Every year I like to choose a focus word, something which will (hopefully) help me to grow and develop as the months progress. Some years I have great success with this, and 2015 is a perfect example of this. I chose the word “Surrender” that year, and I couldn’t have picked a more poignant word. In the January I found out I was being made redundant, and the Spring was taken up by job applications, interviews, battles with a letting agency, and Tim having his first suicidal episode just a few days before we relocated and I started not one but two new jobs! And just when I thought things were starting to settle down, I started to see the first signs of my current illness. Surrender was the only thing I could do that year.
However other years have been less successful in terms of choosing the right word. I chose “Healing” for 2016, believing that my ill health was just a blip and I’d be fighting fit by the end of the year. Instead I ended it on extended sick leave, and that was just the start of it. In 2017 I chose the word “Courage“, and actually that one worked out reasonably well for me, as I finally decided to go fully self-employed after years of doing just the odd bit on the side. For somebody who lacks self-confidence, this was huge and took a lot of courage. But I was still in denial about the reality of my health issues, and ended the year determined to find a way to continue working around my deteriorating health. So I chose the word “Create” for 2018, and put together a list of ways in which I could be more creative that year. Needless to say I created nothing but frustration for myself and knew I needed to change my perspective somewhat.
Focusing on Peace – How Things Went in 2019
And so for 2019 I chose the word “Peace“, because I wanted to figure out how to grasp that “peace that surpasses all understanding”. I wanted to know what it felt like to be at peace wherever I found myself, rather than pushing myself to try and be something I’m not. And actually, I think I’ve been fairly successful at that. Despite being more ill than I ever have been, with migraines at least 50% of the time and a pretty much housebound existence, I have started to accept my limitations and recognise when it’s worth pushing myself despite the fallout that follows and when to say no to something I really want to do because the payback isn’t worth it.
I have cried a lot this year, mostly out of frustration, but there have also been healing tears, bringing up emotions that have been repressed for years and need to come out. I’ve started to be okay with being vulnerable (although I still have a long way to go with that), and began to use a crutch when out and about, despite worrying that I’m a fraud or that people will judge me. Learning to have peace with who I am and where I’m at, rather than worrying incessantly about what others will think, is a whole new experience for me. It’s taking a lot of work, but the peace it brings with it when I manage to do so is immense. And I want to feel more of that.
The Permanence of a Word of The Year
The thing about these words of the year is that they aren’t just for one year only. I chose the word “Surrender” in 2015, and yet I’m still learning how to surrender to all that is happening in my life. And I’m still working on the “Healing” that I chose to focus on in 2016. I’d say that a lot of the healing I need has only begun to be possible thanks to my focus on the word “Peace” in 2019, a whole 3 years later from when I first chose that word. We don’t stop working on these ideas just because another year has passed, they are lifelong practices. But choosing a new word each year helps me to take my practice of self-reflection and self-acceptance to a new level.
Which brings me to my word of the year for 2020. I wasn’t sure what I was going to choose at first, but a couple of days before Christmas it came to me in the shower (like all the best ideas do). “CHANGE“. I’ve since wondered whether it was quite right, and tried different words such as “Balance”, “Self-Care”, “Clarity” (a great pun on 2020 vision), and “Cultivate” (a word which was suggested by the wonderful Shiv from One Woman Revolution), but none of them seemed to fit as well as that first word did. It just feels right, and so that’s what I’m going with.
Change – My Word of The Year for 2020
Why “Change”? What is it that I want to change, and how am I going to do it? Well, there are many reasons why this word feels right to me, not least of which being the fact that our lives are going to change in 2020 regardless of what I do. My uncle passed away in November, and I am due to inherit a fair amount of money once his estate has all been sorted out. The money I receive will lift us out of poverty, giving us opportunities we simply haven’t had over the past few years since getting so sick.
But it’s not just the fact that our lives are going to change through circumstance (that happens anyway, it’s just we know about it in advance this year). I’ve chosen the word “Change” because I really want to continue the changes in perception that have happened this year with my word “Peace” and develop that further. I want to change how I view the world, how I live my day-to-day life, and the habits I have developed over the years which do nothing to help me. In essence I want to “be the change I wish to see in the world”, and not just in the world around me but also the world inside of me.
Being The Change I Need in My World
I want to learn how to be the change that I need in my life, rather than waiting for life itself to change. Because let’s be fair, the world is a pretty scary place right now, especially when you’re a member of a marginalised group, which chronically ill and disabled people are. I very nearly ended 2019 feeling utterly broken by all we’ve been through as a family, and how invisible that seems to be to even friends and family.
But then I realised that I was waiting, and had been waiting for so many years now, for a kinder world to emerge, and for my health issues to simply fade away. Because it’s all too easy to feel completely helpless when life kicks you down, and to believe that there’s nothing you can do about it and that nothing will ever change. But there is always something you can change, no matter how small, and it’s that idea to which I wish to hold onto as we move into 2020. I can be the change I need in my world, and I no longer need to wait for permission from others to do so.
