Birthdays evoke a lot of strong emotions for many people. The passing of time is either exciting as one prepares for the growth and the blessings that come with adding another candle to their cake, but for others it brings great pain or sadness that comes from realizing that they are not yet embracing the person they want to be or leading the lives they desire. Nonetheless, it's an occasion that brings with it great reflection. As my 18th birthday draws near, I have spent many sleepless nights reflecting on the life I have lived thus far. One of those nights ending in me having a little breakdown as I realized that I am not where I had hoped to be. This particular evening of deep reflection prompted me to think about all the ways in which entering a space where one looks back on their life and critically analyzes their growth, progress and shortcomings can be beneficial in healing.
Healing is a long journey. A long road we travel on, putting in great effort in the hopes of easing our spiritual, emotional or physical pain and discomfort. We are constantly experiencing growth even though it is challenged with difficulties and set backs or the feeling that we have not made any progress at all. Because the nature of healing is one where your progress cannot be marked on a graph or tallied in tables, reflection is essential. A time for you to pause and through deep and conscious thought and questioning, figure out various aspects of your healing journey.
Are the practices you've put in place empowering you on your healing path? Has the dandelion tea you've been drinking helped you with relieve symptoms of anxiety? Is a certain relationship emotionally draining? have you been neglecting your energies which has left a certain chakra out of balance? Are there still things you are afraid to confront and deal with? And Ultimately, do you feel better than you did when you first embarked on your journey? All are good examples of questions to ask of yourself at different points of your road to healing (the questions being dependent on the various things you are working on).
Part of being a teenager means that all your problems, faults and imperfections are magnified to look and feel a thousand times more extreme. But I know that many can relate to this idea of hyping things up to the point that they are worse than they really are or to the idea of only focusing on your faults and imperfections and rarely acknowledging the good in you or how far you've come. My mini freak out when pondering my life this far perfectly illustrates this. I focused on all the ways in which I am not the person I had hoped to be by 18, instead of acknowledging all that I have achieved and managed to overcome. That is the dangerous part about being in a space of reflection on your life, habits, relationships, career etc. On one hand it is necessary because we can see how far we've come, pinpoint what needs improvement and celebrate our progress and achievements, but often times reflecting leaves us knocking ourselves down and focusing on our shortcomings and all we have failed to do or become.
While reflection is important, what is not good is solely focusing on your failures or flaws. Beating yourself up over the progress you have not made only takes you back and hinders your ability to truly heal. And because we as humans rarely celebrate the good in ourselves, it is important to be aware of this mindset when entering a time of reflection.
Write it down.
Journaling is a great way to document your healing journey. From expressing difficult emotions, sorting through what is in your heart and putting to paper all the good days and growth you experience. Journaling offers a good space for you to reflect during healing. On a small scale through writing about your day and all that it has evoked in you or ways in which you have experienced growth, to a larger scale where you might journal to express the ways in which dealing with the ending of a friendship or relationship has challenged you.
As you read over experiences or days you never thought you would make it through you will learn to honour and recognize your strength. While hidden in those pages might be recurring habits or behaviors that are harming you that you can pick on. Another great tool of reflection through journaling simply being that it is an outlet. The feelings and emotions that arise through healing can oftentimes become overwhelming and it is through writing that one can alleviate their burdens by finding solace and through reading over and reflecting on certain journal entries, acknowledge the progress or lack thereof that they have made. These pages are not for leaving messages of self hate or for beating yourself up if you realize that you have fallen off track or have been distracted on your journey, but for creating a space of reflection on the good and bad as to prompt action. Either to continue as you have been or to change a few things or pick up new habits to catapult you back onto a path of healing. So if you haven't already, invest in a journal. Physically writing things down can be very therapeutic so I suggest that over using the 'notes' tool in your phone. Take 10 minutes before bed to write about your day and reflect on how your experiences or emotions on that particular day either add to or detract from your healing journey. It's important to not just leave it at reflection but to add an action too. An example is 'drinking more water has helped clear my skin up and is easing my digestion so moving forward I will continue to drink two liters of water a day' or 'I have been feeling lightheaded and have been going to the bathroom far to often, I think that it is best for me to decrease my water intake from 4 liters a day to 2'. Create a space of awareness of how your habits are affecting your healing.
Journaling has been a great reflective tool for me throughout the years. It has not only empowered me greatly in healing through allowing me to accept and express the pain I was experiencing but has allowed me to continuously reflect on my effort and pick up on habits that were harming rather than healing me. Soon enough my journal entries started to turn into poems, and so as my 18th birthday looms closer and I take the time to pause and reflect on my life thus far, all the tough things I’ve healed through, and what it means to be moving into a space of adulthood, I leave you with my reflection through words.
Time slips out of my hands
like quicksand through clenched teeth
Slowly, but unstoppable
In the way it oozes out of the little spaces
You can never squeeze tight enough
Growing up has felt like waking up at 2am
In a bed that's not yours
Has felt like marshmallows on a Sunday
As you listen to grandma talk about her nursing days
Tiredness has walked me through weeks
I never thought would end
Sleep nestled me in its arms
When I started feeling like breathing was too much of a bother
And food has held my hands through days
That felt like murky water sticking to my eyes
And when I stopped eating
That too was a kind of solace
It felt good to fall asleep on piles of ribs and hip bones
See myself slowly disappear
Maybe if there was less of me
Loving would be easier
Dropping my heart taught me about balance
And forced me to sand away my softness
Because rough edges don't love the wrong things
My adolescent years have warmed me like the colour yellow
An embrace between happiness and sadness
An emotion that is starting to taste like home
The sun I used to squash in the top right hand corner of crayon drawings
Became my best friend
It taught me to love my tears
Because crying meant that something beautiful was on the horizon
I fell in love with the moon
It never left me when darkness enveloped the worlds sleeping souls
I danced with it when I promised myself that it was time to love my body
And it sang me to bed when I lost my sleep to passing tests
That were going to get me a ticket to a life I didn't want anyway
I can't wait to be old and wise
And laugh at myself
To realize that growing up was just that
Not a big metaphor I needed to spend my nights unraveling
As I cried to indie music
From movies that made my heartbreak look like a joke
And that gripping onto time only makes it run faster
To see that the sand feels better when you can walk in it
And trip on bits and pieces of yourself
And letters you buried in the past
I can't wait to be old and wise
And laugh at myself
For thinking I had solved the mystery of life
When I had only drifted through 17 years of it.