One of my best friends chooses a “theme” every year. He picks a phrase and uses it as a compass that he makes a conscious choice to follow every day. Last year, he set his intentions on “Friends. Family. Finances.” And by following his compass, I watched as he deepened relationships, had adventures all over the US and moved to the city of his dreams. I watched as at every crossroads, he would ask himself, “Is this in alignment with my theme?” and he would step forward with consciousness instead of just letting Life’s momentum carry him through, like so many of us do. So I decided to follow his example and set forth an intention for my own year.
Fast forward a few months. It’s taken me until mid-February to write this blog post because it’s taken me that long to come up with my own compass for 2016. I am someone who has had my life mapped out five, ten years into the future. And then, last year, I left my husband of twelve years. For the first time in my life, I found that I didn’t have a future. And I found myself stranded in this world without a map, without a partner, without a compass. But here is the thing that happens when our comforts are stripped away, we dig deep and discover our strengths, resources, lessons that we didn’t know we had integrated. So, after the initial panic of being on a solo roadtrip has worn off, I am now sinking into this space of the unknown. Of not knowing what this month, much less this year is going to bring. And I am starting to recognize that I can plan for as much as I can, but Life will keep happening. And if plans are too rigid, the flow and learning around Life will be lost.
So an easy theme for me to choose for 2016 could have been the tangibles. How much money do I want in my savings account? How many patients do I want to be seeing every week? What projects do I want to accomplish this year? But the tangible edges are my comfort zone. It is the space beyond, the space of unknowing that induces panic and brings forth all my survival tactics. And these survival tactics come from a place of hardness, of wanting to avoid the pain of fear, of protecting my heart.
And so it is from this space of feeling the armor start to build around my heart, that my theme for 2016 came through: soften.
There is action in softening. There is always a choice to harden or soften. Even if that option is simply to alter a state of mind, to lean into the horribly sharp edges, or create an awareness. The action could be to take a moment before answering that triggering text or email, of finding opportunities to respond rather than react. It can be apologizing for making a mistake, of not showing up as your best self. Even if that apology is to yourself. It can be allowing yourself to sit with the painful emotions instead of using sex, weed, tv, whiskey (those are my personal vices, but I'm sure you can fill in your own blank here_______) to numb.
There is strength in softness. Because oftentimes, the easy choice is to harden. Hardening is instinctual. Hardening is instantly gratifying and releases the pressure valve momentarily. Think about how good it feels to just lean into that horn when someone cuts you off. This is a seemingly insignificant way we choose hardness. But expand it out into something that matters. How do you react when someone hurts you? What is your survival tactic when you feel triggered? I have found that hardness is the playground upon which my Ego plays. My Ego is the voice that never seems to stop saying, “Protect. Above all else, protect yourself.” The softness then comes from taking the time and space to observe the habit, of seeing survival tactics for what they are and choosing something different. Softness is giving myself permission to be wherever the fuck I am when I am there. Softness is being vulnerable and asking for help when I am hurting.
So in 2016, this is what I choose…
I choose softness over hardness.
I choose expansiveness over clamming up.
I choose love over protection.
I choose vulnerability because there is strength in it.
I choose an unwritten future over a future that I write out of fear.
I choose to just be here, in the moments that Life presents to me, to lean into the sharp edges and instead of hardening against those edges, I choose to soften.
How about you? How will you show up in 2016?