While writing my yearend post, I chanced upon an article on setting yearly themes instead of resolutions for the new year.
Frankly, the idea doesn’t sound too novel for me; I (unknowingly) did this in 2013 by claiming it as my “winning year”. The approach went pretty well. Yet I realised that I had never been too intentional with my yearly themes since then.
I want this year to be different.
Quite funny though because I was eager to get started with it too soon, yet Omicron had other plans. I turned Covid-positive during the first week of 2022. I had to focus on recovery, prompting me to put my reflections on the back burner. Which seemed to be “perfectly” timed.
Since I didn’t have any pressing emotional concern, I thought of using the upcoming session with my therapist to pick some important ideas for my theme this year. Definitely she could help me sort my thoughts out.
She then asked me about my preferred theme.
Redeem, I said.
Self-forgiveness had been a recurring theme of my previous yearend posts, something I have exacted on myself in 2020. That odd year when everything seemed all lost, yet I regained myself. It was followed by a renewed desire towards self-love in 2021. Realising my immense progress through the years intensified an aspiration to rise above my mistakes, to work harder, and to undertake greater leaps — all in an attempt to get past those moments of losses.
I thought that word was perfect.
But when my therapist asked me how I feel about it, I had to come clean.
Some parts of me actually kept on pushing back. And I don’t know why.
True to our usual practice, she instructed me to stop making sense of my thoughts in the meantime. There was one part who seemed to be insisting himself — and it turned out to be The Explainer.
For the most part, The Explainer knows my capabilities. He actually believes in me a lot, pushing me to constantly challenge and stretch myself. And he has always been vital for my survival. Unfortunately, he could also be punitive, domineering, and invalidating at times.
Aware of the part’s tendency to interfere, my therapist reminded me to request him to step back, to let the other parts do the talking.
Suddenly, those parts who were on mute became more audible. They were objecting. For them, “redeem” seems suggestive of something within me that requires fixing or being compensated. Such theme induces an unnecessary push, predisposing me to set undue expectations on myself. More importantly, redemption reeks of invalidation that creates tendencies to overlook incremental progress and focus on what-should-have-beens.
Redeeming sounds vindictive. Externally motivated. It stems from a loss — and it feels deeply negative of a theme to dictate the rest of the year. Completely off.
She then asked me for another word, something that emanates from other parts.
I said, “Continue.”
The pandemic could be somewhat depressing at times, having been bereft of the many opportunities resembling normalcy. However, I realised that being stuck at home did not stop me from perpetually adjusting with the ever-changing situation. Looking back, I actually managed to pocket tons of small victories I could always bank on.
- The monotonicity of every single day bored me to death. Delineation between work and other things have been blurred, making each day unstructured and overwhelming with all its overlaps. I love blaming myself for being lazy, prompting me to stencil a daily schedule. I blocked off certain hours for various activities: teaching, lesson planning, working out, thesis writing, and personal time. It was a mixed success, but I think it works for the most part. I discovered my ability to (somehow) follow routines and to accept some realities in the meantime by just working on whatever I have at this moment.
- Re-discovering oneself doesn’t always feel good. I had to relive some moments in the past that made me feel neglected. Whenever this happens, I sometimes think my progress has been rather slow. However, I used the same opportunity to redo some of my favourite activities when I was younger: reading, listening to the radio, and collecting albums of my favourite acts. These made my inner and vulnerable self secured.
- I experienced my longest academic slump ever since the second half of 2020. Completing my master’s degree has long been overdue, so I went back to reading journal articles and writing my thoughts one day at a time. Eventually, I managed to write and submit two different literature reviews despite several changes in my research topic.
And I could go on and on and on.
Towards the end of the session, I felt at peace. All parts already agree — even The Explainer. It made sense to him. More importantly, it felt right for me.
I fervently want to continue this journey towards self-love.
To minimise the unnecessarily negative self-loathing and be more affirmative of my efforts. To continue taking these seemingly small steps. To recognise that I have been unknowingly making it day after day.
To continue is to stick with the process by making consistent attempts; by staying patient and appreciating the ordinary and the boring; and by perpetually reminding myself that my timings are perfect for my context.
Ultimately, the real challenge lies on my ability to follow through and harness the power of the marginal (something I already know at heart as a budding economist!). Just show up every day. Do whatever needs to be done. Rest and relax. Repeat.
Trust the process, as they say.
And more importantly, trust my progress. Because I am moving at my pace.