For the past five years or so, I have opened every new year with a post looking back on the lessons I have learned in the previous year. What began as just another idea for a blog post has become one of my most treasured rituals. Every year when I sit down to write this post, I enjoy looking back over the previous twelve months and taking the opportunity to share the highlights (and sometimes the lowlights) with all of you. And every year, I wonder, What will I write in next year’s post?
For all of us, these last few years have been intense. For me, the intensity really began several years before the pandemic in 2016. When I turned thirty a few months earlier, someone told me to enjoy it—that one’s thirties are potentially the best decade. So far, my thirties have not exactly disproven that idea, but they certainly didn’t turn out how I thought. The past seven years have been unrelentingly amazing, unexpected, enlightening, liberating, and transformative—but also beyond difficult, sad, lonely, terrifying, and often bewildering. Someday, I may talk more about what happened, but for now it is an explanation that involves the privacy of too many people whose relationships and feelings I value. (But I will say that whatever you’re thinking it might be, you’re probably wrong.) Suffice it that certain life circumstances finally became untenable, and when they did, the bottom fell out of my world. I felt unmoored, as if I had lost all context, and for a long while, it felt as if I had nothing to hang onto. I moved to another state to be closer to my sister, and for the first time in my life, I lived alone. As it turns out, loneliness and existential crises don’t make for happy bedfellows. (And then 2020 happened!)
Perhaps most difficult of all, I seemed to lose my connection to my stories. In 2021, I gave myself permission to take a year off, and I called it the Year of No Writing, or the Year of Rest. In 2021, I also decided I needed to move again (so not so very restful on that front!). Originally, the plan was to stop off with my parents for a few months, then leave the majority of my furniture and other possessions with them before going on to a new adventure on the West Coast. Well, life happened, and the move did not materialize. I ended up spending the entire year (and counting) with my parents, tossed about by the frustrating housing market and my own indecision about where I want to settle longterm.
However, despite my nearly daily struggle with my own impatience and frustration about my unresolved living circumstances, I can honestly look back at this year and see that it was perfect. It was, after six difficult years, a respite. My generous and loving parents gave me a haven in which to rest, where I could integrate the monumental lessons I have learned and to heal. I am incredibly grateful to now look back and to be able to say that this year was a Year of Healing.
5 Gifts From a Year of Healing
In trying to synthesize all the many gifts and lessons I was given this year, I narrowed them down to five areas of my life that have found deep and permanent (if inevitably ongoing) healing. I share them with you now, as we crest the horizon into a brave new year, in hopes that you may find some of my experiences healing or inspiring in your own journey.
1. Healing My Body
I’m a believer in holistic health. Everything is connected. The body, the mind, the heart, the soul. If one is out of order, they all are. The good news there is that if we bring healing to one area, we’re inevitably bringing healing to all of them. And my body has been in need of some healing. I spent a ton of time and money this year working through physical health problems. All were relatively minor, but all were chronic and impacting my life.
For one thing, I made the rounds of physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists, among others, trying to find relief for what I thought was a damaged disc in my low back. My massage therapist finally turned me on to a physical therapist who said it wasn’t a disc issue but rather something along of the lines of piriformis syndrome. He did dry needling (totally not as scary as it sounds), which finally broke the cycle of nearly a year of sleepless nights from sciatica.
Yoga has been a part of my healing ever since a chiropractor pointed me to it in in 2019. I went in hopes of easing my back pain, but the minute I got on the mat the first time, I was astounded by how good it made me feel emotionally. More than any other tool, it has taught me to be in my body, to be present with what is, and to process my emotions. I am not even kidding when I say my emotional intelligence has jumped astronomically since I began the practice.
On top of that, I got even more serious about my diet. After learning that heavy metals can cause a host of mental health challenges, I realized I could trace certain issues in my life back to severe reaction I’d had after breaking a CFL lightbulb while filming a video. (PSA: CFL light bulbs—the curly ones—have mercury in them and should not be cleaned up like you would a normal light bulb). I’ve always been conscious about my diet, but this year I gave up sugar and caffeine and took long breaks from dairy and wheat, while doing a heavy-metal cleanse.
