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A few things 2023 taught me...

Updated: Jan 16

When I look back at 2023 what stands out to me are the many hills and valleys spread throughout the year. I remember a few deep abysses where I sat in despair, a number of mountain tops where I stood in wonder and lots of time in between grappling with questions, learning, and (hopefully) growing wiser. This is what stands out.


Making space for wisdom

Over New Year's I was at the beach for a few days with my two daughters. They are polar opposites, at least on the outside. My older daughter is in all black, smoking from the moment she gets up, minimally interested in any form of self-care. My younger daughter, at 13, follows all the rules and came into the world with the self-assurance and body type that takes some of the edge of these difficult years for a young woman. Yesterday while engaging with my older daughter, I noticed how unsure and anxious I felt. The questions were ricocheting in my head - Why won't she stop smoking and hang out with us? Why doesn't she appreciate what she has? She has gone through so much, and paid such a high price for her choices, we all have, why is she starting down this path again? I felt like a gray knotted hand had grabbed my heart and was squeezing. As I heard her continuously hacking as she drew yet another breath from her joint, I watched myself say, "If you don't stop I'm going to dump a bucket of water over your head". She smirked, watching me flail. Then, she followed up with, "You see me with such disgust". I felt her words like a blow to the stomach, as I tried in vane to explain my concern, knowing that the words tumbling from my mouth couldn't heal the judgment that she felt. I have learned enough over the years to allow my own discomfort and hers, and realize the futility of trying to repair in those moments. So I just accepted her feelings, and mine, and walked away with grace.


Every morning I commit to being with myself and processing the feelings and situations that before I would have tended to try and distract myself from. I've learned that there is no more important part of my day, unless the roof is falling in. So I sat with the sadness and fear, around her returning to old self-destructive pattern, that she didn't value us or herself. I allowed myself to feel all the darkness and heaviness that accompanied these thoughts, until I recognized that I wasn't being consumed by them. Then I looked at the underlying beliefs. I took time to discern wisdom from fear. I recognized that sometimes it felt easier to buy into the old story that history repeats itself, to fall back into familiar agreement with fear. I needed instead to look at what is true right now, to accept it, in this hold space in my mind of her bumpy becoming which required hard work on my part to notice my pattern, pivot, and ask myself what the most powerful response would be.

I've learned I have to let go of outcomes. I have to be open to having my heart broken again, knowing that I can survive it. I have to hold on to the belief that there is a wisdom and logic for what's happening that I can't always grasp, but that serves a higher purpose, both mine and hers.


 

Emotions as our guides, not our essence

For so long I never questioned that I was anything but the emotions that created my mood, my state of mind, my joy, my despair. I recall a morning, just a few weeks ago, as I was sitting on a small beach on the Pacific and looked out at the sunrise. I noticed constriction in my chest, and the tears began to flow. I had just received a text from my daughter's friend, "Siento que está pasandola muy difícil aun" (I feel she is still having a really difficult time). I felt such deep sadness and fear that after all the support she had been given she still was struggling with demons that I couldn't help her defeat. As I watched the interaction of the waves and the rocks, the image helped me to connect with the concept that we are not our emotions, that while our feelings are real and can be a cause of great suffering, our core essence is separate and a place of peace and refuge.


When I feel myself being sucked down into the depths I will remind myself of the rocks rising up from the beach, allowing the swirling of the ocean below them, yet standing sovereign as they witness the beauty of the sunrise every morning.



What would this look like if it was easy?

I've written the words "ease" and "grace" alongside the word "wholeness" on the wall in my office. These words are my touchstones for 2024. I've found so much of my suffering comes through struggle and grasping, trying to orchestrate something that through arrogance and ignorance, I am convinced is the best outcome. This shows itself predominantly in regards to my daughter, but I can also see it in my work life, and even in small decisions around where I live, travel, relationships, etc. The struggle comes about when I attach to something that I feel will make me feel "better", less fearful and in control, more useful or valuable, more loved, etc. Detaching and letting things unfold, once I've taken action, is hard because I have convinced myself that I need a certain outcome in order to feel "whole". It all comes down to me, and if I'm coming from lack or abundance in my life. Moving through life with ease and grace doesn't mean we don't need to work hard, but when I find myself feeling anxious and grasping, saying those works reminds me that it doesn't have to be this way. There is another way.

This idea of "wholeness" I find myself coming back to again and again, when I have to make a decision, or respond to a situation. When I ask myself "are you coming from wholeness?", the parts of me that are fearful, insecure, anxious and confused can step back, and I'm somehow able to tap into my wiser self.

 

Here are some of my recent favorite resources to inspire you for 2024


From Elise Loehnen and Pulling the Thread, an excellent multi-part series on addiction and supporting loved ones struggling


Energy medicine


All of my life I've been emerged in the world of evidence and fact based sense-making, yet I've felt often that there was something missing. So while I was initially a bit skeptical, have adopted energy medicine and healing into my daily routine, and find them powerful.


Jakki Leonardini is an energy healing and wellness practitioner. I love her work with energy medicine, and have her interviews find her incredibly wise and grounded, such as this episode on contending with fear.

She also has a free 15 minute meditation here.


Ellie Seilern of Devy Alchemy has introduced me to a new world of both listening deeply to my inner wisdom, and sensing into my life's purpose. She has given me an awareness of energy and how to draw on it to both heal and create, which has had an impact on my relationships, my work, and overall how I bring peace, focus and creativity to my day.


 

If you are interested in my upcoming course on Conscious Parenting teens through the rough spots please send me an email to catherine@collaborative-insights.org






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