I’ve been trying to figure out how to summarise 2017, in a word or phrase that encompasses all its essence. In a year where not a lot happened, so much did transform, a lot of which is not easy to put into words.. At the doorstep of a new year, with a fresh new energy and motivation already in my heart, I yearn for closure. 2017 has been a great teacher, possibly the biggest one yet and nothing was left untouched. I will not summarise what took place – it’s neither that interesting, nor of great value to you. What I’ve decided to do instead is to share some of the biggest ways in which 2017 has left its mark.
SKYE, CONTROL & LIFE BALANCE
For a while, I would have sworn the 2017 Word of the Year would be ‘Skye’; the year was undeniably dedicated to life as dog parents. Although we now love her to bits, Skye is not an easy dog; she is nervous, very active, intelligent and with a lot of personality. She is suspicious of humans and is easily startled. When she arrived in Dec 2016, we had no idea what was in store for us. As a young puppy Skye was full of energy and her existence was all consuming. We went from setting rules, to breaking them, from teaching to learning, from punishment to reinforcement. I have shared many times throughout the year of the ups and downs, so I won’t go into it so much here. Skye triggered a powerful ripple effect simply by challenging everything I had come to rely on so far: independence, freedom and control.
Skye challenged me in relinquishing control. While dogs need boundaries and rules to learn and feel safe, these do not always match the human equivalents. Before we got her, I had visions of raising the most obedient, yet friendly and lovable dog ever (I guess that goes for wannabe parents too right?). So while we read books and watched every video on humane training, we soon found out that we have more to learn from Skye, than she from us. Through my reactions to being faced with new situations on a daily basis, from the simplest upset tummy/poop scooping conundrum to barking at random people and refusing to come back on the lead, I observed a part of me that I frankly am not proud of. I became controlling. Although I was not in reality any more experienced in raising a puppy than Arek, I noticed myself constantly picking on him and how he dealt with Skye. It took a long time and quite a few arguments to see the pattern for what it was: My inability to control the overall situation led me to shift my controlling urges to how Arek managed it. I just wanted to feel in control again.
My work schedule went out the window for the first 6 months of life with a puppy. I had to cancel classes, we relied on puppy care often, I reduced my coaching client load, I said no to opportunities that came my way, I stopped writing.
My yoga home practice practically disappeared too. The first few weeks we were taking Skye out 6-9 times per day (as we don’t have a garden for quick toilet breaks). First walk may have been as early as 6.30am in the early days. Those rare times I tried to unroll the mat at the beginning, Skye excitedly bounced on me, chewing my toes, my hair, my hands and of course the mat itself. It sounds cute, but puppy teeth are lethal. It has taken a lot of patience, perseverance and going to studios to practice, to return to the mat. This year I meditated much more regularly than I practiced yoga at home and I think this was what I needed.
My social life – non existent. Although pretty soon we were able to leave Skye alone for at least a couple of hours without issues, I had no interest in being social. I was exhausted, drained from worrying about doing the right thing and couldn’t really focus on other people.
Around summertime less walks and as Skye started to seem more confident and settled, I started to have more space to think about work again. We went to Paris where I was invited to be a Speaker at the BYCA Inspiration Day: An amazing experience and of course incredible opportunity to connect and spend time with other coaches, yet a part of me was not fully there.
Upon reflection, I now know that this whole year I was present in some ways, yet switched off in others. My focus was not my work and although I am grateful to be able to dial down how much work I take on and adjust my hours, it was a major challenge to ‘allow’ that to happen. I pushed and kicked for many months to strike the balance; to have it all as they say. After all it’s just a dog, not a kid! I thought I was failing for not knowing how to deal with this with ease and grace. Although a part of me always knew I didn’t have to have it all figured out, my inner critic often took charge this year and drove me to tears. I had worked so hard to build my business to where it got, what’s gonna happen if I don’t keep going? I cared too much about what others thought of me and this time it was in the dog parks that I fear judgment most. Writing this now feels funny. How much energy was wanted worrying about whether we are being too soft, too harsh, too lenient, too distant, too cuddly and so on. Whether we’re feeding her the right food, the right amount, the right times. The list goes on.
I had no idea I was pushing so much yet resisting so strongly. I resisted letting go, despite me using the phrase ‘let go’ 50 times per day in yoga class. The truth is I didn’t know what letting go meant in this context. How can I let go, when I don’t have control? When you feel you lack power, letting go seems counterintuitive and mostly terrifying.
‘Letting go’ this year for me meant realising and re-learning the following:
There is not one way to raise a puppy (duh).
There is no point getting fixated on a routine as things change (and quickly when dealing with young dogs).
At the same time, creating a structure to work with is beyond essential.
I am not Skye’s master. Yes I am responsible for her. I am here to protect, teach and guide her. The energy is softer when I do not try to dominate her.
