What not to do, or, what I learned (again) in 2008

Yay. It’s over. Let’s celebrate.

1st January 2009:  I woke up this morning feeling quite odd. It wasn’t that I was in a strange house, exceptionally dehydrated, and trying to remember just what had transpired the night before.

It was the queer feeling of optimism.

You may have noticed that every second thing I’ve been writing the last few months has had to do with coping with adversity and getting back on track (and these are just the few I’ve posted, there are another 12 article stubs that you’ve been spared from enduring).

But last night I reconnected with old friends, made a few new ones and, through the six hours of conversation, somehow found myself again. I realised that I’m not just the things that people know me for (coach, psych, business manager, general dogsbody, etc) but that I have a past, a present and a future that are far richer than I’ve been acknowledging.

And now, my view of ‘what is possible’ is panoramic.

So in honour of the whole ‘out with the old, in with the new’ thing that we do at this time of the year, I thought I’d revisit some of the lows and highs of 2008 in the hope that if I write it down then maybe, just maybe, I’ll get what works for me.

What didn’t work

All or nothing. 2008 was my year of “finish the goddamn thesis”. As such, I decided that I was going to knock it over in four months. And I did. I also:

  • burnt out
  • hated the thing 
  • stopped exercising
  • stopped socialising
  • did as little work as possible 

so that every waking moment could be dedicated to the thesis.

Not only did I stuff up my physical and mental health, but I produced a really poor thesis that required a re-analysis and re-write. Four months became ten. Next time I’ll be more realistic with my time frames and I will not forgo the activities that make life grand.

Tap. Tap. Tap. No heart! The whole thesis thing has made me rethink my beliefs around keeping goals that just don’t matter. This year, I also continued to be involved in another project that turned out different to what I imagined, and stuck with it because I didn’t want to let the other person down. Again, half-hearted efforts give piss-poor results. In the future I will let go of goals that aren’t meaningful and not be so attached to proving that I can complete things. Complete the things that matter and be not like the tin man.

What would Yogi Bear do? Okay, a little hibernation can be nice but when Caro returned from overseas I just didn’t want to play with anyone else anymore. Because of where we live, it’s so easy not to talk to anyone for weeks at a time. When a good friend left a message on the answering machine saying she was worried because she hadn’t heard from either of us in ages and she was starting to worry… then I knew that perhaps it was overtime to reconnect. The moral of the story: Be not like the bear.

What did work

Let her go. In keeping with the ol cliché, “if you love someone set them free…” I fully supported Carolyn in moving to Sydney to take up a job opportunity. And while I missed her incredibly, her absence certainly made me rethink what I wanted from life and how a relationship can be. Admittedly, when the job didn’t work out and she returned after three months, I was a very happy camper. But, from the whole experience I learned that I can live more fully when I don’t use our relationship as a crutch.

The Do-It-Yourself Life. At the beginning of 2007, after a few years of having a coach, I decided to see if I’d actually learned anything and do 12 months without a coach. It was bumpy, but I did it. 2008 was also quite coach-free, except for a few months during my thesis ‘all or nothing’. And I think I’ve done okay. I’ve had to find my own resilience instead of reaching for my other crutch: coaching. Oh, I also threw my third crutch asunder when I cancelled my gym membership. While I don’t besmirch the results I got when I was being coached or trained, there’s something very satisfying about doing it on my own. This year, I learned that “I can” and that’s a very powerful thing.

Hi, I’m Trish. In Carolyn’s absence I had to socialise BY MYSELF [insert collective gasp]. And it was fine. I actually met new people. (Fancy that huh!) While I may have temporarily reverted back to wanting to share every moment with Caro, I now know I can do things by myself, and I don’t have to live in her shadow socially. This was a huge insight.

There are probably dozens of other little things that spoke big to me during the year but this is enough to show that it wasn’t so much what happened but what meaning I took from it, that made a difference to my quality of life.

Knowing that there really isn’t any ‘bad’ in the ‘bad things’ is probably my biggest learning from the year. It gives me faith that no matter what 2009 brings, life will be good.