A Look Back at 2019
For me, looking back on the year I can see five distinct seasons:
Five Seasons of 2019
1. France Sojourn (Jan. – Feb.)
I opened the new year feeling like I needed a release from expectation and striving, so I gave myself permission to do whatever I pleased with no guilt. I stayed with a friend for a month and a half in a small costal town outside of Nantes. I had very calm, solo days, filled with reading, watching Netflix (The Good Place, Home Made Simple, The Hook-up Plan, Call My Agent), cooking, baking, and taking walks. I did a very tiny bit of drawing, some yoga. I also experienced feelings of inferiority, trying to fit in to French culture and do things the “right way,” act appropriately in social situations. Applied to two jobs. And then, my final week, received the news that Cathleen had died.
Themes: Ease/Rest, Outer World
2. AZT Thru-Hike (March – May)
The start of the hike, and the week leading up to it, was rocky with grief. I gained strength and peace as I hiked, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in solitude on the trail. It already feels like lifetimes ago, that daily life and feeling. I finished the hike feeling on top of the world.
Themes: Movement, Peace of Mind, Inner Peace
3. Summer in Wisconsin (May – Sept.)
Living with grief at my parents’ house was not a good environment for me. I read (too quickly) a ton of books, cooked and baked, grew a garden, was still able to create things (ie AZT guide), saw my WI friends when I could. There was the period when I trained to teach online via VIP Kid. I tutored private Spanish classes all summer. Reconnected with my neighbor, a spiritual woman. Went through two months of unsustainable car hunting / anxiety. Bought an SUV. Learned to drive stick.
Themes: Grief, Anxiety, Loneliness, Paganism/tarot/Marianne Williamson
4. Drive West (Oct. – Nov.)
I went through a huge grief wave when I drove west. I stayed in the backyard of a friend’s in Kansas, saw five familiar faces in Steamboat Springs, CO and parked at a friend’s house two of those nights. I could hardly stay awake for a 12-hour day, let alone be active. I journaled almost every day of October to work through it. Stayed on BLM land for a month outside of Hurricane, UT. Worked on my zine. Continued to read, read, read and give myself the rest and love that I needed. Whatever came up was okay. However I spent the time was okay.
Themes: Grief, Aloneness, Self-Compassion
5. Settling in Zion (Nov. – Dec.)
Getting a house (yay), starting a job (seeing familiar faces every day, omg), being with the deer each day, living in community (on a small circle of park housing for seasonal employees; being known by the post office workers and the librarians, very easily able to engage in the things I Like to do (playing uke, painting, drawing, creating, snail mailing) thanks to the tables in my warm house and lack of wifi—it’s all helped me feel grounded and regain strength. I still had several smaller grief-isodes in December (the mice day, the chair day, talking at retreat), so it’s with me but is changing form. And its head still pops up randomly, and I allow it to as best I can. Finishing my zine on Christmas was great closure to the last decade of my life.
Themes: Community, Mother Nature, Filling My Cup
And now, I do feel as though I’ve turned the page to a new chapter since 2020 began:
Regaining Strength (Jan. 2020)
At the start of the month I went to a retreat hosted by Nicole Antoinette of Real Talk Radio. It was small (6 other women), empowering, uncomfortable, transformational, rewarding, fulfilling, beyond words (not in the so-amazing-there-are-no-words way, but simply in that it was so experiential that words cannot convey that experience). I have a new compass with feelings rather than values. I made new connections. I have people with whom I can practice living my truth. I noticed unflattering feelings and sat with them and expressed them and was witnessed. I experienced in community. Values were affirmed, the path strengthened. I gained hope.
January doesn’t usually align with such a refreshed feeling, but this year that’s when the tide really began to turn. I’m settling into a new depth of life, of awareness: seeing magic and connection and Oneness in my everyday at a new level. I’m sinking my teeth deeper into creative energy and creative play, the emotional and somatic experience/relief of self-expression through songs, words, drawings, dancing. Continuing to be unwitnessed (no social media; not blogging often; no one with whom I share daily “happenings”) has made my experiences feel all the more sacred, as putting them to words chips away the raw essence, the true experience. I sit more with the “messy” raw ingredients and energies around me each day, as they are—no story pulled from it. I’m listening, observing, feeling, noticing, allowing.
