39 was a pretty eventful year. I started and graduated from yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga instructor. I started my new yoga business and got my first private yoga client (OK it's a family member but still, baby steps) and have a corporate benefit client in the works. I taught my first few studio classes. I self-published my first novel! And I got my first royalty check within a month, and though I'm not doing it for the money, seeing your name on a royalty check for your novel is pretty cool. On the mental health advocacy front, I was interviewed on a podcast, published on several patient advocacy sites, and made new connections with several patient organizations. Like I said, eventful year. Lots of cool stuff happening.
I also started doing a lot of self-discovery work in an effort to reconnect with myself and remember who I am, because it's been honestly years since I really did an aggressive deep dive head on. I have spent years taking on other people's definitions of me, never asking myself if they were true. I always assumed everyone knew better than me (and when I think about it, assuming others always know you better than you know you is actually kind of ridiculous, since you're the only person in world that's actually lived all of your life, inside and out. But it happens to a lot of people, me included). The work has been really revealing - as in personally revealing, not as in wardrobe malfunction revealing - and I've had to take a lot of accountability for my own part in a lot of my own shit. Which, I'll admit is still a work in progress, but it's now more because I'm working on trying to recognize when it starts to occur and redirect course, as opposed to not realizing what's occurring or not wanting to see it. But I'm making a progress, and as difficult as it is to look at oneself and be completely honest about your role in the pieces you don't love, it's also oddly hopeful to know that I have a part in it, because it generally means that I can do something about it.
"What at all does this have to do with your impending birthday?", you might wonder. When I turned 39, I made a list of things I wanted to do throughout the last year in my 30s. And it's a great list. It has served me well. Some I accomplished, like graduating yoga teacher training and self-publishing my novel. Some, I did not (I haven't gone hiking in one state let alone five, which saddens me because I really love hiking and nature, but again, I had a part in choosing other activities). Some of the goals became things I'm no longer really striving for, at least not at this time, because life and growth and change happen. And as I come down to the last two months of my 30th decade on this planet, I'm looking at the list realizing that 100% of these goals are external - do this, become this, go there, get that certification. And while that doesn't make them bad - some were super meaningful in fact - none of them were about how I wanted to live my life in the long term. None of them were about me, intrinsically, and who I want to be, now and in the future. So I thought that as I approach these last two months in which I'm able to say that I'm in my 30s, I'd work on a new list. This is the list I hope caries me into the next decade of life feeling more connected with myself, more sure of who I am, and more confident in where I'm going. It's a list that focuses on some of the internal changes I've been delving into, and that I plan to continue to work on.
- Living intentionally. This is a biggie for me. Honestly, I think it's a biggie for many of us. The number of times I check social media, look at my phone, eat a snack out of boredom, fill my head with 100 things instead of noticing what's going on around me in the moment, is startling. I know this because I've begun actively paying attention. I'll notice myself on twitter or Facebook or wherever and think, "Wait, why did I sign on again?" And it's fine if to intentionally sign on because I want to check in on what people are doing. But it's not OK with me that I go there by automation without realizing it. Same with my phone. Same with not paying attention to actual life happening. I could be walking my dog on a gorgeous sunny morning, and even living in the city I can hear the birds chirping, and my dog can be happily walking along and enjoying the moment with a big smile on her face, and I'm running through a list of 100 "to do" items in my head. And then I later bemoan the fact that I "I haven't had the chance to get outside all day", because I wasn't being intentional and present during the time that I was, in fact, outside.
- Owning my own shit. Or taking accountability. Or keeping your side of the street clean. Or whatever other description you want to give it. Basically, this means acknowledging my own part in things, whether it's overt (I actively said/did something I know I shouldn't have) or subconsciously (letting others' beliefs/criticisms about me define me, instead of questioning if they're true - see next bullet).
