Three things I learned in 2016

I could have written a post about how well I met (or didn’t, as the case may be) the goals I set in early January, but I doubt my yoga attendance record or attempts to address my tendency for lateness are of much interest to anyone but me. What I’m writing about, instead, is what I’ve learned this year. Because the truth is, the challenges are always more interesting than the wins (right? right?).
Here goes.

Lesson 1: There is no one thing that makes everything perfect
In theory, I already knew this. But I had to experience it again to really understand it. Allow me to explain.
For years I’ve been banging on about how finding a partner is not a magic formula for happiness and purpose, as it’s our sacred responsibility to create these for ourselves. Even though I believed this devoutly, there was still a part of me that believed love would somehow cause some deep transformation that would result in me becoming a better, more confident, altogether more complete person. So when I found myself in a relationship this year, for the first time in many years, guess what happened? Nothing.
I mean, lots of stuff *did* happen – don’t get me wrong, loving someone and being loved in return is wonderful and deeply satisfying, and I am very happy – but it turns out I am still the same person as I was before I met him. I’m still battling insecurities, afraid of my own inadequacy and struggling to find my way in the world. 
Without realising it, I had been looking for the one thing that would make everything perfect. That’s a pretty familiar MO for me, actually. Over the years such searches have included: cutting out gluten (it will make me feel so much better!), taking overseas trips (it will help me find myself!) and lastly, meeting someone who would sense in me something special, something that I wanted so badly to be there… and was terrified was not.
A relationship, it turns out, does not so much fill the gaps in yourself as much as expose new ones. This is as true about love as it is about losing weight and getting a new job. Changing yourself has little to do with changing your circumstances, and significantly more to do with changing your thoughts and beliefs. And gratitude, always gratitude. There is no one thing, and there is no perfect. The best work I’ve done in terms of my personal growth, this year and all years, had nothing to do with any other human. And that’s as it should be.
Lesson 2: It’s OK if people don’t share my opinions or beliefs
I don’t know when or how this happened, but sometime during the year I stopped giving a fuck about how people responded to what I do. I used to avoid discussing One Grounded Angel, fearing the disapproval of others. This did me an enormous disservice, and possibly also others who might have needed some of the messages I was passing on. I suspect this reticence to be seen diminished in direct proportion to my sureness about the value of the information I’m passing on.
Of course, the more ‘visible’ I became, the more I became exposed to criticism and negative opinions. My viewpoint on such matters has always been this: what other people believe in is none of my business. I won’t say it doesn’t upset me when people post messages telling me what I do is bullshit but I would like to think I’m better at not taking that personally. This is the mantra I intend to carry into 2017: I do not need the approval of people who do not approve of me (that’s a life lesson from George Michael, by the way).

Lesson 3: I have failed, but I am not a failure

I wrote about this at length in a June blog post (read it here) so I’ll keep this to a brief summary. I had to change tack halfway through the year, as my reiki practice rooms failed to attract enough clients to be profitable. This stung. I felt personally inadequate, as if this lack of success were an indictment on my own worthiness. It took a period of healing and gradual acceptance for me to realise that this was not the case. This failure does not make me a failure.
Everything has played out exactly as it was supposed to. I don’t know why just yet, and maybe I never will, but I do know that venture was not meant to be. And that must mean something better is coming.
2017, I’m ready.

Regrets? I've had a few. Nothing wrong with that

Girl looking sad and remorseful

I’m always suspicious of people who declare that they have no regrets.
I bet you know someone who has stated, with a sense of pride: “If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Really? Sure about that? You wouldn’t decide to wear a different dress to your mate’s 21st so you didn’t turn up wearing the same thing as his girlfriend? You wouldn’t have avoided that pothole so you didn’t hit a tree and write off your car? You wouldn’t have ended your dead-end relationship sooner so you could have been happier earlier? You wouldn’t have applied sunscreen every single day so you didn’t end up with an alarming amount of wrinkles in your 30s? (That sunscreen song from the 90s was right about UV protection, you know).You wouldn’t change anything? 
I don’t believe you.
Let me tell you, there isn’t much I wouldn’t change if I could. 
I would back myself and aim higher in my career instead of opting to float in the achievement-free zone of freelancing, so that I would have something to show for the past five years, to name just one.
I totally understand that everything that has happened has shaped my life and my character for the better, and that I couldn’t have learned the lessons I’ve learned any other way. The suffering was necessary then, but it is not necessary now. I also understand that regret is unhealthy – not to mention unhelpful, considering we have no means of turning back time (still hanging out for that time-machine technology, Doc).
I know all this, and yet I still have regrets – but I don’t regard that as a bad thing. 
Girl on swing by herself
A lot of spiritual people bang on about embracing your past, warts and all, and how liberating this is. I’m sure it probably is, but I don’t think it’s realistic, or even necessary. 
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that things have not worked out the way you had hoped. I do agree, though, that holding on to pain around what’s happened will hold you back. 
So here’s my approach. Instead of embarking on a futile mission to embrace all that shitty stuff, I’m working on acceptance. I can’t change what I’ve done, or what’s been done to me, but I absolutely can change how much I let those things affect me now. I see acceptance as a middle ground between celebrating unsavoury events and languishing in regret. What this means is freedom from self-flagellation over my choices, without labouring under the delusion that I should* be happy about things that did not, and never will, make me happy. 
It’s possible to be grateful for the lessons while still wishing their circumstances had been different.
If something sucks, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. You can’t put glitter on a poo, as an old editor of mine used to say (he was talking about a poorly written story, but the same message applies here). This doesn’t mean playing the ‘if only’ game though. Everything is not awesome, but it is OK. Maybe we should just focus on that. 

*I hate the word should’ – it’s loaded with so much expectation and a sense that you are failing at something – and I use it sparingly. In this case I think it was warranted.