It's the beginning of a fresh new year, which for most of us means the hope for change and new beginnings, the promise of what we like to imagine is a fresh start, and the inspiration/motivation to simply "do better." About this time last year, I talked about "focus words" and how choosing a focus word (especially as opposed to making something like a New Year's Resolution) can have a major impact on your life and who you are as a person. In 2015, my word was "goals," and I spent a large part of that year really thinking about where I wanted my life to go, what I wanted my future to look like. I made a lot of decisions, some without even realizing it, and I began to implement my goals in a way that I hadn't before. This definitely impacted my life in major ways, some of which were good ... some of which were, well, not. Thinking about my goals helped me realize some uncomfortable things about the people in my life, the way I allowed myself to be treated, and the way I allowed myself to treat ... myself.
Because of those realizations and how sad they made me, my focus word in 2016 was "affirmation." In 2016, I didn't focus as much consciously on goals themselves, and even ended up discarding my five year plan as something I had been too afraid to make as ambitious as it should have been. Also, I didn't like the idea of boxing five years of my life into a few pieces of paper - life is so much more than a checklist of failures and successes, and I want my life (and my career) to be about more than the numbers. Yes, I want to sell books, and yes, I want to make money; I have kids to feed and clothe, and as much as I wish it could be, living isn't free. But it's more than how many people like my Facebook page or follow me on social media. It's more than the amount of clicks my sidebar ads get, and it's more than the idea that one day I'll be able to make a real living doing this thing that I love. Instead of "goals," I focused on affirmation in 2016 - I made an effort to be more conscious of how I speak to myself, the thoughts that I allowed myself to focus on. I made an effort to be kinder to me, to give myself compassion and patience and freedom to grow. I tweeted and instagrammed #thatsaffirmative a couple of dozen times - sometimes with photos, sometimes without, always with a message of self-love. I told myself that I'm beautiful, that I'm smart, that I'm worthy. That I count. That I'm visible. That I deserve to be honored and respected.
There was backlash, yes, and focusing on affirming myself as a person cost me things ... it cost me people I cared about, money I depended on, a life that I had spent a long time building. It cost me emotionally, because losing people who weren't okay with me feeling better about myself showed me how very wrong some people were for my life. Losing people who rebelled when I asked to be honored and respected ... it showed me things about what I had accepted in how I'm treated by others. Things I didn't want to see, things I didn't want to accept. Things I didn't want to admit were in some part my own fault, because people treat you the way you allow them to treat you. Still, it hurt when I said to the people around me, "Hey. I may not have known this before, but I know now that I am worthy and deserving of respectful treatment by others, and if you want to be around me, it will be with care and respect for my boundaries and my worth," and I watched those people walk away. It hurt to know that I filled my life with people who thought I wasn't worth the effort. Most deeply, it hurt to see the effects of those changes bleed into other areas of my life, including the lives of my children.
But I stuck with it. And it changed me. It changed me into someone who struggles honestly instead of in silent shame, someone who walks through life unafraid to admit my own fears, someone who can be proud even of my weaknesses. It changed me into a mother who shows her daughters how to stand strong, and how to accept nothing less than the respect they deserve. It taught me gratitude for my own strength.
I'll definitely still be affirming myself as a woman and a mother in 2017, just like I'll still be focused setting and accomplishing career goals that will hopefully bring me closer to the life I want to have. But what's the focus word for this year?
Because my life, like the lives of so many others, has been a series of battles. No, I haven't been overseas - due to a surgery I had as an infant, I was never able to enlist like I wanted to, and by the time I learned that I could enlist after all, it was too late and life had taken that possibility from me. Much as I've always wanted to, I still haven't even learned to shoot. But I've fought my battles right here on the home front, in the forms of sexual abuse, childhood violence, abandonment, domestic abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse, abject poverty, exposure to toxic narcissism. I have a laundry list of traumatic experiences that would knock most people on their asses. I have complex PTSD, Panic Disorder, Depression, a crapload of insecurities, and more uncertainty than I'd ever care to admit.
But I'm still standing. I'm still trying.
Despite everything, I am a warrior, a battle-scarred goddess of fortitude and resilience, and in 2017, I'm going to hold my own hand when I'm suffering. I'm going to stitch my own emotional wounds. I'm going to heal, I'm going to retrain, I'm going to rebuild.
And I'm going to let you watch, if you're interested. Because I never would have made it this far if I hadn't had people to push me, to grow me, to inspire me. I never would have become this person if there hadn't been people to show me the way and tell me that they could see in me what I couldn't yet see in myself. So if I can pay that forward in some small way? 2017. Let's do this.