Justine smiles as she places her feet on the floor for the first time in 2020. Today is January 1, 2020. She anticipates her yearly exercise: choosing a theme to represent the New Year. Justine sits in a chair and puts on her thinking cap. She’s ready to reflect on 2019 and its impact on improving her life.
Looking back… 2019 Theme
2019’s theme was Empowerment. Each month Justine created an activity to keep the Spirit of Empowerment alive in her body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Justine’s greatest challenge was the month of no whining or complaining. She was unable to go more than 15 minutes without some small complaint churning in her mind. However, with dedication and commitment, Justine’s energy began to shift from the well-worn tread of moaning and groaning to simple silence and appreciation.
A new empowerment resource for Justine was volunteer work mentoring youth in a shelter. Clients suffered violence, abuse, addiction and mental illness. She taught the young people to read, to listen to their dreams and offered heartfelt encouragement. Justine awoke to her innate inner resources to help empower others.
Justine’s favorite month was June when she went on a women’s empowerment retreat to Bali. The experience sparked a joy of being in community and cultivated deeper self-love. Justine transported the rejuvenation practices home. She recognized that her empowerment expanded, and committed herself to uncovering a new theme for 2020.
Choosing a 2020 Theme
Justine returns to the mental file cabinet labeled “Begin Again.”
What topics most often push her buttons?
How many times each year does she find herself in a cycle of struggle, recovery and reset?
Justine’s partner Will seems to be the source of many disappointments. He grabs a microwave dinner after work and plops himself in front of the TV. He piles dishes in the sink.
Will doesn’t plan date nights, but tells Justine to set up an activity and he’ll go along with whatever she wants. It would make her happy if he took the lead every once in a while, for goodness sake. And what’s the deal with a sink full of dirty dishes!
Is Justine capable of genuine discussion to air her disappointments? Can she overcome her irrational fear of expressing honest feelings which to Justine threaten their relationship? Is she willing “to go along to get along” to maintain the dreary status quo for another year?
To compensate for Justine’s disappointments around her relationship with Will, her anxiety reveals a quest for control and competition. As a manager she values tasks over relationships. Although suffering from loneliness, she chooses productivity over cooperation which results in being feared and less respected. Justine doesn’t grasp other managerial styles which demonstrate empathy before compliance.
Recently a female co-worker the same age has a heart attack, and is on a strict eating and fitness regimen. Justine’s style and concept of control are now under scrutiny. For the first time she becomes unsure if control is a healthy long-term approach – at work or home.
Is Justine willing to explore and deal with her anxiety and triggers? Will a fear of suffering a similar heart attack motivate Justine to soften and foster subordinate collaboration?
Once a week for the past two years Justine visits her mother who lives in a nursing home. Justine wonders when a visit will be the final one. Watching her mom’s dementia progress has not been easy. From one visit to the next mom’s mood ricochet’s between polite to belligerent.
Mom’s memory fades in and out. During the last two visits she doesn’t recognize her daughter. Justine shrugs off these moments, but worries how much worse things will become. She fears taking vacation time in case of an emergency.
When Justine is not at the nursing home, her mind and heart drift to her dear mother living alone and dependent on others for her daily needs. She feels guilty that her condo is too small to accommodate another person. Justine’s obsessive thoughts and reflections on the past place undue stress and pressure on her.
Can Justine find a way to lessen the worry and ease her heart around mom’s story?
“”And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
— Meister Eckhart
Justine lovingly assesses her struggles and maps out a plan to choose how to live her best life in 2020. She decides to use her 2019 empowerment theme as a guidepost.
A theme gradually rises up amidst the struggles:
Acceptance emerges as her 2020 theme. As she brainstorms ideas and timelines for learning acceptance, Justine realizes that her annual weeklong retreat may not happen because of her mother’s tenuous state. She concludes a retreat would stress her more.
Justine acknowledges she feels more emotionally vulnerable than in times past. With money she has set aside for the retreat, Justine reaches out to a Wellness Coach to teach her acceptance strategies and hold her accountable. Here are the strategies Justine and Coach outline for the year:
- Walk the dog three times a week.
- Listen to upbeat music during workouts.
- Let feelings and thoughts unfold without giving in to the impulse to act.
- Commit to dedicating time and effort to change fear-based habits.
- Reflecting on the quality of her thoughts when it comes to Will and work.
- Observe struggles. Shorten the time it takes to recover.
- Become aware of feelings, their corresponding physical sensations and self-talk.
- Picture increased calm and less intensity.
- Welcome growth over perfection. Faith over fear.
- Acknowledge difficulties. No more running or escaping them!
- Consciously interpret an experience to be fantasy/reality/unknown/truth.
- Create strengths-based responses to incoming experiences.