Today is the Winter Solstice. It’s also Yule, and with the start of winter comes the end of the calendar year, which always feels blank and fresh.
I’m thinking about all of the lessons of 2021. Trying to gather them between my mitts and pack them into something round and hard that I can roll forward and gather into some sort of meaningful shape. Some of these lessons are new, but the ones I feel most deeply are the ones I’ve been struggling with for a long, long time.
Here, in no particular order, are the ones that come to mind as I type this from my bed:
I am very well suited to living alone. This is a thing I enjoy tremendously. When I was in my twenties, and even my thirties trying to do this, I’d be so filled with anxiety and loneliness that I would go just about anywhere to get out of my empty apartment. Now I will spend entire days in my pjs, unwashed and puttering from room to room, neglecting household chores in favour of writing or reading, or cooking or making things. If I ever live with a partner again, I need a room or studio of my own that I can retreat to without question or repercussion. I imagine the type of person I’d settle with would need the same. In my fantasy, I have a bright and sunny writing and crafting studio and they have a woodshop.
Casual dating isn’t for me. For a long time, I’ve struggled with the notion of committed relationships. My track record hasn’t been good, and I started buying into this belief that maybe long-term relationships weren’t for me. What I believe now is that long-term relationships are hard work. If you’re stuck in old, unhealed patterns of behaviour, you’re inevitably choosing the wrong people to try to partner with. If you’re not committed to your own healing, you’re not aligned with your values in the way you need to be to create the foundation for a lasting connection. I’ve done a lot of work, and intend to continue to do the work. I want a safe container with a solid person who sees my value and can commit. I think I could co-create a beautiful life with the right person. I want that for me, and for my kids.
The only person who knows what’s best for me is me. It’s been one of my life’s great challenges to trust myself enough to believe that I can solely exist and thrive on my own steam. By January, I knew I couldn’t keep relying on the various safety nets I’d tried to create (roommates that didn’t work out, the pandemic relief fund, asking for the insight and opinions of people who I needed to create more distance from) and I’d have to figure it all out on my own. In some ways, this was easier than others. I felt confident making work decisions. I continue to have a hard time trusting myself when it comes to matters of the heart. This seems like a pretty clear indicator of where I need to do the work. A huge thank you to the trusted friends who are there when I need to talk through the ramblings of my inner world.
I am a good mother. My son had a very challenging first half of this year. I shed a lot of desperate tears, not knowing what to do to support him as he moved through some powerful emotion. On the other side of this, I know that sometimes all you can do is stay steady and create a container for the ones you love. Don’t be afraid to share your own mental health tools with your children. Be transparent (in age-appropriate ways) about your healing journey. We all need to know that these are LEARNED skills that we often learn much later in life than we should. Age and emotional intelligence are not always correlated, but it’s never too late.
I miss my daughters and if I want to see them, I will have to be the one to make that happen. My connection to my girls isn’t traditional or conventional. They aren’t my biological kids, and they don’t live with me. They’re also busy teenagers and I have to constantly check myself so I’m not taking their lack of response or availability personally. Losing a regular connection to them is easily the hardest part of the breakdown of my family. With one of them off to University soon, I need to make sure we have lots of time together in 2022.
When you’re with the right partner, you can heal in deep and profound ways. I’ve been seeing someone since August, and I’m deeply happy. It has been magical, sacred, and rewarding in so many ways. I’m so inspired and delighted by him. He’s teaching me patience, empathy, the value of moving slowly while building a connection, and the importance of establishing strong communication and emotional security. With him, my old patterns are shifting. I know this can also be credited to my own work, but he is firm in his boundaries and transparent in his intention and communication. I still catch myself feeling sometimes like the bottom is going to fall out if there’s a source of conflict or tension, but I can see that now as it’s happening, and communicate that, and he can root himself in his own needs while reassuring me that his emotions don’t mean he’s leaving. I know I’m helping him grow too, and it’s a beautiful thing.
All of my past relationship mistakes are rooted in my attachment wounds. This is too complex to sum up in one paragraph, but if you’ve struggled in love and connection you may want to do a deep dive into the rabbit hole of attachment theory. This is going to be my personal dedication in 2022. I intend to become an anxious attachment expert and heal myself in the process. I plan to share that here, in the hopes that some of you will benefit from what I’m learning.
I am an artist and I need to create and connect to the arts community. I published two books this year, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating to put my work out there. I learned so much about how I perceive my writing life, how it feels to embrace it, and how called I am to create space for other artists to share their work. I must stop neglecting my creativity and trust that it is a vital and necessary component of what I have to offer to others.
I need to get an education so I can have the career I dream of. I want to be a registered, qualified therapist. My journal coaching work has cemented this desire for me, and working with clients through the medium of writing has been so fulfilling and wonderful. Going back to school will help me remove any barriers to doing this work in deeper and more nuanced ways. I loved my brief taste of university in 2019, and I’m excited to begin school again full-time in 2021.
I need to continue to heal my relationship with money. The education piece is a component of this healing, but in 2022 I need an active, conscious effort to create security and stability. I am also committed to teaching my son about how to respect and share his own resources. I vow to never find myself in a precarious financial position again.
What another strange and incredible year this has been. So much uncertainty and confusion. So much growth and expansion. I can’t help but think the two are connected in some way. I’m grateful for all of the lessons of 2021, and I look forward to what the new year will bring.
Perhaps you might share one of your own powerful lessons from 2021 in the comments below?
Have a peaceful and joyful holiday season. May you gather with those you love, tend to your heart, and find moments of stillness to lean into gratitude.