And… I feel better. On the whole, both my body and my mental/emotional health have started feeling markedly more stable and healthy than they have in years.
2. Healing My Relationship With My Business
Ever since things got rough in 2016, I have struggled with my relationship with my business. Although not directly related to what happened, my approach to my work had been growing increasingly unsustainable for many years. Way back then, I was already writing about my changing relationship to my creativity. In the years prior, several stressful experiences had robbed much of the joy from my business life and replaced it with toxic anxiety.
For a long time, I avoided even thinking about these experiences because they were painful enough to spiral me into panic attacks. But at the beginning of last year, I knew I had mustered enough resources to start gently working on healing my relationship with my business. Primarily, this involved retraining my nervous system’s responses to hold space for the things that had previously scared or triggered my body into survival mode.
Twenty minutes of daily meditation has become a cornerstone of my self-care routine. This year, I added in what was, for me, a powerful safety visualization, envisioning shields of protection around myself, my home, my loved ones, and my work online and in books. I also worked with “tapping in” affirmations (there’s a whole science behind this, but I just picked it up somewhere, so I can’t explain it; however, this book, which I have not read but have on my TBR list, might be a good further resource for those interested).
As I mentioned in last year’s post about dealing with negative reviews, probably the most helpful exercise was that of daily holding my forehead (frontal lobes) while revisiting triggering situations in my mind. The idea, as I understand it, is that this helps keep blood in your forebrain, signaling to your body that, even though it is thinking about (or in certain situations, experiencing) something it previously deemed scary, it is, in fact, safe and does not need to go into flight or fight mode. I was super-skeptical the first time I tried it. If I mentally revisited these things that usually triggered me, would I be messing up my whole day? But… it worked. I was able to gingerly open the door to memories I never let myself consciously visit, to hold space for them without my body freaking out, and to let them go when I was done. For me, that was a huge breakthrough.
As the months went on, I began to feel my relationship with my business start to heal. I began to stop expecting triggers around every corner, began to heal my relationship with my own inner critic who always insisted on making space for other people’s opinions whether they were harmful to me or not, and began to revitalize my interest and passion in my teaching work. For the first time in years, ideas for new projects started to bloom. You can stay tuned for those (perhaps later this year, but perhaps not, because I have learned that these things have their own schedule and I now try my best to honor that)!
3. Healing My Relationship With Myself
The vast majority of the growth and healing work I have done in these past years has been in my relationship with myself. When the context provided by other people suddenly falls away and you are left to define yourself not by your relationships or by other people’s opinions of you, all you are left with is… yourself.
Particularly as someone who identifies as an Enneagram Three (sp-sx-so), I have done much work around realizing I am not what I do, nor am I the persona my ego presents to the world. So… who am I? It’s an ongoing question that is slowly being answered simply by getting to know myself more deeply and honestly than I ever have. It has been sobering, saddening, and ultimately in its own way thrilling, to realize I spent the first three decades of my life trying to be someone I was not. A tough-as-nails INTJ who never cried, was never afraid, never fazed, always smart, always self-reliant, always competent? Nah. I cry all the time now. It’s a revelation. (Although I’m still an INTJ…)
I have spent these years digging my many weaknesses, fears, ignorances, dependencies, and incompetencies out of the shadows of my subconscious. Honestly, I’m such a mess now compared to the person I always thought I was! But I love this person so much more. I love her realness, her vulnerability, her compassion, her doubt, her love.
Recognizing that I am not just an introvert but also an HSP (highly sensitive person) and what that means has been radical in helping me reframe so many of things I’ve always struggled with and/or tried to make “wrong” about myself: my overwhelm in busy social spaces, how exhausting travelling is for me, the time and the energy it takes to deeply process anything, the absolute necessity of a steady daily routine, even my tendency to get ferociously “hangry.”
