As 2018 came to a close I began to notice something almost unrecognizable about my own existence. Though dripping with children, 20lbs heavier, and so exhausted I could barely make it through Christmas dinner, I was met with a sense of peace, contentment, lightness and aliveness that had eluded me most of the year prior.
When I became aware of myself, I was in awe. It was late December. LADIES, I repeat, late DECEMBER!
In the history of my existence as an adult, I have never ended December with any feeling other than what I envision an out-of-shape, unsuspecting, first-time marathon runner feels after stumbling into the finish line on pure adrenaline and determination – elated it’s over, shocked she survived and swearing next time she will start preparing earlier.
When you are a part of the Wheeldon-Reece family, everything is over the top in December. December not only morphs itself into the Winter Olympics of shopping, cooking, and wrapping for the resident Santa Claus, December is also home to my wedding anniversary, 4 family birthdays and 5 kids with an obscene amount of time off school invading my personal space. All that on top of the inevitable business trips, company holiday parties, year-end details, and new-year budgeting and planning.
In my world, you SURVIVE December. You don’t feel “aliveness” – you are just there and if you’re lucky, you happen to still be breathing thus technically being alive.
But something was different this year. So different, the Friday after Christmas I personally planned an impromptu family vacation that included a 10-hour drive. Yep, all 7 of us in 1 car for 10 hours. I am still surprised but happy to report, we all enjoyed each other and the trip. Incredible. Mind blowing, really.
Now writing this, I’ve officially been back in the office at The SPARK Initiative for a little over a week. With the New Year comes a multitude of meetings and conversations revolving around our plans for 2019. What I’ve noticed is the “contentment” “lightness”, “peace” and “aliveness” that I ended the year with has stuck and is a living thread through all the conversations I’ve been having.
To an outsider looking in, this shift could be perplexing. Afterall, nothing concrete has really changed for me personally or in business in the past year. All the things I could point to that were causing my stress, angst, and/or intolerance are still very prevalent.
I even made a mental checklist:
√ Living in a tiny house with 7 people.
√ Pending legal matters with no end in sight.
√ Continuing to balance a fulfilling marriage, growing family and a demanding job.
√ Non-profit income with 5 kids.
√ Building a financially sound and viable company that simultaneously deeply impacts our clients.
√ Not agreeing with other’s choices, views and opinions.
√ At times having to personally bear the consequences of said choices, views and opinions.
If I’m honest, the majority of 2018 brought virtually no traction. Life and circumstances stood still. If someone wanted to measure the growth of The SPARK Initiative, via traditional SMART Goals and Dashboard graphing tools, the majority of 2018 would show a solid flatline. This is the first year that has ever happened since I’ve been involved.
Additionally, if someone wanted to do the same with my family and personal life, that line would only make its way to the middle ground a handful of times in the first 9 months.
This is not how I had hoped this year would go.
Still something had to have changed and if not on the outside, where? What created this drastic shift that not only left me feeling lighter, more peaceful and alive but also generated both business and personal traction? I already knew the answer.
I’ve spent the past few years really tied to the fact that we have ebbs and flows in our minds and thus our personal experiences. I’ve seen and accepted that it’s a natural part of our being human to move up and down-to feel all the feels. Some moments we feel good and some moments we feel awful, all depending on the state of our mind in that moment. This, as far as I can see is 100% true, 100% of the time. And yes, seeing this naturally freed me from a large percentage of self-beating. But I unknowingly took this fact of life and created an invisible boundary for myself. I began to have this inner dialogue.
“I’m human and I’m in a crap mood. I can’t control my thoughts or my state of mind so I will just sit in it until it passes. There is nothing I can possibly do about it in the meantime.”
On one hand, I do believe that is true – the more one tries to get out of or resist a mood, the more it persists. The more one leaves it alone, the faster it seems to pass on its own. And yes, it’s true we can’t decide on our mood’s moment to moment. We can fake it sure, but we simply don’t get to override our moods via discipline or positive thinking strategies or any other technique long term. Our moods shift when our state shifts and our state shifts when we see something new or from a different perspective.
On the other hand, the appreciation I began to have for the state of my mind slowly began to shed light on the thought paths that had so often taken me down the – “I’m human and I’m in a crap mood…” road in the past year.
I got this sudden awareness for my part in my experience. It wasn’t that I didn’t realize the role thought played in my experience. I owned it. I knew the lens in which I was viewing certain areas of my life were 100% my creation. I knew not everyone saw it the same way and if it were not for my perspective, my feelings would be different, my heart would be softer. I really did see I was the creator of my own chaos. It was just that along the way I somehow got to feeling so justified and indignant about certain circumstances, both personally and professionally, that I felt right! Morally right. Ethically right. Professionally right. All the rights! Furthermore, it was my right to feel the way I felt so I kept the stories alive.
