Chaos is my middle name.
Much of 2017 is a blur. There were lots of changes, lots of little victories, and a TON of growth. There was good stuff, bad stuff, & ugly stuff, but as years go, 2017 was not terrible. It was chaotic, and I felt chaotic, but amidst the chaos I learned a lot, both about myself and the people I love. I learned good stuff.
In January, I started an amazing grad program, which challenged me (& challenges me still) to step out of my (ever-widening!) comfort zone. I’m doing creative work, so it requires all of me — as in, I can’t do it on autopilot. It’s a vastly different experience from my prior grad program in counseling, which required me to go utilize my analytical brain more than anything else. Analytical mode is my safe place, it’s where I’m most confident and where I’m most productive. It requires compartmentalization of my personal & emotional life/messiness, which feels safe and comfortable. What I’m doing now is just the opposite: I can’t compartmentalize parts of myself without compromising the integrity of my work. I can’t hide behind intellectualism. I have to show up as I am, however messy and complicated that may be, and do the work. It’s exhausting, and it’s thrilling and it is completely worth facing my insecurities head-on and showing up as the messy, complicated, real human being that I am.
My word for 2017 was SURRENDER. Ha! I thought I knew what it meant to surrender, but if the past year has taught me anything it’s that surrendering isn’t something you learn to do once, add that skill to your toolbox, and call it a day. No, it’s something that stretches you in all directions, depending on the demands of the situation. Basically, it’s a practice. You do it over and over for the rest of your life. There’s no “destination,” it’s all journey.
Meanwhile, at the end of November 2016, I had moved into the place I now call Home, with my partner. For a host of reasons, it was a difficult transition. In fact, I’m still “transitioning.” It took about a year to get here, but now when I talk about “Home,” I am referring to the place where I live with my partner and step-cat. Like me, our home is frequently chaotic, usually messy, colorful, and always in process. Certain areas of our home are neatly & methodically organized. Other areas are…not. The former are undoubtedly my partner’s designated areas. The latter? Yeah, those are mine. It’s slow going, but I am actually making progress when it comes to creating order in my environment. It happens in fits and starts, but it happens. And something is better than nothing, right?
See, if you’re anything like me (INFJ/HSP), you require a lot of down time, specifically time spent alone to decompress and recharge. For me, this means a space I can call my own, filled with things that give me comfort: piles of books, journals, art supplies, my iPad and/or computer, a couch or bed, teddy bears, headphones, music, and more. (Calling me “high maintenance” is putting it mildly, but I gave up apologizing for what I need a while ago, so to quote the late, great Jonathan Larson, “Take me, baby, or leave me!” ) When I moved here, it took me a while to be able to carve out that necessary space. There were pest control issues that needed to be dealt with — a not uncommon occurrence in NYC abodes — and that essentially halved our living space. During that period of time, I bounced back and forth between here & my parents’ house, spending time holed up in my old bedroom when I needed to screw my head on straight and focus on school work.
Like I said, it took about a year, but I have carved out that space for myself and it’s made a world of difference. I am finally at Home. And now that I’m home, I can get around to the business of creating some semblance of order in my environment. It’s slow going, no doubt. Sometimes I walk into a room, look around, and panic because I don’t know where to start, so I shut down and hide out in my cave of comfort until the overwhelming panic passes. Once it does, I’m usually able to make some progress. But, like I said, it’s fits & starts. This is my process, I live in the gray. And I’m pretty OK with that.
Raise a virtual glass with me to PROGRESS! Even if it’s just baby steps. Progress is progress, no matter how you measure it.