Every New Year people tout the idea of “New Year, New YOU!” But what if the problem isn’t you?
What if the problem is that what you are holding onto is hurting you?
People make tons of resolutions to change their physical self, but they forget to shift the spiritual and psychological self. Okay, you’re giving up cheese. Fewer tummy aches and less flatulence with a more gentle environmental impact for all… kudos. But what are you doing to practice emotional self-care other than choosing to talk to a gluten-free pretzel rather than a pizza when things go tits up in your life?
This New Year, I propose that we let go of the things which are no longer serving us. No, this has nothing to do with dieting or exercising. This doesn’t even have to do with productivity or directly learning new skills. This has everything to do with forgiveness and living in the present.
I have centered my pain, hurt, and abuse my entire life. I have developed substance and sex-based coping mechanisms that focused on bingeing, whether it was food, alcohol, or men. I developed toxic, abusive, co-dependent friendships and relationships: some of which I was the victim, some of which I was the abuser, most of which I was both. Nothing filled the void and nothing changed the narrative until I chose to.
For 2018, I do not choose to make resolutions. Well, just one. My only resolution is to let go of that which no longer serves me. These are the five things which I will be saying goodbye to, and perhaps with a little bit of work — okay, a lot! — you can, too.
As a person in recovery, I’ve spent a lot of my life blaming others for my actions. And you know what? Some of it was their fault, but a lot of it was my own doing.
When I was seven years old, I was sexually abused by a friend’s teenage brother, and I witnessed him abuse her, too. I have held onto the anger of my parents pushing it aside to allow the parents of the boy to protect him, by merely saying that I could not go over there any longer. Within a year after the event, we left the state, and I left my friendship behind.
I spent the rest of my life (even present day) wondering what horrible life we condemned my poor friend to. I don’t recall if I had made it clear that he was abusing his sister or if they just thought it was a game where we all showed our privates, and that was that. I have blamed myself and my parents for the actions of someone else. I have used this pain as a crutch my entire life, and I honestly do not know who or what I am without it.
This year, I choose to let go of the blame and find out.
In a world that has shown me little love, I have had to be the person who soothes myself. I am not solely a poor little lamb; I am also a fierce woman who makes things happen and helps sustain networks of people interested in building communities of support. I am capable and I am holding no one but myself back with a narrative of woe is me.
Self-pity is something that I have hung onto for too long. While it is imperative to hold space for our trauma and treat ourselves with the tenderness and love that we afford others, it is easy to slip into an area which is mired by pity and feelings of helplessness. We are beautiful, strong, dynamic individuals inside and out. Don’t let your narrative of pain hold you back from accomplishing things in life. After you lick your wounds, let it propel you forward.
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I have excuses for a lot of my shortcomings in life. I am frequently tardy, easily distracted/sidetracked, and selfish. While some of these are physiological (ADD), others are merely self-indulgent and the result of lack of structure and accountability. That changes now.
While there is a difference between excuses and reasons, excuses are an attempt to release yourself from a promise or something for which you chose to assume responsibility. When we shift blame over and over, we never fully accept the responsibility and consequences, so we never can thoroughly learn our lesson and move forward with the knowledge from that experience.
Excuses are easy to see through and anyone that truly knows a chronic excuse-maker knows what’s up, even if you are unable or unwilling to hold space for these truths. Ultimately, you are letting your loved ones and yourself down.
At the core of many of my behaviors, my fear of being alone shapes much of what I do. That fear has enabled a slew of codependent behaviors like compulsive caretaking, addictions, and promiscuity — resulting in an entire adult life full of toxic relationships, be they romantic or platonic. By placing the needs of others above my own, I’ve delayed some of the more critical decisions in my life and often put my needs on the backburner.
How many women and non-men do this? How many of us have learned this behavior through generations of other women caring for masculine partners who suffer within the patriarchal confines of toxic masculinity? There are entire generations of mostly masculine soldiers who return home from war (if they are lucky) and detach to survive, and generations of feminine caregivers who have taught us that this is what love looks like. And that’s just the soldiers, not even counting civilian men who have endured years of abuse and the long road to cope and box those feelings away.
This year, I may not be able to remedy the situation, but I will leave what I can behind while I move forward to work on myself and build firmer foundations and boundaries within my relationships.
More than I have defined my life by my accomplishments, I have defined myself by my failures. While my friends and peers were working on school, I was working on my sixth bourbon and ginger while trying to get in the pants of the brooding babe on the next barstool. Before that, I was afraid of trusting my gut and listening to my heart when it came to my true loves, as I had frequently been told that they were foolish pursuits.
My fear of putting my identity and energy into any pursuits that defined me only to have them fail has been at the core of my self-sabotaging behaviors. Whether it’s love, my career, or academic pursuits, there’s always been an excuse to let go and admit failure before I ever honestly saw it through.
For 2018, I give myself permission to fail, but I must try. I’m letting go of that fear of failure to the best of my abilities.
And if I fail to completely let go of all of these things within 365 days, that’s okay, too. We’re all human. You just have to keep trying.