As I scroll through my social media feeds I see one common thread among all of the “trending topics”. Topics like politics and posts about so many of our favorite artists passing away. The common thread is basically a big “F*** you” to 2016. Like no other year I can remember, 2016 has been cast as the bad guy in a play that we all hoped would be a comedy, or a happily ever after story, but instead became a horror film for many of us, at the very least a drama for most. People on twitter and Facebook have been actually addressing 2016 as though it were a person, and a very bad, greedy person at that. In fact, John Oliver even ended his last show of the season with this send off for 2016.
I get it. As a woman who didn’t have the best financial year, spent the Summer watching her beautiful oak floors self-destruct because of water issues related to the Louisiana floods, attended too many funerals, and not only watched her candidate lose the presidential election but can easily begin to feel terrified watching the new President-Elect
navigate storm through his transition with what seems to be a total disregard for decorum, social norms, honesty, common decency, and the multitude of qualities typically expressed by the word “Presidential” – I’m ready for a new year, too.
However, I want to encourage you (even as I encourage myself) not to move too fast into this new year. I want to suggest that we all slow down and at least take some time to recognize the good that we’ve experienced, maybe even the good that is a direct result of what we so easily label “the bad”.
It’s a proven fact that we all take loss harder than we appreciate the equal amount of gain. In other words when we gain a certain amount we feel good, but when we lose that same amount we don’t just feel bad, we feel worse than bad. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of relativity here, bad feels worse than good feels good. It hurts worse to lose $5 than it feels good to find $5. The technical term for this is “loss aversion” and it’s why we prefer avoiding losses. Here’s an article that explains it better if you care to have a better explanation.
The emotional pain connected to the losses we’ve experienced this year have a very real effect on us. And for most of us our reaction is that we want to get the hell out of dodge as soon as possible. It’s a bit like running out of a burning building, every bone in our body urges us to run like hell and not stop until the smoke clears. We just don’t want to experience anymore loss, anymore pain. I believe this is why I keep seeing posts on social media that say “2016, just get it over with and end already!” It seems that many of us wish we could throw 2016 out like a visitor that has overstayed his welcome.
I certainly don’t want you to experience more pain. But I do want to encourage you to understand what treasures are hiding beneath the painful experience.
Personally, I feel a renewed desire to be empowered, to speak my truth, to be authentic and open about who I am and how I live. I also recognize that the best thing I can do to support my own empowerment is to increase my self-care and spiritual practices, like meditation, yoga, tai chi, and to make more time for creative practices that feed my soul – things like knitting, drawing, painting and writing. Self-care and self-love practices are the foundation for everything else we create. For me, they are what my empowerment rests upon.
Pain can teach us what we value. It provides the contrast that allows us to have more clarity about what we do want. But suffering is another story – literally. Most of our suffering happens because we create stories and thoughts and ideas about what our pain means, and more often what it means about us and for us. Pain is part of life. I hate saying that, because no one enjoys pain, but the truth is we are wired for pain! We have pain sensors in our bodies, in our skin. However, suffering doesn’t have to be a daily part of our experience. When we begin to run away from painful experiences we suffer. When we begin to argue with what is we suffer. We end up with a lot of thoughts in our head that produce stress and worry. We begin to experience fear about the future. When we can instead accept the painful fact of our experience (instead of arguing with it) we can use that same energy to transform the experience into something that will serve the world.
I’m not saying for one minute that we should accept the injustice we see in the world that causes pain. I’m saying that by accepting the fact that it IS, we can then formulate a clear path to a better place, a clear plan to bring about change. When we can face the painful circumstance and see it for what it is, only then can we make a plan to deal with it effectively, to learn from it, to choose a different course, to be the change we want to see in the world.
A few of the questions I’m asking myself as 2016 comes to a close: How have the events of this year affected me personally? What emotions have come up? How can I transmute those painful emotions into energy that will make the world a better place? What would I rather see, and how can I take action to move towards that end?
Once I’ve slowed down and spent a bit of time answering those questions for myself, I plan on creating a plan forward for this New Year. I’m expecting it to be powerful.
I wish us all a new year that won’t overstay its welcome. A year full of peace, prosperity, liberty and justice for all…and of course a big dose of Love & Magic,
P.S. If you’d like some help and support navigating your own clear path through 2017 I’d love to be your coach. Here’s how you can work with me.