- Not owning other people's shit or taking responsibility/blame for keeping their side of the street clean. What I said above, but in the reverse. I have a really bad habit of trying to fix everything for everyone, often at the expense of myself, my values, my core, remembering who I am. In it's extreme, this is called codependency, and it's not a healthy or happy way to live, for anyone involved. To clarify it's not that we shouldn't do nice things for each other or be decent human beings. We 1000% should be thoughtful and considerate of others, be good people. But we cannot make other people happy. Nor can we change others. And thank goodness, because I wouldn't want to put my happiness/life direction solely in someone else's hands with zero control. Nor would I want that control over someone else.
- Stop questioning my intuition, and for that matter, stop fighting my innate personality. Let me psychology/self-help nerd out for a moment here. According to the Myer's Briggs personality assessment (and life experience/knowledge of myself) I'm an INFJ - Introvert. iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging. This means: I get my energy from time alone/one-on-one meaningful time with people I'm close to (Introversion). I "just know' things instinctively instead of gathering all the evidence/data/details and then figuring it out based on that (iNtuitive). I make decisions with my heart (Feeling). I need a plan and can't live life five minutes in front of my face (Judging). INFJs are 1% of the population if that, the least common personality type. So I am not like a lot of other people. But that's ok. None of this is wrong. It's who I am. We are born with our personality type. It's innate. It's "how I'm made" for lack of a better phrase. I need to stop spending my life trying to prove to everyone that just because it's different it isn't wrong, and just start being me. It can't waste all my energy trying to defend who I am. Yes, life always requires us to adjust, make accommodations, meet people in the middle, etc. But we also need to honor ourselves and meet ourselves where we are. We are way more effective, happier, are more enjoyable to be around, and overall more at ease in the world if we work with who we are, instead of rallying against it.
- Remember that the negative "what ifs" aren't the only what ifs. This is part a mindset thing, part an anxiety and depression thing. It also goes along with the "trying to make everyone happy" above. My brain is super good at saying things like, "Yo lady, what if you fail catastrophically? What if you make a mess of things/embarrass yourself/make a major decision that causes financial chaos for you and those in your life" etc. And these could be possibilities. Extreme and relatively unlikely ones, but possibilities nonetheless. Unfortunately, my brain rarely plays the positive what if game. "Yo lady, what if this is exactly the right path for you? What if you're super successful and everyone's proud of you and more importantly you're proud of yourself? What if you prove all the doubters wrong? What if you go with that intuition that's so strong, and you do what you know is the right decision and it turns out great?" My brain doesn't like this game. Lifelong illness won't allow my brain to totally get off the negative what if train, because depression and anxiety love to be a**holes that convince you that you're crap. But I *can* work on the mindset piece, the part where I let everyone else tell me what's best for me, where I believe the doubters and critics, where I don't trust my own intuition and self, where I allow myself to only look at the negative what ifs as if they're fact, instead of a hypothetical.
- Stop asking so much permission. Note: this doesn't mean not communicating/making unilateral decisions when they affect others. I'm not going to two buy tickets for a concert and then tell a friend they're going with me and owe me $100 for the ticket. Communication is just common courtesy and quite honestly a necessity for basically any type of positive relationship between two humans. But I ask permission to the point where I don't make decisions without someone else's approval/OK, even if it doesn't affect them. Which thinking about it, strikes me as especially absurd because iNtuitiveness is my strength. I often KNOW the right decision. I just need to trust myself.
- Live the heck out of life, and offer something to others in the process. Yes, I know the bills need to be paid and the house cleaned and I need food in the fridge and laundry done and all that. But I often say that I want to live the my life according to what I want my eulogy to read. And I don't want the highlights to be my clean house or how much time I spent at the office or the grocery store or the things I have. I want to have made a difference in people's lives, to have made their lives better, and for them to have positive, lasting memories with and of me. Nor do I want to spend my last days with regrets of "if only I had". I want to experience as much as I can, while acknowledging that sometimes, my health requires a step back so that I can do so again in the future.