Decade of Reflections – final part

Finally, after reflecting on ten years of journals I have some thoughts and plans for moving forward into the ’20s.

These are stacks of my journals by year from 2009-2019. Not included are any of my fiction or working journals.

As difficult as these challenges were, what I found most striking was that prioritizing my emotional and mental health helped me to endure the decade. At the start I was doing a really bad job at this without recognizing that stuffing it all down was holding me back on every front.

Some of my family relationships have improved over the years and I’ve developed more of an appreciation for the humanity of the people I’m related to. Much of my own childhood was very isolated and I longed for deeper family connections but in my late teens and early twenties I found that their priorities and mine differed in fundamental ways. It didn’t help that my parents were difficult and also struggled through their own issues in selfish and destructive ways. This was how my father found himself being hosed down by a stranger on Fourth of July weekend when he had decided to sleep on the streets instead of in a motel room because he had decided to show up expecting someone to provide lodging for him even after being told not to do exactly that.

For many years I thought that the way to handle these difficulties was to hold in my pain, to be kind and to do for others and that this would be reciprocated. When this is not how things happened I was eating my own pain and choking on it until there was so much raging bile that I couldn’t function socially or emotionally. This awful feedback loop caused rifts in many areas and made life confusing and hurtful. As I stopped engaging in this shit behavior I began to find ways to function and found that life wasn’t like quicksand anymore.

Boundaries are another big thing. Being open is such a vital thing and I will never say that one should not be open. But, I’ve discovered that boundaries are critical to being able to live as yourself when other people are working very hard to make you live as them or as an extension of them. More to the point, some people will fight you over your boundaries but if you don’t have those boundaries they will loot and pillage you. What I had always worried about with boundaries was that I would block people out of my life if I had too many boundaries. Over the years I discovered that although this is true, functional relationship with people who respected me were more likely when I wasn’t a burning, wall less city.

I spent the last ten years searching for answers to big questions. Looking for the meaning of life and a way to live a meaningful life I found that creating and community building through small acts of goodwill are vital to me. I discovered that I was a mother to my cat even if I had not achieved the type of motherhood I had been seeking from childhood. The difference between two marriages taught me that it wasn’t just me who could succeed or fail and that no amount of effort can make something work without respect and a deeper fundamental love (this applies to friendship too). In sickness and in health I discovered that I could not treat my body as separate from me or a tool for me because my body and my health are all as much a part of me as my intellectual and emotional parts.

In the past I often put together a list of goals going into the new year or looking forward to the next ten years. Some of these lists were actionable and others were more along the lines of dreaming but I’m done with those types of lists. They served a purpose in my teens and even in my twenties as they helped me narrow down my priorities but they were lacking in other ways. The largest part of the struggle to meet my ambitions with results has been an unwillingness to face down the toxic things in my life. Some of those were internal but many were external too. As my ambitions were met with struggle and failure I began to shift toward a reflective practice that allowed me to train my eyes to see myself and my life in critical but kind ways. As I move forward I plan to continue implementing those skills.

As to plans of action, I like those for what they are. I’m not just letting the 20s happen and planning to simply react on gut and not reach toward anything. Although I see how many of my ambitions were coming from a toxic place of needing to prove myself to be worthy I still have some of the desires to succeed that can be called ambitious even though they no longer live in that toxic wasteland. On a weekly and monthly basis I have plans of action for creative and health goals. They are smaller and more actionable like:

  1. Write blog post on decade of journaling
  2. Work on chapter for Starchild series
  3. Go for two swims this week

In the past decade I was obsessed with the end of my goals because I wanted to prove how worthy I was of…who knows? And I won’t say that every ambitious person does what they do for these reasons but I did and it was toxic. Towards the end of the decade I experimented with ceasing to focus my goals on external success. I was kind of terrified that it would turn me into a slacker who, lacking motivation, would do nothing at all. Instead it made me feel freer to take on projects for the sheer love of doing them. I hadn’t done this consistently since childhood. What surprised me the most is that I have been accomplishing a lot while also being happier and being generally healthier in a variety of ways.

The broader world is another issue and I can’t speak to what the ’20s will bring external to me but I am focusing on strategies that help me face the external without simply investing the pain for rage dividends later.

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