The above picture is taken at the start of 2018, at the annual Edinburgh ‘Loony Dook’.  Dookers take a jump into the icy cold river Forth on January 1st, in a tradition which i believe started as a hangover cure back in the 1980’s!  On my part, it was an attempt to ‘wash away’ the absolute disaster that i felt 2017 had been for me, and start 2018 afresh. 2018 has since taught me that external work is only half the battle, no amount of detaching physically, removing yourself from toxic situations or ‘cleansing’/changing your exterior form can make up for the inner work that needs to be done to really free yourself of past pain and limiting self beliefs.  This past year became for me a year of reflection and unpacking, a year of doing the necessary work to let go of toxic beliefs, ideals and influences.  I emphasise “doing the work” because I came to realise quickly that letting go is not a simple action, like cutting the ribbon of a balloon and watching it float away-it’s actually quite an epic job of work-more like unpacking and clearing out all the boxes you’ve stashed away in the attic when you’re moving house!!

Unlike previous years, for 2019 I have made no resolutions as such.  No massive lifestyle changes. No promises to make adjustments that i’m not committed to making purely because the date has changed, and that’s just what everyone does. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself or make changes to become a bit more healthy/productive/motivated,  but for me I’ve come to a place where i like where I’m going, and i want to continue to evolve rather than completely change anything.  Below are the most important lessons which i feel 2018 drove home to me, and which i want to continue to build on over the next year:

1/ I have issues and flaws. I always will have, and that is 100% okay.  I will never be the perfect ‘woman’ ‘girlfriend’ ‘friend’ ‘daughter’….insert label here. Perfectionism and expectation are more damaging than any of my other flaws and weaknesses.  There’s no such thing as a perfect person, you can’t expect it of yourself or anyone else. The very best you can offer out is to be an authentic and fully accountable version of yourself.

2/ Forgiveness is so freeing.  My mantra has been “I forgive myself and others for things done whilst acting from a less informed place.” I’ve learned there’s little value in holding on to anger and hatred from the past, as the saying goes-holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It’s much more healthy to show compassion for the fact that as humans we are always evolving, and at times we make mistakes because we just don’t know any better.

3/ Sisterhood 💖 I have learnt the joy in putting aside the constant competition society seems to want us to be in with fellow women, and embrace solidarity.  I have experienced a new level of compassion for other women, even when their choices and opinions are not aligned with mine.  Opening my heart to friends and finding wonderful soul sisters along this years journey has been one of my favourite things.  I also have a new level of empathy for the unique struggles and challenges facing my male friends, born from researching the current male suicide/mental health crisis.

4/ I may have found my ‘voice’ and began to trust in it, but I am still hiding in plain sight. Anyone reading my previous post about my contribution to ‘The Silent Scream’ will remember me speaking on how I recognise that i am writing more freely and openly- but almost remaining anonymous at the same time.  Just last month I was talking about the pieces I submitted for the anthology, and the experiences that inspired them, which caused a friend to remark ‘oh well, you hide all that well!’ I was a bit taken aback and realised I still held back a bit from identifying with my writing and past experiences, as I still hold somewhere a deep fear of rejection and judgement.  But i no longer want to ‘hide’ anything- I’ve come to believe hiding thoughts, feelings and experiences is one of the most collectively damaging things we currently do as humans.  That being said, i am obviously mindful there will be times it is not appropriate or helpful to others for me to ‘speak my truth’ as it were!

So 2018 was a year to unpack and experience all this, a year of finding a way back to my own heart and letting go of a life driven by fears of how others perceive/receive me.  I’ve worked on finding a voice for my truth- now i have to full live in and embody it.  This year i have committed to living ‘The year of no fear’! Surrendering control and exploring what comes up for me in the most vulnerable moments, documenting in my blog and on video.  Tonight work starts on fleshing out what that is going to look like, and what sort of things it will entail!  It’s exciting and intimidating in equal measure, and i hope some of you will enjoy following along.