Changes Ahead

The new year has begun in full force. I can already tell that 2023 is going to be big. In one way or another anyway. Before I begin on the new things, I’ll catch you up since the last entry.

We got so lucky with the weather when we completed the Milford Track over Christmas. We were one of the few groups to go all four days without rain. The views were spectacular. I will post a couple pics below. If you like backpacking and have the time, I’d definitely recommend planning a trip to New Zealand around one of the Great Walks.

I jumped straight back into work the day after finishing the Milford. My supervisor, the Clinical Manager of Mental Health of the prison I am at, informed me his position may come open in the near future and thought I should consider applying for it. None of this has happened yet, but it got me thinking about my future and what direction I want to go. Is switching into a more management/leadership role something I want? It would involve letting go of my clinical caseload, something I love. It would also allow me to influence policy and larger systemic development, something I am passionate about. Pros and cons I suppose.

I turn 42 in July of this year and another question on the horizon is children. When I was young, I thought I would have kids, but then life happened and it never felt right for one reason or another. By now I have made my peace with not being a parent. I would mourn the loss of experience, but do not believe it is a necessary part of having a meaningful life. However, my partner and I have been asking the question about whether this is something we’d like to try for or not, before nature makes the choice for us (if it hasn’t already). We are still undecided, but need to figure out what we want relatively soon. My mother and I have not had the best of relationships and for me, being a mother would hold deep meaning. I guess we shall see what life has in store.

Lastly, I pitched my two day training idea to the leadership team at the prison. It got approved. Asking for a trial group of Officers to demo this training (and leave their shifts at an already short staffed place) was/is a big ask. It had to be done before March 7th, or we’d lose the window of opportunity. I was given the chance to lead two small groups on two consecutive weeks. One of the weeks fell on mandatory school days for the new program I am set to start on in forensics and clinical leadership. My flights to the North Island had already been purchased. In that moment I had to choose- school or training group? After some quick thoughts and consultation with my supervisor, I chose the training. This feels so important to me and I have been working towards this moment for over a year. While it’s a risk, now feels like the time. School can either help me work around it, or will be available next year if I still want it. Flights were cancelled and I agreed to the dates. Later this month should determine if the training will be distributed on a larger scale in the future, or deemed not relevant. It’s go time.

To me, each of these things feel pretty big. Forks in the road that lead in very different directions, none of them guaranteed. If my partner and I do decide to try for a child, will our bodies even cooperate? Can I apply for a new position, with a lot more responsibility, knowing I may get pregnant? Do I want to be in management, or do I wan to pursue this training avenue full time? Will the training even be a success? I spent most of January spinning between these choices and not gaining internal clarity about what to do. So much of it is outside of my control.

My partner went to the US for school and I rented an Airbnb at the nearby beautiful town of Akaroa. I think I’ve mentioned that I often do reflection each new year to check in with myself in different categories of life. These include the domains of finances, physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, intellectual pursuits, recreational pursuits and relationship. How are each of these areas? Are they in balance? if not, what needs to shift? I value this alone time to really connect with myself to figure out my path forward as best as I can. I also try to do this in an area surrounded by nature. I consider myself deeply spiritual, although not religious, and this is a space for me to really connect with myself, what I consider my higher power, and the deeper wisdom that I can often access when I take time to get still.

The place I chose had a beautiful view of the bay and a hot tub that overlooked the water. I asked myself the same questions I often come back to, “Who Am I?” and “Who do I choose to be?”. I reflected over my life so far. I wish I could tell you that in a jolt of insight I became clear about my direction. I didn’t. I got some clarity, but noticed I kept feeling like I needed to choose between family and career. That I couldn’t do both.

I then did what I often do when I can’t get my own clear direction; I reached out to trusted friends to hear their perspectives and their own experiences. I am so lucky that I have some really wise people who I can reach out to for help when I need it. Their attention, sharing and questions helped me my find my clarity.

My partner and I still have to decide what is right for us regarding a larger family. However, I realized the only person setting limits on myself was me. Why was I backing myself into this binary choice? Why can’t I go for both or all? What I realized is, I can.