Changes I Hope To Make in 2020
So, with all that in mind, I thought I’d make a list of the different ways in which I hope to create lasting change in my life throughout 2020. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it one which I will stick to rigidly. But it is created as a guide that I can look to whenever I need a reminder of the many different ways in which I can create change within my life.
- Change my mindset – this has already started to happen, and I hope it continues to do so. I can always change the way that I view the world, and that will always have an impact on how I cope with the world too.
- Change my inner voice – like many people, I have a very negative inner voice. It is the biggest critic, and speaks to me in ways I would never dream of speaking to someone else. So I want to work on changing that inner voice, so that it becomes more supportive and encouraging and far less critical.
- Change my habits – there are some habits I have which I know are really bad for me, and yet I resist changing them. Things like checking my phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I really want to break out of that habit, and shall try to do so by replacing them with more positive habits, such as meditating or reading a book.
- Change my routine – following on from number 3, I really want to change my routine. I have struggled to do this due to how ill I have been, but I’m beginning to realise that if I created a more accessible routine that actually worked within my limitations I might have better luck at sticking to it. And having a workable routine would reduce some of the chaos that is my life right now.
- Change my media consumption – I am very aware that I spend far too much time on social media or watching Netflix, and spend far too little time reading books or blog posts. I really want to change this over 2020, creating a better balance between them all. That may include social media breaks, changing who I follow and how I use each platform, and creating a reading list.
- Change my diet – no, I’m not talking about going on a diet (I already eat far too little, because of how messed up my digestion is thanks to the EDS). What I want to do is focus on changing my diet in all the ways I know I need to but keep resisting. Things like drinking more to avoid dehydration, avoiding triggers such as chocolate, cheese (I’ve already started doing those two things), and being more adventurous when it comes to the meals we eat, so that I get a more varied diet.
- Change my priorities – for far too long, I have put myself and my health at the bottom of the pile when it comes to priorities. In 2020 I hope to begin to change that, by prioritising things that help me healthwise (such as getting a regular massage to help with the muscle spasms I get, once we have the funds to do so). I also want to prioritise things like regular yoga sessions at home, meditation, journalling, and anything else which helps reduce my anxiety and boost my self-esteem.
- Change my fears – over the past few years I have become increasingly anxious, and an old phobia which I had thought was long gone (Emetophobia) has reared its ugly head. It doesn’t matter that I can rationalise it, or understand how it has built up so high, I cannot seem to ease that fear. I’m starting the year with a number of sessions with the pain psychologist, in which I hope we can talk about how my increasing health issues have impacted my anxiety levels and fears of getting sick on top of being sick. But I also hope to go for some hypnotherapy at some point too, because that was what helped me get over this phobia in the past.
- Change my expectations – I have spent far too long waiting and hoping for things to get better, both in my own life and in the world at large. And as much as I do not wish to accept the way things are, there is a certain amount of lowering my expectations which would be beneficial to me. Things like expecting my health to recover in a lineal fashion, when actually the journey is an incredibly windy path with many ups and downs. But the ups and downs, and twists and turns, do not mean that I’m not making progress. I just need to change my expectations of how I will get there and what that will look like.
- Change my writing – there are so many ways in which I want to change my writing in 2020. First of all I want to work on my novel The Brethren, and consider hiring an illustrator for my kids’ books, so I can finally publish them. And I want to look at my blog – who am I writing for, and how can I reach them better? I want to tidy things up, and I need help to do that, which I can hopefully get once I have the funds to hire someone to help me clear up everything behind the scenes and develop a better plan than I currently have (which is pretty non-existent thanks to my ill health).
2020 feels like a Significant Turning Point in My Life
As I said before, this list is far from exhaustive, but it is a great starting point for my year of change. I honestly do feel as if 2020 is going to be a turning point for me individually and us as a family. A large part of that is due to the inheritance that will open some doors for us. But an even larger part comes from the groundwork I’ve been putting in over the past few years. I’ve broken down layer upon layer of emotional debris as my health has deteriorated and we’ve faced some of the hardest challenges of our lives.
2020 marks our 10 year anniversary, and I cannot help but reflect on the hopes and dreams we had as newlyweds and how we could never have foreseen the battles that lay before us. I remember saying to Tim that if we’d survived the challenges of the 3 years we’d been together before getting married, we could survive anything. And I was right, more right than I could have possible imagined. The past 10 years have almost broken us in many ways and on many occasions, but one thing has always remained strong, and that is our love for each other. I cherish that greatly, and hope that in 2020 we can finally begin to enjoy that love without having to rely on it to help us survive the storm.
Here’s to a year of change!