Reflection

Wow, what a year 2017 has been. I have honestly had some of the best and worst experiences of my life this year, but one of the things I remember from our many discussions in yoga teacher training is that it’s beneficial to not jump to label experiences “good,” or “bad,” because truly, everything is an opportunity to learn. Failures and hardships are often much better teachers and motivation than successes and good times, and I have certainly had that reinforced this year. I had some major personal successes and took some leaps, reformed some bad habits and overcame some obstacles. My family experienced a major loss together, but also has quite a few happy things to look forward to in the coming year. My faith has strengthened and my confidence in my value as a person has grown. I started this blog, and by quietly showing up here again and again to put my creations out into the world, I’m accepting that improvement comes through doing, perfection doesn’t exist, and everyone needs to start somewhere.

This year I cemented some new goals and plans and learned to be especially patient when I’m feeling especially impatient (because instant gratification is not actually gratifying). I learned a lot of similarly contrary-seeming things, actually. Less really is more. Owning less makes me happier and frees up a surprising amount of my time, focusing on less allows me to accomplish more (still working on that one), and less perfectionism in my individual work allows me to improve more. I’m a quiet person by nature, and I’ve learned to appreciate the power of listening, but also to not hesitate to speak up a little more sometimes. Plus, I’ve learned to embrace that there will always be light and dark, (literally and figuratively) and to appreciate both for what they are. I’ve always been drawn to a little darkness and I used to think I was destined to be a night owl forever, but now I’ve learned to appreciate the mornings and try to get as much daylight as I can, because too much darkness and solitude can weigh on you. It’s all about balance.

Also, after diving into self-improvement this year, I have become a lot more comfortable with being myself. I still have plenty to work on, but I’m definitely not the insecure teenager I was just a few years ago. I don’t overthink as much. I “like” things on social media that I like. I give people compliments when I mean it. I’m more open to opportunities and experiences, and I say yes as much as possible, but I recognize the importance of saying “no” as well. I’ve also gotten better at letting go of what I can’t control or change. My personal values are firm and well-considered, and I know that I am capable of functioning as an adult, even when everything feels overwhelming, because everyone has to get through life and figure things out the same and no one has all the answers.

So, 2017 is definitely a year that will be clear in my memories, but I’m praying that 2018 will bring more goodness and growth and challenges, because I’ve finally learned that praying for an easy life doesn’t work. It’s never easy for anyone; it’s better to pray for strength to handle the things that come your way, and learn to roll with the punches. I even came down with the flu these last 3 days of 2017, and since I’m not one to get sick very often, it was sort of a last, humbling reminder that I’m not in control. It’s important to learn how to take care of yourself even during the times when you just want to give up.

Hi 2018, cheers to a new year full of new surprises!

P.S. I made a phone background as a little present for anyone reading! You can use it by clicking here and saving it to your photos, then set it as your background if you like 🙂

Comfort & Joy

The last few weeks of the year tend to be pretty hectic, but I love them. People are returning home, meeting up with old friends and family, exchanging gifts, enjoying treats, watching movies, talking the night away and slowing down a bit to prepare for the start of a new year. It’s a bit of a reset button where you can wrap up the year’s projects, catch up with your loved ones, and savor all the Christmas cheer. I know my last post addressed the more melancholy, stressed feelings that can surface at this time, and those are valid feelings. Everyone has something different that might be weighing on them especially during this season, but I am still so excited for the Christmas holiday and the fast-approaching start of a new year. I think it’s always a good reminder to try to find the joy.

My family has a nice pattern of gathering with my dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve for a traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian fasting meal, then my mom’s side of the family on Christmas Day, and the reverse on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year certainly will be different as it’s the first where people have moved and we have no one able to pick up hosting duties for Christmas Eve, but we are embracing the break in tradition and just planning a more low-key, different way to celebrate. I must say, I never thought I would miss that sour mushroom soup until suddenly, pretending to like it alongside my cousins wasn’t part of the plans for the year…haha!