I am learning, more and more, to trust myself. As with so many of us, my childhood trained me to distrust myself (especially as a woman) in favor of others who “knew better.” Learning that not only can I trust myself, but that, in fact, I am eminently trustworthy in my own intuitions, observations, conclusions, instincts, and intentions is an ongoing process of reconditioning. It is carried out with necessary patience and my often wobbly skill of listening to myself—giving myself the space to live the question, to not know the answer for a while, or to accept that at the moment the answer might simply be… wait.
I have combined this growing awareness with another transformative daily meditation exercise. This one has to do with consciously feeling certain emotions or states in my body. Every day, I work with love, gratitude, joy, abundance, acceptance, and compassion. The first time I did the exercise, I tried to recreate each of these states and to feel where and how I experienced them in my body. For example, not surprisingly, I feel love in my heart area, and joy shoots up my spine and out the top of my head. I am aware of abundance in the palms of my hands, rolling in and out like an ocean, flowing out of me to others but always coming back. Everyone is different, but once I identified how I feel these things in my body, I was able to return to them consciously and make sure I was interacting with and cultivating these feelings every single day. They come easier and easier.
4. Healing My Perspectives
I am a storyteller. I tell stories about everything—not just about damsels and dragons, but about myself, about others, about the world, about life. None of those stories is entirely true; they’re all just my own subjective perspectives. But the best of them are, like good books, “the lie that tells the truth.” I have been learning, more and more, to hone those truths.
Much of my growth in my thirties has been about figuring out what it is I want. Not what others want for me. Not what I think I’m supposed to want. Not even what I want to want. But what I want. Do I want to write fiction again? Do I want to live here, there, or the other place? Do I want to move to the city or stay in the country? Do I want more people in my life or fewer? Do I want to wear the blue sweater or the purple one? Do I want to read this book or that one? Do I want chicken for supper or an apple (it’s getting close to hangry o’clock around here!)?
I took these questions for granted for far too long, but no longer. Now, I try to pay attention. What do I want? Beneath all the logical chatter of my very helpful brain, what does wanting feel like in my body? Where does the want feel like a truth—and where does it just feel like the path of least resistance?
Getting honest about my own desires has meant getting more and more honest about who I really am. Who I really am. Not the perfect platinum version of myself that I envision, but the real me, flaws and all. One thing I realized just this week is that knowing who I am means accepting who I was—the person who got me here. The one who did so much hard work and accomplished so many fantastic things. But also the one who made every single mistake.
From there, I have been learning to fall in love with myself and everything around me exactly as they are. I am slowly learning to tell new stories. Instead of stories that frame the adventure that is my life in light of its uncertainties and wobbly bits, I am learning to tell stories that are more about possibilities. I am learning to face and embrace the parts of me that I am embarrassed by or ashamed of, and to have compassion for the (usually really sound) reasons why I made certain choices at the times I made them.
5. Healing My Storytelling
I have written elsewhere about my lengthy burnout and writer’s block. Although the engine of my creativity had been sputtering for several years previous, it all started for real in the winter of 2018—prompted in part by my traumatic move and fatally exacerbated by the massive plot block I was encountering in trying to outline the third book in what I intended to be my Dreamlander trilogy. No matter how much I needed and wanted to write, there was a part of me that just… couldn’t.
Finally, by the beginning of 2021, I knew I had to make a decision. I could no longer keep trying to force my way back to my writing. I had to take a conscious break. I gave myself permission to not even think about writing for a whole year. I called 2021 the Year of No Writing, or the Year of Rest. When the year closed out and I wrote last year’s New Year post, I still wasn’t sure if that year off had been enough.