I am not in control: things shift all the time, whether I like it or not.
Plans have to change and there are consequences to our decisions (ie if you adopt a rescue puppy, you may not be able to travel in the same way as before. Again, duh).
I cannot do everything. Trying will kill me.
I do not know everything.
Things take their own time and rushing them has the opposite effect.
WHEN TWO BECOME 3
I no longer believe 2017 was just about Skye. I believe Skye is a manifestation of the growth that we were each meant to go through. This year, Arek and I grew up in ways previously unimaginable, yet subtle, and from an outsider’s point of view, probably undetectable. But we feel it and that’s what matters. I am so proud of us, our relationship evolved as we each acknowledged our limitations and our acting out; even at the hardest times, we grew closer by sharing, speaking and holding each other. The most frequently used advice to each other was ‘let’s see what happens’. Not profound, yet potent. We learned not to draw conclusions when we are upset and tired. We learned that overreacting on our part leads to Skye being more naughty, which just reflected the patterns in most relationships: realising the reason we react to something, what’s underneath the reaction, protects the relationship from drama and unnecessary tension. We shared responsibility, tasks and gave each other a break when we needed it. It has not always been 50/50; realising that’s not the type of balance we need has been extremely valuable in itself. We saw that being at the verge of a breakdown when we thought we had ruined our lives forever (yes there were a couple of these moments early on) and sharing the scariest and most embarrassing thoughts with each other, took some of the pressure off and allowed us to breathe. We witnessed how giving Skye space to grow and trust us, also triggered a deeper belief in each other and US.
I am once again grateful to my man for being my companion this year.
WORK CHANGES & LIFE PLANS
2017 was the year we were going to prepare our move to Warsaw to open our own coffee shop. I would continue with yoga and coaching from there, while supporting Arek with this venture. 2017 was also the year we decided this was not meant for us (for reasons that are not mine to share). Life plans changed, so did career ambitions and trajectories. While we navigated life with Skye on the surface, I observed my business being a constant for the first time, while Arek went on to make some more changes of his own. For the first time, I felt my work was steady enough to withstand the unsettling of transition and that is HUGE for a small business. That is a milestone that is worth noting.
While I worked on refining my teaching schedule to make more space for coaching (and for dog walks), I had little mental space for bringing new projects to life. I had to postpone my in person Life Coaching Group which was ready to go in the autumn, despite it being fully booked and a project I’ve been working on for almost 2 years. I opted for holidays instead of teaching yoga while in Greece and I reduced the number of classes I took on. I thankfully was able to continue running my beloved Bliss Sessions, including 2 Day Retreats, and developed a new workshop, Emotional Toolbox, all of which were gratefully sold out.
I also collaborated and was invited to speak and facilitate various events:
- I was invited to be speaker at Escape the City ‘How to Escape to a Yoga & Wellbeing Career’, where I met some wonderful yoga teachers, coaches & entrepreneurs.
- I was a speaker at the BYCA Paris Inspiration Day in July on running Women’s Circles & Events.
- I facilitated various corporate coaching workshops, on Stress, Resilience, Mindfulness, Creativity, including the BBC (a big 2017 highlight!).
- I ran several meditation workshops for retreats & offices which actually was really fun for me.
Although 2017 was not a massive year, career wise, for me, looking back I recognise I had to go through this hiatus. Having my own business is a long-term commitment and so I have to learn to manage periods of my life when my focus is elsewhere. This year proved to me that I’ve built a solid foundation for my business, from which I can now leap when the time is right. Throughout the past 12 months I struggled to deal with the visible slowing down of my pace and my apparent inability to ‘complete’ bigger projects. I had to learn to rest my mind and my body and to prioritise home life over working more. Even at times when I tried to prioritise work, my brain just wouldn’t deliver in the same way as before. As I enter a new phase, not just because it’s a New Year, but also as Skye has grown into herself and has brought us to a steadier balance, I have to learn to work with this new reality: being an individual part of a family.
Life now feels calmer and smoother than it has been for a year. As I begin to remember how it feels to be myself again, I know 2018 will be significant in a very different way. Much less about adapting and more about flowing. Plans, dreams and ideas that have had to take the back seat, are still simmering below the surface as I am gradually turning my attention back to them. There will inevitably need to be a period of clearing out the old, to filter out those outdated plans which no longer align, and I anticipate the first part for the year to hold space for this process.
I finally feel SPACIOUS and that is not a feeling I’ve had for a long time. Within this space, I hope to create some magical experiences, some of which are work-related, a lot of which are not. I have consciously given myself more time to set intentions and to decide on guiding words for 2018 to allow the dust to settle, from what has been a year of big lessons.
I once again this year, thank YOU for being here, a steady witness and driving force to my journey.
Happy New Year!
P.S. If you’d like some help with your own end of year reflection, you can download my 2017/2018 workbook for free here.