I am writing this before anything has come to fruition in any of the directions. Each one is still entirely unknown. All they are is potentials that may or may not bear fruit. I guess you will find out along with me what this year brings.

This was the view at sunset from our deck the other night. The rainbow was barely peaking through.

What I did discover in the weekend to myself in Akoroa is this. I saw which areas of my life needed to be brought back into balance. I noticed the things that in a sea of things out of my control, were things I could focus on. Recently I read a book called How to Find Stillness Within by Colin Dunsmuir. It is about some of the underlying philosophy behind yoga. In it, he discusses the 5 Kleśas, or roots to most of our difficulty and discomfort. These aren’t life events- those are typically out of individual control. Rather, they are the ways we respond to life events that often keep us stuck or increase suffering.

I noticed I do many of these and part of what I could do was learn to catch myself when I noticed being in one of these traps and unhook from it. This practice would greatly help me reduce the anxiety, overwhelm, and the needing certainty I have been struggling with. I created a graph (actually the design is pulled from the internet, the wording around it is from the book/me) of these 5, along with strategies to resist being consumed by them. I plan to bring back daily meditation/quiet time/journaling to help myself strengthen my ability to detach when I get stuck.

I will post a picture of the 5 Kleśas below, but let me warn you of a few things. One, it’s a horrible photo, but it’s the only one I have on me. Two, I am a lover of knowledge, a seeker, an explorer of all kinds of views and beliefs. I do not believe there is “one right way” to do most anything. I think a person has to find the things that resonate with them and take them in the direction they want to go. I am sharing this part of my journey with you because it is what came up in the past month for me. I’m posting the pic in case the tools resonate with anyone else the way they are currently resonating with me. I am not saying everyone needs to adopt this, or that they should. Take what fits and leave the rest.

I also started a nutritional cleanse habit more than ten years ago that I try to do yearly. “Cleanse” can be a bit of a taboo word, as this means many things to many different people. There are often endless products and ways one can go about doing it. For me, what it means, is that I regularly (ok, yearly at best) try to to give my body a small break from all the crap I put into it, so it has some time to rest. That means I eat really cleanly (no caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, white sugar, meats, breads, etc.) while taking all natural herbal supplements in conjunction with a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and alternate protien sources. For me it’s a reset. Over time, my consumption of things I know are not good for me can get really out of balance. This is a moment to pause, reset, and introduce things back into my diet and life that are more in line with what I see as balance. With time, I will drift back over the center line and then I’ll do it again. This works for me, and I enjoy it. Nutrition can affect our overall moods and mental health in huge ways. I don’t see any harm it could cause, so I figure it can only help. Between COVID and the move, I hadn’t done it in a while, so I found a great all natural program here and begin to do a two week cleanse starting next week. I also plan to reintroduce some positive habits I have gotten away from while reducing some of the other not as helpful habits that have expanded in the time and energy I put towards them.

So I guess what I am saying is that I am going to focus my time and energy on doing things I am able to and that are more in alignment with the version of myself I’d like to be. This will never be perfect, as that is not realistic. Perfection is not the goal. Being the best version of myself I can be and doing things that support that vision is the intention. My goal is only to reset as best as I can when I notice I’ve drifted too far (which I tend to do quite often). As for all of the other things going on in my life, those answers will come naturally with time.

This weekend is a holiday weekend and my partner and I have the privilege of house sitting at this lovely place in the valley. we also get to watch their two adorable border collies. This weekend I am preparing for the cleanse, polishing up the training, and spending the time in nature to reconnect and ground. It’s a full moon weekend and the view is gorgeous. The rest of the month starts a period that I am thinking is about to get quite busy. I get my vaccinations for Nepal next week, friends come in March, and April is the Nepal trip. A friend from Tulsa and her husband are relocating to New Zealand next month to work on the same team I am part of. I am so excited to welcome them to this space. I am not sure when things will calm enough for me to write again, but I will as soon as I am able.

The view from where we are house sitting. Insert nature noises here.

I know life tends to bring an unexpected mixture of struggles, growth, opportunities, gains, losses, choices, and decisions. No matter where you are at with 2023 so far, I hope this year is full and a mix of it all.

until next time.

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