This post is a continuation of my series on choosing a word the year. For me this practice is something personal that I am sharing here to (hopefully) help other people. A friendly reminder that these are my thoughts & my experiences, and in no way the only way of doing or thinking. For more information on how choosing a word can become an exercise in memory keeping be sure to visit Ali Edward’s blog. She also offers a year long course on the subject.
After reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong, the idea of vulnerability really stuck with me. I start thinking about my word in the fall and back then I was considering vulnerability my word for 2016. In the way that I want to stay present and mindful, and allow emotions to be as they are and to feel my way through uncomfortable moments, knowing the reward on the other side of the icky feeling is a much more familiar place with my own story.
But as does happen often, I think vulnerability may have been too big of a word, too broad. Recently something sprung up on me that has revealed itself over the years and always stuck with me as well: Boundaries.
Boundaries, or maintaining personal boundaries, is an issue I have struggled to figure out. I am a reformed people pleaser. It takes constant effort to not slide back into old habits. And like most self improvement goals, it isn’t constant. It springs up on occasion ignited by certain situations in life. Sometimes I am more aware of it than other times. It’s not always easy to maintain focus on our emotional well being. Especially when our first inclination is to act with emotion, which is a dominate trait of a Cancer.
Boundaries may have a negative sound at first glance, but healthy boundaries are necessary to maintain a positive outlook, as well as healthy relationships with myself & others.
One excerpt that stuck with me on boundaries, was written by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She says: “To have issue with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right?” Then she goes on to describe a time in her life where she struggled with boundaries regarding relationships. Particularly with getting her own identity lost in that of others.
I don’t have this issue in my present relationship, but have had this issue in friendships and familial relationships. Sometimes also at work and in public settings.
For instance, something simple like getting into my office and a colleague is waiting at my desk to discuss something because they choose different work hours. There are times I would drop everything and apologize giving them my immediate attention. This would leave me feeling flustered, out of sorts and ashamed about nothing. When I am cognitive of my boundaries, I simply say good morning, I will be able to speak with you in 15 minutes after I’ve settled in. Knowing I need to take some time to put my things away, check email and have a sip of coffee, then I will be in a better frame of mind to get to work and be more effective. It’s nothing against others, it’s just recognizing my needs first so that I am being my best self and can be present in the moment.
It’s not a popular characteristic of women, who are supposed to be helpers and give up our time and everything to be attentive to others. But it’s about being aware of when I need to let go of things: situations, ideas, people, external forces and focus more on my own actions, words and reactions. Having proper boundaries in place helps keep me from blaming others, feeling resentment or getting frustrated or anxious.
Boundaries also apply to how I spend my time. Creating reasonable boundaries around certain activities and sticking to them is a constant challenge for me.
In addition to boundaries, I have some supporting words and ideas. Focus correlates to boundaries and is something I need to work on in all aspects of life. Light is a spiritual word for me, as it relates to universal energy. While words like boundaries and focus are somewhat heavy and sharp, Light is not. I need to create balance with Light. Meaning these words/ideas/concepts I want to be aware of this year and work on is good, but I also need to allow the light in sometimes and recognize the light in difficult situations. Whether it’s being a little more graceful with myself and others, or literally letting go, breathing & releasing. There is a yin and yang to everything. (which also correlates back to my Cancer traits)
In my experience, when working on these practices and habits, its something that has to happen gradually and deliberately. I also have to engulf myself in some of the ideas to really figure out where I am headed with it. So to begin, I turn to research. I will consult the works of some people I turn to continually for clarity, inspiration and perspective. Usually I will art journal some quotes that stick with me and take some notes to refer back to throughout the year. In the past I haven’t done a full follow-up layout on the word, but I do reflect on it in bits of journaling.
Another great tool with this process, comes from Susannah Conway. I found her years ago during a difficult time and loved her book This I Know. I’ve taken her Unravelling course and enjoy her workbook she offers for free on her blog each year. Check it out here. It’s a great guide for your words and something to refer to for years to come.
Maybe this year my goal will be to complete more layouts or at least a year-end layout referencing my experience with my words for 2016.
How will you document your word this year? What are your goals?