Themes: Play, Creativity, Mother Nature, New Strength
It wasn’t until I looked back and realized the best I felt this past year was on the AZT and late December when I got settled into my home in Zion. What’s similar between both situations? Being outside 90+% of the time.
With that context, here’s a look at the focuses I’d selected in January of 2019.
Obnoxiously Encouraging Thoughts + Non-Comparison
Looking back, it’s kind of incredible that at the start of the year I felt a strong “hell no” when I flipped over the “Bold” Goddess card. I didn’t want to push myself or try to achieve things. I wanted a full year with no expectations, where whatever I did was good enough, a safe bubble away from our go-get-em culture. Embracing days of being or playing, where I couldn’t easily answer what I “did.” I didn’t want to be around people / spaces asking what I’d “done” each day. And I wanted to be incredibly over-the-top kind, encouraging, and loving to myself, for I was so curious who I would become under those circumstances.
Turns out, I really needed all of those things while grieving. I had to be gentle. I could hardly “do” things that were normally easy-peasy, and I didn’t understand why or what was happening. So this theme really did continue through the whole year.
Filling a Poetry Notebook
I probably wrote the most poetry last year while hiking the AZT. I would get little phrases here and there and jot them down when I could. This lost heat, though. In the past few weeks I’ve designed a container for weekly creative play, though, and poetry is one of the areas interwoven.
With 2019 in mind, I’m proud of:
- Feeling the grief, talking about it, letting myself cry
- The times I took a walk just to walk (because I couldn’t “do” anything else, couldn’t sit with myself and the feelings
- Turning down get-togethers post-hike when I just couldn’t
Getting hired and trying VIP Kid
- Spanish tutoring
- Buying my Element (the 2-month search, spending the money, etc.)
- Learning to drive stick
- Driving west
- Getting through
- Getting myself the job at Zion (and getting here)
- Staying optimistic
- Journaling in October
- Making my zine
- AZT thru-hike
- Writing the AZT guide
- Listening to my intuition
- Investing in RTR retreat
- Loving myself, kind self talk
- Trusting myself, knowing what I need
- Snail mail sent
- Reaching out when it was really uncomfortable (Leo, Colorado, Kansas)
- 10 months sober
- Having conversations about friendships (with the friends they involve) this winter, when I was able
Here are some of the more tangible things I left behind in 2019:
- Alcohol (Had last drink sometime in February, while in France)
- Instagram (Left last of social media)
- Netflix (Left at the end of December)
- Etrade (Transferred to Vanguard in December)
Plenty of less-tangibles were left behind as well, but they’re harder to put to words.
Focuses in 2020
Here are some words that are feeling important to me at this point in time:
My new compass directions are:
Curiosities I’ll continue to explore:
- Alt. healing
- Witchy women
- Sacred space
- Experiences in community
- Creative play
2020: First-Quarter Aims
At the retreat, I picked three areas to focus on during this first quarter of the year.
1. Develop daily meditation practice
Especially while reading Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” this past fall, I saw that I want to live in the state of awareness more often. Meditation will help me to cultivate this, but I lost my practice in 2019. So far, after the first month of the year, I’ve incorporated grounding into my work weeks, usually at lunch. I’m using it as a tool when I’m not feeling at ease. Two minutes is enough time to close my eyes, breathe deeply, envision myself growing the roots, pulling up the energy, and sending excess energy back into the earth before closing.
2. Weekly creative play + monthly challenge
Creativity is very much a part of my life, but there are the things that are built into my life and I don’t have to think about (ie decorating snail mail envelopes, 100 portraits project, day marker art journal), and there are the things that I always think about trying, but which are non-routine and thus have more resistance and I never try (ie writing flash fiction, poetry, erotica, drawing an object in front of me, drawing with a single line—no picking up the pen, writing a song with three chords, writing a rap, putting a poem to music, writing a silly song about something in my day, making rubber stamps from erasers, etc.).