At any rate, I really enjoy these last days before Christmas. I have been really lucky, my Christmas wishlist is more like a list of people to see, and it looks like I’m going to be able to cross off quite a few! I had a great, super chill two-night sleepover with my cousin over the weekend, my mom and I had a wonderful catch up with a family friend for brunch this morning, I hope to spend some time with my best friend (and maybe bake some cookies!) on Friday as well as see some old ballet & yoga friends at the annual candlelight yoga, and then have a nice gathering with some other great friends on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll also get to see most of both sides of my family for Christmas and New Year’s to round it all off.

Today I’m planning on a lot of handmade gift-making, so wish me luck that I don’t get in over my head with that, I’m pretty last-minute as usual! Plus a yoga teacher training deep hangout/meeting later tonight. Is it odd that I don’t feel “busy” when I have lots of hangouts with close friends and family planned? I definitely consider myself an introvert but when it comes to people I love, socializing fills me up till I’m bursting with joy.

I hope whatever your plans are, you can be filled up to bursting this holiday season as well.

Gratitude

This can be a stressful time of year. Usually I get kind of internally frustrated with people who are unreasonably negative during the holiday season, because c’mon, it’s such a beautiful time, celebrate!! Be happy!! But this year I’m one of those feeling a little more down and stressed. My typical unrelenting optimism and general excitement is a bit dampened at the moment. I feel a little odd looking back at the serious tone of my blog posts the past few months, but then again, maybe I only ever want to write when I’m feeling more serious. It does tend to be the pattern in my personal journal, but it is quite a contrast from my off-paper(-screen?) self, where I’m constantly laughing and joking around and never taking anything too seriously, whether by myself or with others. So I guess with that said, I feel more comfortable talking seriously in writing than in speaking, and it feels good to write it out so I can keep laughing and joking elsewhere. 🙂 Anyone who can’t be serious sometimes and silly sometimes is a robot, I tell you.

So yeah, I’m just not feeling that great lately; my semester hasn’t gone too well. My last one went really well despite a lot of things that could have derailed it, so this one in contrast feels pretty defeating. It “should” have gone fine, but I just had a hard time keeping up with everything for no good reason, only myself to blame. I don’t feel super stressed, I’m not one to carry much tension, but I was just looking through some pictures from the past summer and I can see a difference in my face. I looked so fresh and happy compared to looking in the mirror today. I notice a subtle, tired shift in my features when I’m weighed down. Right now, I’m ready to move on but I can’t fast forward, I just have to keep going, even though at the moment everything feels impossible (and I know I’m just being irrational). I’ve heard from a few others lately who are feeling similarly stuck, so I know I’m not alone in this…when it gets to this time of year where it gets dark so early, it’s no joke that it just gets harder to function.

All that said, though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I think the season of extra focus on gratitude should linger well into the new year. Christ is almost born. We need to remember to glorify Him and be so grateful that we can live our beautiful lives knowing that He humbled himself enough to be born on earth, to our beautiful mother Mary, (Theotokos, what a wonderful title, the mother of God!) to eventually die for our sins so that we may receive God’s mercy and have an opportunity of eternal life to look forward to even after our life on earth ends. I look back on especially defeating weeks I’ve had, where everything seemed to go wrong, and see that there were still so many blessings in every day.

A season where things don’t go as you planned is never the end of the world. It’s just even more of an opportunity to pick out all the things that still go right, all the small beauties. Even if you just smile at the fact that if you hadn’t been running late, you wouldn’t have seen that bubblegum pink Volkswagen Beetle pull up behind you at the red light. Or that plane gliding through the sky low enough to make out the detail of its wings. The little, funny things are worth appreciating even when you just want to cry. Gratitude makes all the difference. It really does turn what we have into enough. And in first world countries like America, most of us really do have enough, more than enough. The older I get, the less I want material things for Christmas. The more I just want quality time with people I love, and the chance to sit in silence and be grateful for everything, even the challenging seasons.