The last two years have been so hard for all of us. One wave crashing over the next, never feeling like we can get our heads above the water. So many of my friends are walking through heavy things- infertility, serious illness, divorce, custody battles, loss, mental illness, pain from the church. It is all so much. And of course, a pandemic that won't. go. away. We are strung out, worn out, and ready for change. When life looks like this we can lose sight of the growth happening, the things changing. We can stop seeing the little bits of light and only see the darkness. 2021 has felt like one huge blur, if we're honest. We're all still trying to process 2020, and now we're nearly in 2022. Anyone else feel like you've been walking through thick fog this whole time?
Or is it just me? But here's the thing, we can't grow how we need to grow when things remain comfortable. And most growth happens in the dark. 2021 sparked a bit more hope in some ways, like getting to go to events with actual humans again, but it was still hard. Even though 2021 has had its fair share of darkness, it's changed me. It's grown me. And growth feels a whole lot like light to me. Like life. Those who have read any words from me know I value authenticity. I think it brings us together. It connects us. Today I'll tell you some things I've learned and some ways I've grown in 2021. I send these "what I'm learning" lists out to my email subscribers on a monthly basis, but I wanted to let you in on it, too. So, here we go.
I don't have to be anyone other than me. If I'd rather curl up in cozy pajamas and read novels rather than going out on New Year's Eve, I'm learning that's okay. I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not. I can simply be me. Nerdy introvert and possibly a bit anti-social :).
I can use my voice to change things in my life. Lately, I've had to speak up more boldly about what I feel, what I need, what's no longer okay with me in some of my close relationships. I'm allowing myself room at the table, too. I'm not allowing these situations to stay unhealthy. I'm not ignoring that bad or choosing to brush it under the rug. Nope. I'm speaking up and using my words. Things won't change if we don't speak up.
Nonfiction is super hard to read when your brain feels foggy. I battled some of my own depression this year, not to mention walked through grief and some major transitions. And my brain is foggy in times like that. And I bought so many NF books this year, and maybe finished one or two. I'm giving myself grace and allowing my brain the room it needs to breathe. And it's okay if I have to pause reading nonfiction to do it. You with me?
Simplifying the amount of input is a huge relief. We live in a world of constant input- from smart phones and social media and endless podcasts and books and blogs and articles and courses and emails and sermons. I've learned how overstimulated I get when there is too much input. And when I'm overstimulated, I shut down. And my output suffers, too. It's the highly sensitive person in me. So in 2021, I simplified. I muted and unfollowed the loud voices. I listened to only a very small handful of podcasts. I took extended breaks off line. I didn't read tons of Nonfiction books and I stopped reading most other blogs and articles. I had a small few I'd read their emails and blogs, but as Emily P. Freeman says, we need to lower the amount of gurus whom we give our brain space. And it was glorious for my soul.
A personal all alone retreat is kind of the best. At least if you're an introvert like me. This year I took my first alone retreat, and it was so good. Good to be quiet and still with little to no agenda. To read and reflect. To still my mind and my body. I just booked my next one. It will now be a forever thing I allow myself to do. No apologies on this one. No matter where you are in life, single, married, kids or not, work from home or work in an office, you need one of these retreats. Your welcome.
Work CAN be an emotionally safe place. And good grief, I had no idea it could be until I began working at Full Life Christian Counseling. It has completely changed me, y'all. To be in an environment where I'm treated like a human who matters. So healing from what I experienced before. I hope you know don't have to stay in a work environment that isn't emotionally safe. You have permission to go.
We need to take our time in the transitions. Rushing through big transitions can keep us from grieving what we lost and reflecting on the old in order to ready ourselves for the new. January marked some big transitions for me- leaving my church home of ten years and going to a new one, moving out of the home I loved dearly into a small apartment as we began what turned into a long renovation of our new house. It felt a whole lot like chaos (and still does), if I'm honest, and my brain doesn't love chaos. But I allowed myself to feel through it. I let myself grieve the losses of 2020 and 2021. I let myself be sad and frustrated and lonely and overwhelmed. And it helped me move forward into the new things.
I don't have to force new friendships. I can let them grow slow. New churches mean awkward small talk and trying to fit in somewhere and trying to be friends with people who are already friends. And for a long time, I felt I had to force myself to have “community” or to try and fit in certain circles. But now I'm learning that true friendship for me grows over a long period of time with safe people. And though that time may be longer now as adults (versus the ease of friendship in college), I'm still willing to wait on it. Because true community can only happen when it's genuine, when people are committed to one another. And that takes a long time.
Life may not look like I'd hoped, and it's okay to grieve that. Unexpected or unwanted transitions. Changing relationships. Finances and dying dreams. Hope is our anchor, but we can also feel disappointed or even deeply sad when what we hope doesn't happen. I think God would rather us be honest in our disappointment than pretend with all the flowery insincerity. This grief has been personal for me, so I'll not share more than that.
I'm no longer going to be unkind to a previous version of myself who didn't know what this current self knows today. The shame of past decisions. The Kerrah I once was. That Kerrah didn't know what this Kerrah knows. And I'm going to stop judging her and being mad at her. I'm going to acknowledge how I've grown into the Kerrah I am now instead. I'm going to have more compassion and stop giving shame such a big part of my story.
Man, I'm thankful for a new year. Aren't you? Have you taken any time to consider what you've learned?
Here are some questions for you to consider as you gently reflect on what is behind and anticipate what is to come.
What are you leaving behind in 2021?
What are you bringing with you to 2022?
What worked in 2021?
What do you hope for in 2022?
Where do you need to grow?
What have you been learning?
What was life-giving and life-draining in 2021?
What does God want me to know right now?
Happy New Year, friend. Here's to a year of living and being and loving. I hope it's the best one yet.
P.S. DID YOU KNOW....
I have a podcast that comes out on Mondays called Be Known. You can check out the podcast page to see all the transcripts and listen to episodes right here! I don't write as many blogs, so this is where you'll find me most.
When you subscribe to the Monday Minute, you'll get a snap shot of the episode of the week and a chance for deeper reflection, prayer, and next steps. And bonus, you'll get more of these "what I'm learning" lists each month. Sign up now by clicking the button below!