So, I made slips of paper with various prompts I can use for 10 minutes. The goal is to pull one each week and do it. I’m in week three of the practice and it’s going great. I love that I don’t have to think about anything: just pull a slip and DO it. Doing the slip is the only goal, the focus is all on the process, not the result. And knowing that 10 minutes is all I “need” to do makes it very approachable. I’ve already had interesting experiences and insights arise as a result of these first two weeks, and both went well beyond 10 minutes (even though neither is necessary).
3. Explore maintenance jobs // develop alter ego
I enjoy the physical nature of trail work, but want to learn a little bit about all the trades (plumbing, electric, mechanic, etc.). Maintenance/grounds would be a great field to get into, for they dabble in a little bit of everything. This particular focus is threefold: 1) to start learning these skills however I can; 2) to apply to USAjobs maintenance positions in national parks, and 3) to change my relationship with resumes/job hunting/interviews.
I’ll talk a little more about this last one. When I read job postings online, my body and mind jump to a place of fear: fear of not being qualified enough, not being able to articulate my strengths/knowledge well enough in the limited interactions involved with most hiring, not being seen as my true self, being boxed in, not sure how to get compensated for my soft skills when I can quickly learn the hard skills I don’t currently know in a job-hunt environment when all they ask about is if you know all the hard skills, etc. Lots of fears. It’s all mindset. To contrast, once I’m in a place, with people face to face, the worries subside. So, I’m developing an altar ego I can become when I’m in this job-game environment, a badass confident woman who belongs wherever she goes and can try for any position she wants to try for. I also need to begin rewriting the stories I have internalized about all of this.
I have weekly accountability with my retreat group as I work towards these three focuses, and it’s been going fantastic. My January has turned out completely differently since going to the retreat, that’s undeniable.
2020 Odds and Ends
Finally, a few odds and ends I want to put on the docket for 2020:
Restarting 100 Portraits project.
I had a 4-month dry streak during my grief and drive west. I’ve since gotten back into the project this month, inspired by wanting to paint my fellow retreat members (and then I’ll do my interns/NPS coworkers at Zion). Sunday morning portrait painting with a podcast (after eating chocolate chip banana pancakes) has become a beautiful routine.
And the rest of my odds and ends are all health-related. I’m not currently health insured, and I only have a job (internship) through April at the moment, but these are some push-goals I’d love to pursue. Invest in myself, make future self thankful!
I had a root canal when I was a kid, and I think it needs to get recapped or something. It’s become notably sensitive this past year, and I want to take note of the feeling and tend to this before I have an urgent, painful exposed nerve or something.
I haven’t had one in the states since like 2009. I did one in 2016 in France, but the glasses I ordered with that prescription didn’t feel right (headaches) and I don’t wear them. I’m curious if an eye exam today would result in the same prescription or a new one.
Prescription sun glasses. I’ve never worn sun glasses my whole life because of glasses. I learned they’re not just for looks — they protect your eyes! (Shocker!) I’ll order prescription sunglasses from Zenni if I have a prescription I know is accurate and good for me.
Looking Ahead: February Freeze
I’ll be setting weekly goals with my Real Talk Retreat women during February, but I’m also going to be doing a personal February Freeze.
For me, this will entail:
- Eating out of cupboards and freezer.
- No buying anything apart from necessities (groceries).
- No checking out books from library! Will read books from shelf. (There are plenty to get me through more than a month.)
- I’m interested in what no-DVDs/podcasts would look like, from the perspective of not consuming content for a month (what would I produce myself without outside influences?) but I’m not set on it.
- Magazine Mondays: to read the magazines I brought along with me, and the Orion and Mother Jones issues I just received.
Basically, it’s a month of using what I already have to spend less and be more conscious of my consumption.
What’s feeling important to you now, a month into 2020? Where do you want your attention to be? Did my year-end reflection bring up any thoughts? As always, the space below is yours to share!