I was brought up to equate being alone with feeling lonely. My recent trip over the holidays dispelled that myth. I spent the last days of 2017 fully living my Word of Year for 2017, present, during my first solo trip of my life. I ushered in opportunities to stretch, exploring my own boundaries, experiencing sights, sounds and tastes here in South Africa and connecting with delightful souls.
I dined alone in a sit-down restaurant for the first time. I spent days gallivanting around Cape Town with strangers who quickly morphed into friends. I carved out time to restore, reset and refresh.
As an only child, I was skilled in the art of entertaining myself. I recall one lengthy session of making faces at myself in my mom’s bedroom mirror. As my mom entered her room, she looked at me, rolled her eyes, laughed and said, “you are weird”. I giggled in response and continued with my merriment. My ability to be self contained at an early age contributed to the resilience I required to brave my adolescence.
As I entered my turbulent teens, I sensed my mother’s light dimming. Awaiting her knight in shining armor to rescue her from her life, my mom’s loneliness increased as I moved to college. At University, I shed layers upon layers of my identity and became the most self-assured I’ve been in my adult life. Slowly, over the last 20 years, as I jumped from relationship to relationship, I lost parts of myself. From one relationship in which I was criticized for being “too damn happy” to the next relationship where I was decried for being too negative, I started to believe that I was not enough. I started to believe that I needed someone to fill my gaps, to complete me. As I furthered my spiritual practices, and discovered silent retreats, I craved more and more time to myself. I peeled back the layers of enmeshment and revealed that I’d subconsciously woven my mom’s rescue fantasy into the fabric of my belief system.
Don’t get me wrong, I dream of great love. I love love. However through my spiritual work, I admitted a need to be present to my life, to myself, first. Though difficult, I had to let go.
I’ve endured a tremendous amount of hurt and trauma throughout these last 38 years. Stories and relationships have seemingly bogged me down. I’ve clung so tightly to the past. I am trying to remain gentle to myself as I continue to let go.
This Peace Corps service is, in part, about letting go, making space, acknowledging my needs and dreams and being very much present to myself and my life.
Peace Corps outlines three official goals of service to be: 1) helping the people of countries around the world to meet their need for trained men and women; 2) promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served and; 3) promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Peace Corps Volunteers freely discuss the unofficial “4th goals” to include personal aspirations. From the onset, I identified my fourth goal to be standing confidently on my own two feet in the world. Though firm about my goal, I doubted I could achieve it. However, in the last two weeks, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, confident of my place in the world and excited about upcoming solo adventures.
I started Susannah Conway’s powerful Unravel your Year, using her thoughtful prompts like, “where did you practice bravery in 2017?” and “did anything happen in 2017 that needs to be forgiven?” to examine the preceding year while atop Table Mountain on Christmas Day. Susannah encourages participants to visualize their ideal day in 2018 and ask themselves questions such as, “what would saying YES to your life look at feel like?”
Saying yes to my life in 2018 includes desiring flow, realizing ease, implementing my tools for balance and wellness and utilizing my unique gifts and talents to give back and be of service. I realized that I want to make space for possibility and magic in 2018.
My Word for 2018 is spacious ♥
I want to make space for that little girl inside who knew joy through simple things. I want to make space for that fierce woman in her late teens that spoke with conviction. I want to make space for the brave woman who is slowly rediscovering herself, her value and her place in the world.
I bow in gratitude to you for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service here in South Africa.
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