3, 2016, I had reached that same situation, only I was being my own abuser. Which meant that I was also being my own victim. That night I "woke up" to the simple fact that I had reached that point again. And I began asking myself some big questions. Questions like this: Do I want to continue this way of being that has become such a habit that I hadn't even seen that I was doing it to myself? Or do I want to shift my direction, and leave that habit in the dust behind me? Am I willing to do the inner work that will be required to change my life for the better? Or shall I resign myself to the downward spiral that I'm on right now and that can only end with death at the hands of my current abuser? (GASP!!!)
THAT question caught and held my attention. In 1999 I had decided that dying at the hands of an abusive person who was supposed to love me was NOT my choice. Just under two months ago I found myself making the exact same choice, and knowing that I, myself, was my current abuser made it even more unthinkable to me that I would choose to continue down that path.
So for the last two months I have found myself using the EXACT same tools and methods for change that I used 17 years ago. In a couple of ways, though, it's more difficult this time around. First, it is SO much easier for me to love and support and encourage others - to see their worth and encourage them to see it, too - than it is for me to love and support and encourage myself to see and feel my own worth. And second, I spent much of 2016 pasting a happy face sticker over my own life so that I would not have to know - so I wouldn't have to ADMIT to myself - how I was really feeling about myself. I was very good at talking the talk, while walking my walk in a completely different direction. And I tore my own self apart.
I've come a long way over the last two months. I am doing the work, and the parts of me that I ripped to shreds are beginning to heal.
And, in this process, I am becoming a better and more authentic person than I've ever been in my life.
For me, 2017 is going to be about focusing on continuing this inner work for the purpose of cultivating and nurturing an ability to love myself and to treat myself the way it's so easy for me to treat others. 2017 is going to be about authenticity, about being real both with myself and with the world (no more happy face stickers). About saying no when "no" is the best answer for me to give and saying "yes" when I'm really feeling it and can come from my heart. About allowing myself to be imperfect and REALLY letting that be okay, instead of mouthing the words and making the excuses for all the ways I fall short of my own expectations of myself. About following Divine Guidance when I'm Called to something, and letting the times that I'm NOT feeling Called to something "more" or "bigger" or "difference-making" be perfectly okay... and maybe even seeing those times as Divine Opportunities to make a difference in my own life, rather than pressuring myself to make a difference in the world. (And, in fact, doesn't it follow that if I make a positive difference in my own life, I actually AM serving the world in a much more positive way than I ever could when putting the world before my own self-love and self-worth? And isn't that true for ALL of us?)
I have been way too hard on myself for 8 years now, and this last year has been the (inevitable) culmination of all of that.
2017 will be, more than anything else, a year of learning how to release the pressure that brought me to the brink this year. I have now deliberately taken a giant step back from that brink. And as I am purposefully immersing myself in "real life," I am also purposefully changing my perception of my self and my world. For my own sake. Because, contrary to my previous opinion of myself, I actually am important, and I really am worthy of a happy life (which only I can create for myself.)
Just as an aside, my year of self-hatred has been pretty hard on my husband, too. It's been very difficult for him to watch me direct so much toxic energy at myself and not be able to do anything about it. God bless him.
Which brings me to this: I know that I have SO MUCH to be grateful for. And now I am looking forward to moving further and further into being able to consistently APPRECIATE all of those things and people more deeply than ever before.
I am purposely not setting any tangible or measurable goals for 2017. The coming year will be all about reaching toward my FEELING goals, and the tangible, measurable stuff will be what it will be.
2016 was an interesting yet painful year for me, and I am glad to see its end.
2017 will be a Grand Adventure no matter how it tangibly turns out. And I am okay with that.