So I kept putting everything I’ve been learning into practice, and I listened to myself. I listened to the clear message that I still wasn’t ready to write when the calendar turned over into January 2022. February went by, March, April, May, June. Something flickered to life in the summer, and I gingerly returned to my WIP to see if the gift of time and space would offer me a solution to my plot block. It did. I figured out how to fix my broken third book… but doing so would require an entire rewrite of the previously finished second book. I put it back on the shelf.
More months ticked by. Inside, I wrestled with myself. I grew impatient. But I could feel something rising inside of me, something I had not felt for a long time—the desire to write. But write what? Returning to the Dreamlander sequels felt like asking for burnout all over again. So I toyed with several other ideas. Maybe I’d do something totally different and write a memoir. Maybe I’d write a brand new idea that had come to me recently. Or maybe I’d write a Wayfarer sequel. Still, I couldn’t quite make anything happen.
In the old days, I used to write in the late afternoons, from 4–6. In the new days, I was feeling pretty braindead (and maybe a bit hangry?) by late afternoon. But I couldn’t figure out where else to carve out enough time to write without it feeling forced and stressful, especially since I had all these new ideas for business projects that I knew I wanted to work in the next year.
One afternoon, I was grousing that there isn’t enough time in the day, when suddenly I heard my wiser self whispering in my ear, “If you want to write again, you’re going to have to make it a priority.” What Wise Self meant was that while I was busily blocking out time and prioritizing all these other projects, I somehow wasn’t willing to do that for my fiction. I was sobered, because this was pretty much exactly the same mindset that had burned me out previously: putting all the emphasis on productivity rather than creativity.
And that was it. Within a few weeks, I was getting up an hour earlier and writing for an hour before lunch. And it was easy. It was like coming home. It was like turning on a faucet when you thought the power was off, only to find that the water just flows. I told a friend that it felt anticlimactic. After all those years of struggle, it was like I had never stopped writing for a minute. The story spirits were speaking to me again, and all was right with the world.
The great lesson I take from this is that frustration, impatience, and theatrically trying to bash your way through closed doors is useless. When the time is right, all things become ripe. My nature is to live life “on push,” trying to make things happen; but, in my deepest bones, I know the truth is that life works best “in flow,” when I am willing to co-create with the abundance that is all around me in every moment.
And so, yes, as I have been hinting for about a month or so, I am writing fiction again. I ended up returning to a story idea that had always been special to me. People often ask me if they should save their best ideas for when they have learned more and are better writers. I always say, “No, write it now. Write whatever story you’re most excited about right now.” But for whatever reason (my wiser self, no doubt), this was an idea I had saved, and so I find it no coincidence that when I most needed exactly the right story, this one was waiting for me. More than that, I find that the lessons I have learned in the intervening years have helped me grow into someone who can do it much more justice than I would have seven years ago or even four years ago.
For those who are wondering, the book is tentatively titled Wildblood. It is a fantasy, a dark fairy tale, about a dying princess and an immortal knight. I am finding it to be rich in archetypal symbolism and steeped in my love of Scottish history. When I have a proper premise sentence knocked together, I will share it—and I’m sure I will be writing more about the storytelling lessons it is teaching me in future posts.
As for the Dreamlander sequels, they are shelved for now (and very possibly forever). I may return to them at some point. However, if I become certain I will not progress with them, I will probably end up sharing the completed second book (which ends on a massive cliffhanger) as a freebie for anyone who is interested, because it does have some stuff in it that I really, really love.
In closing out 2022 and opening the door on 2023, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for walking the road with me as I struggled with my writer’s block these last few years. Your encouragement and your compassion meant a great deal. Thank you for hanging with me and for believing in me even when I wasn’t so sure I would ever pull it out. I look forward to continuing this journey with you and to sharing new stories with you in the future!
Happy New Year!
Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What were some of your notable gifts or lessons from 2022? What writing projects do you have planned for 2023? Tell me in the comments!
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The post Looking Back on 2022: 5 Reflections on a Year of Healing appeared first on Helping Writers Become Authors.
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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland