Oh 2018… you were such a long and hard year. While there were moments of profound joy, it was overall a sad and painful year. This is to finalise my thoughts and the lessons I learned from my 2018 theme, Alchemy. Perhaps even more so than usual, there’s a huge difference from the trajectory I thought this enquiry would take, and the actuality. Even from my mid-year check in post, things look vastly different.
So what do I have to say for myself in finalising this theme and making ready for 2019, a new theme and new enquiry?
Well, in hindsight, none of my careful thinking about Alchemy considered the potential for things to explode completely. Hilarious in hindsight! Because that’s really quite an obvious association with Alchemy and transformation, transmutation, and experimentation. See? Obvious. And that’s one of the big lessons I learned coming to the end of this enquiry. Never underestimate the potential for something to go ‘boom’, no matter how careful you are. There is no way you can control all the variables, even in yourself if you’re honest. And then subsequently, why would you want to? That pathway is not healthy. So perhaps my experience of my personal life exploding messily is also a side effect of being able to wind back some of the hyper-vigilance. In any case it was excruciatingly painful and I still feel raw from pain and grief over the loss of my relationship. And I think a sense of my loss of self.
I’m still feeling the feelings about it, less in relation to losing a person from my life, although there are times when I still miss them and our relationship fiercely. It’s more to do with feelings in myself. Who I am, who I am becoming, how I am in the world at the moment. Coming to terms with the sense that I still feel broken, still feel damaged and traumatised. That’s not crappy self-talk either, I genuinely don’t feel like myself at my core and like at least some of my self-work coming up is about finding my way forward to that (since you can never go back). I have been traumatised, I was let down horribly in the end by the break up and all of my energy in standing by my ex-partner through so much hard and difficulty was as nothing to them in the end. They did not value me as I valued them. They did not believe in my valuing of them, and I falsely believed in their valuing of me.
Toward the end of the year I had 20 whole days off from work, a combination of rostered days off and annual leave. I was pretty desperate for it by the end, grad year is a long and hard year after all. I made a plan to rest on those days and during this break and I did just that. I rested. I watched Christmas movies and I played video games. I did very little else that could be characterised or construed as productive or adulthood related. And I valued that and it was necessary. I slept, I slowly got slightly better at relaxing and not fretting. I let go of some of my need to prove to myself it was okay to relax because all the work was done. All the work was not done. And yet I rested and relaxed anyway. And the world did not end. But honestly, I felt worse by the end of that break rather than better. And I was so disheartened by it. I felt lost. I’d been working on prioritising self care the whole year, on healing, self-care, trying to refill my personal buckets. And yet in November, I was not only not feeling better, but I was feeling worse.
I mentioned this to my GP and to my Counsellor when I saw them toward the end of that leave period. Both made comments about the possibility that, if this was the first time in 4-5 years that I’d genuinely tried to just stop and rest completely, that it might be the first genuine feedback I was getting from my bruised psyche as to how burned out I really was. They said this in different ways of course, and they didn’t collaborate on this verdict, but their words had much the same idea. And this is even considering the fact that throughout the last few years I’ve constantly tried to look after myself as I’ve poured myself into the other things demanding time, attention and energy.
I realise now, that I did put myself last as part of those considerations plenty of times. And while I kept things going, I only really started to see during my November break how much had been sheer determination and worse, me taking from myself all the vital energy that I also need to live and thrive. So I got a very confronting look at how much I’d compromised my own well being, how burned out I still am. And despite all my care and focus on self-care and looking after myself in 2018, I had barely made a dent in the backlog. Particularly considering the demands of a painful break up and challenging grad year, I’m still so exhausted. It all makes sense now, but it was disheartening.
Having said that, there were some incredible parts of Alchemy that brought a lot of satisfaction and joy. My opportunity to work professionally as a midwife this year was such a gift. I love being a midwife so much, and I’m so passionate about it. Even though I struggled (as all grads struggle) with the transition from student to professional, it was also rewarding and fulfilling. That’s where I felt the generosity of Alchemy and transformation most. I’m most of the way through my program now, I feel like a real midwife and I can see how far I’ve come. I can also see that I’m still at the beginning of my career and that there’s so much to learn, so many ways to grow. While I feel happy overall in my consolidation of postnatal care, I still desire to spend more time in birthing suite consolidating my skills there, that’s something I’ll likely be trying to spend the next couple of years doing, and that’s to be expected too – it’s a challenging and changeable environment, particularly in a tertiary centre.
I also got to spend this year with Fox. And although we never conceived of being a two, we love what we have been creating together. There’s a lot of whimsy, a lot of gentleness and thoughtfulness. We spend a lot of time emphasising the importance in prioritising ourselves and choosing what is best for us. Odd that this is hard or new to us, but it is. But having someone explicitly encourage me in this way has been invaluable. And even as I encourage that for him, it also reinforces it for myself as well. This partnership is both old and new, we already have abiding love and trust. We’re already committed, and we’ve already been through so much together. So even though it’s new, it’s also well established in foundation. It’s still amazing and fascinating to experience him and our connection anew, through a fresh lens. I hope that continues into next year.
Alchemy has been an enquiry that brought with it massive transformation, not all of it welcome at first. And now amidst the embers of painful feelings, grief, and memories. I have hope and an inkling of how to move forward. And so even if I didn’t turn my lead into gold, I learned a lot. I gave myself over wholly to the process of undertaking a great work, of being that great work. That’s an important focus and one that I’m not finished with and will likely revisit in 2019. I feel like I’ve been melted down and am molten again. Anything is possible, I’m all potential and unsure what the next phase will look like when it stabilises. However, I feel ready to thank Alchemy for the lessons, and let it go so that I can focus on the new year and everything ahead of me.