2010 was the year life showed me I had no conscious control. It was the year I learned to allow, to take my hands off the wheel and realize I was in the passenger seat, despite the map in my hands. It was the most painful year of my life. For 2011 I chose the word ease to signify my hopes and dreams, my vision for the 365 days to follow. I wanted life to be easier and I wanted to handle it better. It was the second hardest year of my life. 2011 came bearing great gifts and big challenges. These last two years catapulted me into growth, into change, into myself. I’ve been reluctant to admit how hard it’s been. When I do, tears spring instantly to my eyes. As the final days of December ticked by, I felt a loosening, as though my torso had been wrapped in a harness I wasn’t aware I was wearing. It was a physical sensation, accompanied by the most beautiful feeling of lightness. It moved me deeper into trust, and into the knowing that I am loved and all is well.
I wasn’t going to choose a word for 2012. Nothing came to mind anytime I tried. It felt forced, something I should do. I’m cutting should and try out of my vocabulary so I let it go. Just before Christmas, as we entered our final deep relaxation, or savasana, in yoga my teacher invited us to either relax as usual, or imagine contacting our higher self to see what she had to say. As I drifted into that lovely space of inner connection that has become familiar over the last year, images flooded my mind and then came the word, celebrate. It hung, crystalline, inside me and my entire being breathed, yes. It encompasses joy, gratitude, lightness and play and in my mind at least, takes them a step beyond. This is the energy I want to take into 2012. This is my word.
We’ve started to get acquainted over the past week and a half, celebrate and I. I’ve realized I don’t know much about it. The first associated thoughts that come to mind are have a party and have a drink, as those have been my celebration go-to’s as an adult. I don’t drink much alcohol anymore and I’m not about to throw a party every day, so my exploration begins with the following questions:
What does “celebrate” mean to me? (i.e. what counts as a celebration?)
What and how do I want to celebrate?
What is mindful celebration?
What happens when the thought of celebration makes me want to hurl dishes at the wall?
I wondered too, about focusing on celebration here, where my writing as been so much about grief, as well as the fullness and beauty of life. Are they incongruent, celebration and loss? We threw a birthday party for Ada eleven days after Ben died because it was vitally important to me, but is that wise? I was reminded of Brene Brown’s wonderful TEDx talk where she says that the research shows we can’t numb emotions selectively. If we numb grief, we numb joy. If we close ourselves off to vulnerability, we close ourselves off to connection and love. We flat line. The world becomes shades of gray. My willingness to stay present with my grief has allowed me to grow in ways I never could have imagined. My ability to sit in the muck when I needed to has given me a greater capacity for joy, for gratitude, for living with an open heart. It’s also made me even more keenly aware of my brain’s negative bias (a human trait) and my tendency to dismiss my successes as I stay focused on my desires and what’s still to come.
Looking back on 2011, I am amazed at what I accomplished while still being immersed in my own grief process. I made huge dreams come true. I’m done dismissing them. I want to celebrate everything – from the little moments with my daughter that break my heart wide open with an aching joy, to the hard-to-miss moments like my 40th birthday, a long-awaited vacation, and career visions turned reality. In the spirit of spontaneity, I launched “Celebration School” on Facebook and Twitter (hash tag is #celebrationschool). It will start out as a daily post and tweet about celebration and who knows where it will go. I will revisit it periodically here on the blog as I answer the above questions and more. I invite you, no matter what’s happening in your life, to add a little more celebration. If that feels impossible, then I encourage you gently to turn your face in the direction of joy.