After my first year abroad in 2012, a year of rough-and-tumble (sometimes literally!) fun and exciting experiences, I was a little overwhelmed. Spent. Incapable of sitting still in any moment and challenged by the simple act of stopping to see the world around me.
I needed to bring a calm awareness to my life in 2013.
I spent the year focused on the word Surrender.
The idea of doing this in and of itself proved to be one of my greatest challenges. Headstrong and ambitious, giving my power up to anyone or anything was a concept that I was not only unfamiliar but highly uncomfortable with.
The weak yield. The powerless relent. The pitiful give up.
These are not examples of the type of person I strive to be.
I struggled to step outside my own drive and mind, to chew on the word surrender, like a delicate herb you toss around your mouth to determine its origin.
Then, one day in May, the Inception-like paradox to my resistance became apparent. I was not surrendering to the concept of surrender.
Surrender did not need to be an act of giving up. Instead, it needed to be an act of accepting the things we cannot change while still changing the things that we can. This is also how the phrase “tuck-and roll” became such a vital part of my vocabulary. Sometimes, you have to know when to jump from the moving vehicle, tuck up into a curled up ball, and roll out of the way of oncoming traffic.
As I (should have) learned in my many yoga classes of 2013 (and where the Year of Surrender originated) when you are struggling against a pose you do not get better by forcing things or trying to control them. You get better by surrendering to the limitations and pain and working your way through them. A centimeter here and an extra breath there is what it takes to deepen your postures and strengthen your practice.
Being the process and solutions oriented person that I am, I needed a heuristic to apply to decisions and situations to center my mind and bring the calm stillness of surrender to my life. By July, I had settled on this:
Will my getting angry/upset/frustrated do anything to affect the outcome of this situation?
Unsurprisingly, the answer at least 90% of the time was no. This was the single greatest lesson in surrendering for me. That surrender was not an act of giving up, but an act of analyzing a situation and my position in it and determining whether I was going to let it affect me. Allowing myself to surrender my control to things which were totally out of my control, something I’ve never been good at.
Overall I did not outline specific goals or ambitions in 2013. Intentionally, I did not want to focus my time of surrender to striving towards numbers and benchmarks when I was actively trying to see what life had to offer me and what to do with those offers when they became apparent.
This created the second biggest struggle of 2013 for me, the inertia of calm and the handcuffs of complacency.
I am a nice person almost all the time. I try to show kindness to everyone that I encounter, even those who match my kindness with hostility or ill-will. I will be nice to the point that I essentially become a doormat. At which point I snap and the resulting inferno leaves people slack-jawed and myself emotionally twisted up.A friend refers to me as the Ferrari of Bitches because I can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds flat and I look damn good doing it.
Being so committed to surrendering, I lost sight of the fact that sometimes there are times that you have to stand up and shake your fist and be so mad as hell that you will do anything not to have to take it anymore. Whether it was an outside force imposing itself on my trajectory or simply the little voice inside my head, often I let life take advantage of my kindness and commitment to acquiescence.
As I sit down to review my year as a whole, I realize how many times and projects and situations I let happen to me instead of happening to the situations.
Marking my second year living mostly abroad, I was out of the United States for 338 days (enough to qualify for a Foreign Residency Exclusion – excellent!) in 2013. Otherwise I spent my time in:
- Chiang Mai, Thailand – Chiang Mai unexpectedly became my home base for much of 2013. Every time I tried to leave that beautiful city and move on from it’s friendly relaxed culture and delicious fruit smoothies I ended up finding myself drawn back. Maybe it was the familiarity of the faces I grew to cherish there or maybe it was something more. Regardless, I had an apartment there for nearly eight months time and traveled from good old CNX to explore the world around me. By November the urge to move on had finally settled in and I knew it was time to say goodbye (for now) to my home in the Thai hills.
- Europe (Berlin and Prague) – An anomaly in my peer group, I was not a well-internationally-traveled traveler before launching out to live abroad. In fact, I applied for my first passport at the age of 31 to move to Bali. So when we decided to host an event in Berlin I was elated – MY FIRST TIME IN EUROPE! A few friends chuckled at my enthusiasm, noting that they (with their vast world traveling knowledge) knew I was going to fall in love with Europe. Something about me and the modern classical feel of so many European cities made sense. They were absolutely correct. I wandered around Europe in a state of constant wonder, loving everything I experienced.
- Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Canada – This was a special trip for me as I traveled with my Mom and Dad to their favorite travel spot and the location of a ton of family heritage and history. Seeing travel through their eyes and surrendering my own travel tendencies and preferences gave me an experience I will forever cherish as I continue gallivanting around the planet. Plus, I got to visit Green Gables (from the children’s books Anne of Green Gables) and let’s just say if there was a lifetime achievement badge I was able to unlock for wandering through a place that only existed in my 10-year-old imagination, well…I totally unlocked it.
- Other First Time Travels – Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam; Siam Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Ao Nang, Thailand; Vientianne, Laos
- Repeat Travels – Puerto Galera, Philippines; Saigon, Vietnam (visited a couple times this year since it is where our team was located); Bangkok, Thailand; Northeast United States (New York City, Boston, New Hampshire & Maine); and a return to Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia to round out 2013
Health & Wellness
- I started the year on a pretty solid health and wellness routine, eating healthy fruit and vegetable dishes and taking 3-4 yoga classes a week. I felt healthy and happy with myself, something I have not felt in a long while.
- Upon returning from Europe to Chiang Mai in May, I got very sick. Not get out of bed for three days straight sick. I ended up being diagnosed with a B-12 anemic deficiency followed almost immediately by an incapacitating bladder infection while traveling in Saigon.
- This has continued for the rest of 2013, though I have not wanted to admit or talk about it. Friends and peers mostly notice that they just don’t see me out and about too much anymore. An hour long yoga class would put me in bed for the next two days. After eating a big meal I would have to immediately lay down and take a nap. Continued flare-ups from my fibromyalgia leave my brain in such a fog that I can barely form sentences, let alone create or think coherently. Multiple doctors visits cannot diagnose what is wrong, it is most likely tied to my fibromyalgia and it sucks.
- Working with Dan and Ian and Kim and the TMBA/DC team continues to be great. This “job” took me all over to world (including Europe for the first time!) and I love the work that we do.
- Ophelia’s Webb, my home online since 2009, essentially moved entirely to this domain and is in the process of being totally shut down and the content transferred to a variety of online places I write.
- I received 8,563 emails and sent 2,209 from my personal email account. Yes, that means I reply to just over 25% of the emails I receive. This is because I receive a LOT of time requests, solicitations, pitches, and press releases and rarely are any of them personalized and compelling enough to warrant my taking action. I’ve managed my email much better this year due to the use of Boomerang for GMail and Sanebox.
- I did manage to add about 10K tweets to my account this year. 140 characters on the little bluebird network continues to be the BEST way to catch my attention.
- I started taking on more editing and writing coaching clients because I enjoy that work so much more than copywriting. Thing with copywriting is that I’m great at the concepts and the writing part, but the few clients I worked with this year were often clueless about the rest of their business and hiring someone to tell them what they did and then write about it (while thinking they knew it all.) Having a number of solid clients in this editing and writing coaching realm has afforded me the opportunity to step away from client work I don’t enjoy to client work I love
- This step and my previously mentioned health struggles unfortunately caused me to royally fuck up some book editing projects and favors for friends, and this will go down as my most painful and notable failure in 2013.
Speaking of abysmal failures…
Damn. Well, let’s just be honest, I didn’t write a whole hell of a lot in 2013. This was in large part to being so sick and really unable to create anything worth sharing. That complacent laziness that told me if I had nothing to say, I better not say anything at all. Heck, I barely wrote for myself. As a writer, this one kills me.
- I wrote 13 posts here and a mere 5 on my column on Forbes (Oh god, Forbes, please don’t can me! I promise I’ll change!)
- I planned 3 eBooks, I wrote 0 eBooks
- I committed to write in a journal each night 5 things I was grateful for that day before bed – I completed 183/365 entries
- The little writing that I did on this site in 2013 focused heavily on assessing and re-assessing many of the friendships and relationships in my life.
- I managed to date a couple great guys at various times this year while on the road. No epic love stories to share, but some good guys that I enjoyed spending time with and being a little vulnerable and, of course, my totally dorky self.
- I started using Relately to strengthen some of the more ancillary relationships in my world that I sometimes neglect
- Recently I’ve added a new piece to my morning routine, and that involves emailing (or messaging) the people who were directly a source of my gratitude from the day before to let them know how much it mattered to me. People deserve to hear that kind of stuff.
Even with the slowness and incomplete projects and ambitions of 2013, overall I appreciate what a year of focusing on surrender taught me. Learned some good things and some not so good things about surrendering and falling into a state of too much calm and complacency. As with my prior years (love, intention, fun) this year added another dimension to my understanding of myself and my place in the world.
What about you? How did your 2013 turn out?