The thing is, it was (is) my right, just like it’s anyone’s right to feel how they feel. In fact it’s a birthright. It’s just the way the system works. You think and you feel – it just sort of happens without you having to do anything.
But holding on to those “rights” came with a heaviness that took me away from me for a while. It took me away from the joy of my family and the joy of my business (both which are dear to my heart). It took me away from loving people with the depth I once had.
Around September, with my new awareness of how being “right” was impacting my life in tow, I really began to respect the State of my Mind. Looking back, I think I had spent so many months feeling my lowest, lows that when the “me” I actually wanted to spend time with made brief appearances, I felt an appreciation I hadn’t experienced before. You could say I fell in love with her for the first time. I had a deeper sense of who she was and what she felt like. She wasn’t always happy or cheerful, don’t get me wrong. But she was consistently peaceful, content, light and alive. She was inspired to take action – and not from a place of justice via her created experience – but from a place of integrity of her true self. The self that only reflects love.
Now, I not only knew I had the potential to hang with her, I was committed to her in a new way.
What happened in the following months was a recalibration of sorts. Because I was now more interested in the feeling behind an interaction or conversation (especially those in my own head) rather than my own standards, expectations or opinions, I found myself questioning the quality of the feeling in everything I encountered. It was like a child playing a game of Red Light, Green Light. I found myself meeting people and experiences and internally giving myself a red light or green light to move forward or at times a yellow light telling me to proceed with caution.
What happened next was shocking for even me.
I stopped trying to Right all the Wrongs.
I stopped trying to make things better for me or people in my life.
I just accepted things how they were.
Almost overnight it no longer made sense to:
- Debate with people about right or wrong
- Keep my stories alive by retelling them (to myself or others)
- Hang on to past offenses
- Commiserate with others about injustices or wrongdoings
- Spend time in judgement
- Wish things were different
- Try to get someone to see my point of view
- Change others
And it made complete sense to:
- Listen deeper
- Get curious
- Block social media accounts
- Walk away from conversations
- Keep my big mouth shut
- Trust my knowing instead of my logic
And, I began to:
- Understand the infinite gray area of anyone’s “right” or “wrong” a little deeper
- To let go of past offenses because they hurt less
- See other people’s point of view
- Accept my current state of affairs
- Accept others with greater ease
- See new possibilities and opportunities
- Love people in a new way
- Feel my heart soften by things that hurt for so long
- Feel a little lighter
- Feel at peace, more of the time
- Feel awake to life – right now
Finally, I began to see the TRACTION in my Business, Relationships and Life.
You see, I started the year attached to the way things should be, or used to be, or could be. I loved and cherished those stories in my mind so much, I didnt have eyes for anything new…
There is a woman some of you may know of named Glennon Doyle, who coined the phrase Brutiful. It’s a description of brutal and beautiful colliding. When I think of brutiful, I envision the breaking down of something loved and cherished and the rebuilding of something so completely breathtaking, it’s literally unimaginable until its formed.
I can’t think of a better way to describe my 2018. It was a constant tearing down and rebuilding and it was “brutiful”.
As I began to write this post, I did my usual method of inspiration. I picked up a few of my favorite books and flipped to a random page. Without fail, I always tend to land on a passage that depicts my current learning.
“Begin the process of nourishing the soul by living in the now. Forget the past and the future, and just be, and you will surely be rewarded by living in the now…
This in turn frees the mind to see with clarity things that are, not through distorted memories and apprehensions…
In clearing our minds, we may have to give up something to receive something…I do not ask anyone to ignore their past experiences. This would be denial and denial is not a healthy state…
As surely as rust slowly destroys the strongest steel, hate and negative thoughts erode the soul of humanity…
Our thoughts are our guide; a good guide navigates through the maze of life by following the pathway of love and understanding.”
– The Missing Link, Sydney Banks.
It never ceases to amaze me how our world is a complete reflection of our state of mind in the same way our experiences are a complete reflection our thinking in the moment. It really does look like the two are separate but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that they are profoundly connected. Traction starts within and pours out. Waiting for things to change on the outside in order to gain traction will always be a losing battle. It only works the other way around. When you shift, your world shifts, every time.
I can’t wait to see what 2019 looks like for The SPARK Initiative and for me personally through my new reflection. I hope to see yours along the way.
With Love and Anticipation,