Closing Out 2020 with Grace & Compassion

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Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon.

Mizuta Masahide

The Teacher and the Gift

What I love about this time of year is creating space for reflection and celebrating the new year. 

Every year seems to get shorter and speed by faster. And this year, although trying was no exception.

2020 has been a tremendous year filled with all kinds of unprecedented events. But amidst the surreal apocalyptic backdrop, 2020 hasn’t been all doom and gloom. 

Personally, 2020 has brought deep clarity in my life. Reminding me what matters, who matters, and the deep connection between all of us. We’re all connected and here for each other. We show up and support each other, even when we’re not aware that we’re doing so.

One example that’s come to light for me is that we’re always both the student and the teacher. 

What I mean is that I continue to learn from each of my clients that serendipitously clicks into my own growth journey like perfect puzzle pieces. And in return, as I prioritize my own growth and healing, I show up more whole, grounded, and intuitive in support of my clients’ journey. 

The Pressure Cooker

2020 is a pressure cooker that’s intensified and accelerated whatever we were already cooking in our lives.

The distillation of what’s essential and evaporation of what’s not substantial left us all with what really matters in our lives.

But the main theme of 2020 that I’ve observed across the board has been one of uncertainty – from the start to the present. 

And with uncertainty, we have to acknowledge the fear and the grief that comes with it.

But there’s even a greater theme that precedes the theme of uncertainty. And that’s 2020 has stripped us of everything and left us with ourselves. And for many of us, that’s the most frightening and difficult thing we’ve never learned – how to be with ourselves without distraction. 

The distraction of the office, the gym, the yoga, the bars and restaurants, the entertainment, the traveling, the meeting up with friends, the dancing, the hustle and bustle of modern life – all gone.

With all of our comforts and crutches stripped from us, 2020 left us alone with ourselves – our feelings, memories, thoughts, beliefs, grudges, insecurities, and our hopes and dreams.

And when all of that comes up – we’re faced with our competence and ability to self-resource and self-regulate with grace and compassion so that we can feel, learn, process, and transmute what we’re experiencing. 

In my coaching practice, this has been the year that I’ve spent the most time with my clients on how to be with the self. And it’s one of the most beautiful gifts of 2020 – the opportunity to meet oneself. Because in past years, we’ve been so busy and distracted. And while I know 2021 will have new gifts and lessons for us, what we’ve experienced in 2020 has changed us. 

Buh-bye 2020… Not So Fast.

So, even though many of us are eager to let 2020 become our past as we leap into 2021, I invite you to sit with 2020 for a few days longer and receive its purpose and feel complete before rushing into the new year. 

With that, here are the 4 things we can do to closeout 2020 and prepare for 2021 with grace and compassion:

The only way out is through.

1. Allow the grief

2020 stripped us of many things. The change we had to adapt to impacted our routine, identity, wellbeing, and livelihood – for better or worse. 

It’s important to acknowledge the change and any feelings that accompany them. For example, maybe there was a change in a job and career? A loss of a relationship? Relocation of your home? A pause on your hobby? A disruption to your health and sense of security?

The uncertainty of 2020 also brought up familiar emotions for many of us such as fear, anger, and sadness from our past – which can amplify feelings in the present. 

Like most experiences of change, many of us have gone through 2020 climbing the grief curve: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness. But just like the principles of the grief curve, we can’t move forward intact until we experience and acknowledge each of the stages, including the final and most important one- acceptance

Some of us have moved through the curve quite quickly and reached acceptance almost in real-time. Others need more time and space to accept the “new normal.”

But the paradox is that in order to get to acceptance, we need to allow our whole selves to catch up by moving through each of the stages. Meaning before acceptance, we need to feel the grief. As they say – the only way out is through. 

Until we can fully accept the change, moving forward is going to be met with a lot of resistance, resentment and stress. 

So what we do is assess where we are on the change curve and allow ourself to fully experience and express our emotions about it. We can do this with a trusted friend or family member, or simply capture them on paper or digital journal. 

The point is to allow ourselves to acknowledge the loss this past year because in some ways we’ve all lost something in 2020. 

2. Appreciate the Gold

There’s always the other side of the same coin – for example, I might have lost my job – but it might have been the exact push I needed to pursue a new career that I’ve been dreaming about. I might have separated from my partner – but I might be more honest with my needs and feelings now. I might have lost the ability to go out for entertainment – but in my boredom, I might have repainted and redecorated my home. I might have lost the ability to travel, but in spending more time with my partner and family, we’ve bonded on a deeper level. I might have lost the ability to eat out, but gained a new appreciation for home-made cooking.

The point here is to identify nuggets of gold and moments of glimmer during 2020, where we gained a new experience, perspective and became a better version of ourselves. We might see that 2020 wasn’t all bad – and for some, 2020 might have even been a pivotal year.

3. Love the Learning

With any hardship and discomfort comes learning and growth. 2020 was not lacking hardship or discomfort, so give ourselves space and time to acknowledge what we’ve learned.

What did you learn about yourself this year?

Did you learn that you need to take better care of yourself? Prioritize your health? That there’s unresolved family conflict? That you’re with the right partner? That you’re with the wrong partner? That you love the work that you do? That you want to create a more meaningful life? That you’re comfortable with uncertainty? That you need certainty for your wellbeing?

These are just some of my own and my client’s learnings in 2020 that could spark some inspiration for you as you think through your learnings in 2020. Any learning is a step toward change that supports your greater good.

There are more questions here if you need assistance wrapping up this year.

4. Take 1 Step Toward Growth

Once we have our list of things we’ve learned this year, we want to ask ourselves what’s the one step toward growth that we can take that feels good to us.

For example, maybe during the pandemic, we learned we enjoy cooking, or went hiking for the first time and loved it, or realized we’re not comfortable with uncertainty.

The one-step toward growth for each of these things could be trying one new recipe a week, schedule 1 hike a month on the calendar, and dedicating 30 minutes to journal about how we’ve handled uncertainty in the past and where it shows up the most in our lives.

By doing this, over time, we create more of what we love to experience and strengthen our self-awareness and abilities.

This is called incremental growth.

Celebrate Our Resilience and Humanity

No matter the effects of 2020 on us, we’re here. We’ve lived it, we’ve adjusted, we’ve learned, we’ve endured, and we’ve grown. Maybe at times, it might have felt like it might break us, but it hasn’t. We’re here and we’re welcoming 2021 with more resilience, compassion, and grace. 

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