It’s early December and my mind is bursting with inspiration, gratitude, and hope. I’ve just emerged from a month-long energy slump and am chomping at the bit to play catch-up. The final month of the year, at least in recent years, has been fraught with tension. Seven years ago this month, my cousin passed away; last year, my boyfriend spent the weeks leading up to Christmas quarantined and alone, suffering a severe case of Covid. Contrariwise, December is a month for family, festivities, and setting goals for the coming year. It’s a time of great joy, stained with little drips of sadness-tinged anxiety. The playful innocence of childhood Christmases has long since passed, and yet I’m still here holding tight to my dreams for the future.
Motivational speaker Les Brown said, “Live full, die empty.” I have been asking myself: What do I want for my future self? What do I want more of in my life? What do I want to let go of? If I develop a handful of new skills each year, who will I be 5, 10, or 50 years from now?
Sometimes the tensions between hope and failure get me down. But Jim Rohn once said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” The seven years have been tremendously challenging for me. Three months after my cousin passed away, I developed a severe repository infection, which triggered a cascade of autoimmune conditions. I was living, unknowingly, in a mold-ridden home which triggered a secondary set of inflammatory symptoms. Frankly, it’s been hell. But, and this is a big but, I’ve grown through it.
The adversity of disease and the continual seeking of relief forced me to take better care of myself. At age 24 I was forcibly converted from a person that worked 60+ hours a week; cooked two healthy meals a day; rotated through yoga, weight-lifting, and high-intensity cardio; saw friends and family on a weekly basis; volunteered at several venues; and maintained several hobbies. I was a high achiever with no brakes. And I paid dearly for that.
Through the fog of extreme fatigue, I learned the importance of sleep. Through the acidic burn of exercise, I learned to be gentler with myself. The results of allergy testing showed me what I should be eating (i.e., not my staple eggs, almonds, and avocados). The lack of cognitive energy remove my ability to care about the non-essential (i.e., what other people think). With everything I lost–relationships with friends and family, opportunities for career advancement, fitness, motivation, and so much time–I believe still came out ahead.
I discovered my personal power. I control the people I allow into my life. I control the food I put into my body, and have the knowledge to carefully curate it to my needs. I control my environment, and the content I consume. I have the opportunity to try new things, and the wherewithal to fail over and over again until I get it right. I’m not afraid of setbacks, because I lost nearly a decade of my life to disease and I’m smiling. If things don’t go according to plan, I have complete confidence that, with intention and small efforts, I can overcome and achieve anything.
I suppose my point is this: life is filled with peaks and valleys, sometimes simultaneously, but no matter where you are on the journey, hold on to hope. The challenges, however insurmountable they may appear, are an opportunity to expand your mind and skill set to achieve something great. The accomplishments, on the other hand, are a chance to practice gratitude and to celebrate how far you’ve come.