Turning Turbulence into Stepping Stones
Traditionally, the last few days of December, people look back over the calendar year and re-assess what happened and where they are. People look back and either check off moments of celebration or their evaluation of the year includes a lot of wincing. If you’re like me and you had a year full of pain, do yourself a favor and instead of moaning about the losses of the year, look at the lessons learned. Trust me–it makes all that grimacing a bit easier to handle. Better to turn the turbulence of your past into stepping stones to your future.
Here are my 3 main lessons this past year. What are yours?
1. Set higher than normally achievable goals, keep your focus on them, and then let them happen in unexpected ways.
I started this year with huge financial goals. Laughable goals. I listened to Dave Ramsey and other financial podcasts several times a week to keep me on track, even with some retail therapy surrounding emotional trauma in April and again in October. I still managed to stay on track, even ahead of the game. I had had no idea how well the stock market would ride this year, but it served my goals well. All I had to do was stick to my budget and be educated on all my financial decisions, particularly with the stock market.
I’m ending the year with paying off a whopping $40k-plus of debt, with nothing left but my mortgage, and with my retirement accounts increased by 40 %. Had I not set such high goals, I would have paid down less than 5k in principal and increased my savings by less than 5%. You better believe I’ll keep my focus there in the next year!
2. Trust my intuition above all others, no matter how much you love the person contradicting you.
In September 2008, I took a brief road trip with my then-boyfriend, who was considerably younger and desperate to prove himself to me. He’d made the trip to South Florida many times, but somewhere around Orlando, he missed an exit. It was late at night, we were both about to fall asleep, and the roads were near-deserted. As unfamiliar road signs popped up in front of us and I knew we were nowhere near our destination, I gently mentioned that I thought we’d missed an exit. He insisted repeatedly that I should just trust him, that he knew the way. There was the insinuation that if I didn’t trust him, I wasn’t being a good girlfriend or didn’t love him enough.
My intuition told me absolutely that we had missed a turn, but another hour went by before I convinced him to turn around–thus proving to him that I didn’t trust him. Almost immediately, we saw the correct road signs, but at that point, we were two hours south of where we hoped we were. Given the difference in our ages and his inexperience in the world, it was a lesson I did not take with me in dealing with people with more life experience or with people whom I could trust with the reins instead of having to be in control as the older one, the brighter one, the one running the group.
The lesson this year has been to listen to my intuition, regardless of who contradicts it. It wasn’t enough to know that something was amiss or to confront that person on multiple occasions, only to be told that everything was fine or that there was some perfectly logical reason that things didn’t seem quite right. Still, the red flags were there and I gleefully ignored them because I wanted so badly for them to be wrong. I decided that if the other person–when confronted–contradicted my fears with logical rationale, then I would believe that person, out of my trust and love, because it was incomprehensible to me that I could be deceived by someone I thought was so special.
That’s probably my hardest lesson this year because it means that my trusting my own intuition might mean I cannot trust the other person. And yet, my intuition is still here, fully functioning, and the other person is gone from my life.
3. Focus on feeling good for yourself more than on looking good for others.
When my 21-year-old was a little younger, I sometimes felt she wanted to hide me away from her friends because I wasn’t a perfect size 6…or 2…or whatever. Over this year, she had an epiphany, one I’d been telling her but she hadn’t really understood until recently. For several years, I’ve struggled with mid-life hormonal weight, courtesy of estrogen dominance and cysts on my thyroid. I’ve made great strides in fixing these issues, but I’m still not a size 2 or whatever equivalent I was in college. I can eat a pristine diet that’s far better than that of the physician who wants to lecture me to eat fewer sweets. I can do P90X doubles for months at a time. I can log all my stats and have perfect blood pressure, good blood sugar, numbers that makes my family doc beam with pride–but my weight won’t reflect those numbers. But my daughter and others who don’t know how hard I work at my health would turn up their noses and insinuate I needed to spend less time on the sofa in front of chips and the TV.
This year, my daughter began to notice on her visits home what I was eating and how much time I put into my workouts. “I see what you do,” she said, disheartened, “and it doesn’t really do any good.”
I’m ending the year a few pounds up from the first day of the year, wearing the same dress size. Even though I walk/jog/run around 10 miles a day. Even though I seldom eat gluten or dessert–only for special occasions. But my estrogen dominance has shrunk this year from 300 times too high to only 12 times too high, and that’s great news.
Gaining a few pounds over the course of the year is not a reason to forgo or change my health routines. I did try, during the summer at the request of someone dear to me, to change up my cardio routine to what worked for him–and I actually gained a pound a day trying something that flat-lined my cortisol levels. Working with a hormone specialist and doing a lot of experimenting, I’ve found what makes me feel the most energetic and healthy.
I may work out 2 hours a day and that’s a lot of time–but I feel great doing it! And I know that if I eat sugar, gluten, or corn, I’m going to feel lousy for the next day. I’ve experimented with enough different foods and detoxes to know how certain foods affect me. I once told a doctor that I was doing the specific exercise and food that made me feel good and he demanded an explanation. When I gave him one, he was relieved because so many of his patients, he said, ate junk food all the time because that made them feel “good” in the moment. I know what will make me feel good, and that’s where I focus. I won’t give up on it just because the scale doesn’t move.
In fact, as I continue to work with my doctor on hormone balance, I’ll continue to experiment with the effects of certain foods and eating styles, always looking for whatever improves my health and, as a result, makes me feel even better, more energetic. That’s a far cry better than some kind of diet that takes off 20 pounds but doesn’t give me the nutrients I need to support my body and leaves me feeling weak or sluggish.
There are the 3 areas where I’ve experienced the most turbulence in the past year, and now they’re stepping stones to making next year better. How will you use your past turbulence to make a better life in the next year?