Last year was my year for slow. When I chose that word for the year, I imagined a beautifully simplified and intentionally filled life. I would let go of unnecessary commitments, and fill my time with the best stuff life has to offer. Instead, after I said "no" to some things, I did not like the slow that I was met with. Instead of leading me to beautiful new commitments, God walked with me through the challenging slow.
Slow made all of the emotional struggles I didn't even know I was hiding come to the surface. Slow felt itchy and uncomfortable like I needed something, anything, to do to ignore it a while longer. Slow revealed a grief over a life transition that I hadn't yet realized I was mourning. Slow made room for the fog in my life, and I did not like the fog, therefore I did not like that season of slow.
For all of those reasons, last year was a hard year. It was also a really good year with a strong list of amazing memories and experiences with people I love and in cool places. Those were moments of joy in an otherwise tough season. A season that leaves me feeling so thankful now that it's over.
I'm thankful because the challenges of last year taught me some lasting, meaningful lessons.
1. Growth doesn't always look like big, beautiful blooms.Sometimes it looks like worms and dirt and mulch. But that doesn't mean strong, foundational roots aren't growing under the surface. I not entirely on purpose turned to a lot of children's books on seasons and growth. Each of those books offered sweet and simple encouragement for what I was experiencing.
2. The good stuff in life is all from God.Particularly His creation--people and nature. It brings such lasting joy even in the middle of spiritual or emotional or relational wildernesses. We frequented a nearby park on the weekends, were in the path of totality for the solar eclipse, enjoyed a Thanksgiving sunrise, and even went on a cruise for our 10-year anniversary. Those experiences brought so much joy being with people I love and enjoying the awesome wonders of God's creation.
3. Be careful what you ask for.Just kidding. Kind of. Choosing to focus on and make room for "slow" this year opened up an unexpected, and altogether necessary, can of worms. But in gardening and in life, worms can be used for good.
4. Self-care isn't all manicures and bubble baths.Often self-care is hard things like doctor appointments and taking vitamins and breaking socially acceptable addictions like social media scrolling and Netflix binging. Nobody can do those things for you. And, yes, sometimes self-care is even bubble baths and manicures.
5. "Away" doesn't solve problems.They'll just follow along for the ride. Addressing problems is the only real way to solve them. This is a lesson I've learned and relearned a few times over since I was 15. And yet I still dream of going "away" when I feel discomfort.
It's your turn. Pull out a pen and paper (or a notebook you can collect these sorts of things in). Write "What I learned in the last year" and start listing whatever comes to mind. Write a list of short phrases, or fill out a story or experience that goes with it if you want. Sometimes acknowledging the end result or seeing a lesson learned can make the hard times worth the struggle.
And there's always good stuff, even in the hard. So be sure to add that to the list too.
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