Most of us (up until now) tend to go about our days on autopilot, in essence fulfilling our daily roles and responsibilities, but often not giving deeper thought of what’s going on inside and around us.
Reflection comes from the Latin word ‘reflectere’, meaning to bend back, to turn back or to turn around. It gives us an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.
The process of reflection helps us make sense of our day-to-day experiences, it can help us to move forward, to come to decisions, to create a course of action, and to challenge ourselves to be creative and dynamic.
‘I know more than I know and must learn it from myself.’ This wonderful line from the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson captures the power of reflective thought. When we reflect, we are our own teacher, and through reflection, we bring consciousness to something we already know (at the unconscious level) and teach ourselves.
At NuLife, we endeavour to likewise create a platform for helping professionals and the public to ponder upon collective themes that can be extracted from daily interactions and experiences upon further introspection. We hope these reflections accumulated from Storyteller by Morgan Harper Nichols would ultimately enrich our dynamic and long-standing life journeys and serve timely in times of rejuvenation and meaning-making.
Remember how far you have come.
You are learning to brave the deep,
And that is a beautiful thing.
Remember the deeper waters you have already tread through to get where you are today.
You may not be where you want to be, but you have already made it through so many things. You have already travelled through the deep.
You are more prepared for them than you realize. Just because you are not able to remember all of the millions of little ways you have grown over the years does not mean that your growth is any less valuable or significant.
It is still woven into your story, showing up in the form of wisdom, courage, and grace all throughout life, even if you can’t see it yourself.
This is where trust comes in.
This is where you can choose to trust that even though you were not able to remember or make sense of everything that helped you grow, you are still growing in the way you were meant to. You still made it through deeper waters you never thought you would be able to make it through.
You don’t need to dwell on the past, but you also don’t need to discredit or discount all the ways the past strengthened you and prepared you for the deeper waters that lie before you now.
Let each new day be what it needs to be.
Is a new year supposed to be revolutionary or is it just another day?
You’re allowed to take this page by page.
The reason why it could be helpful to think of a new year as a new chapter is because a new chapter doesn’t mean a whole new book. Embracing a new chapter requires the action of turning a new page, at the same time, it doesn’t require you to make a dramatic shift to close the book and start a new story. Thinking of a new year as a new chapter can be a helpful way of looking at this season – especially when there’s so much pressure to jump from one extreme to another.
On one hand, there’s the mindset that a new year is just another day. There’s nothing special about these first few days of a year and we should carry on with business as usual. Then, there’s the other side of things: the mindset that something in our lives has to change dramatically and all at once. Perhaps, you have felt pressure from one of these mindsets, or maybe even both. Depending on who you interact with, you might be surrounded by people who reject any kind of dramatic change, or, you might be surrounded by those who are determined for 2021 to be wildly different than 2020 and are already working toward achieving their goals.
Wherever you find yourself on that spectrum, there’s no one way or “right way” to navigate through this. And if you can’t figure out exactly where you are right now, and you feel it changing minute by minute, day by day, that’s okay. Release yourself from the pressure to approach this new year in one particular way. Being human is complex, and you’re allowed to embrace that complexity today. You don’t have to worry about writing a whole new story here. You’re allowed to take this page by page, feeling what you need to feel, and letting every new day be what it needs to be.
Choose peace anyway.
Here in this Life
You can still know peace, anyway.
Here in this life, you will feel many things. You will laugh and you will let go. You will gather stories, and you will grieve. You will be interrupted by Light. You will find gold in little things. You will have questions that lead to answers and you will have questions you sit with for years…you will long for days to come, and you will learn to find joy, right here. You will watch old things drift away and you will see new things take shape. You will look back on old years in awe of all the ways you’ve changed. And over and over, things will change and you might feel a little afraid… and you will also find there is grace to take this day by day.
And I hope you can always remember that taking it “day by day” is anything but easy. If it feels difficult, it’s because it is difficult in our ever-demanding world. Many of us are trained to think that knowing the answer to what you’re doing with your future is one of the highest marks a child can receive. And it continues into adulthood, where you feel the weight of the expectation to follow a certain career path or a particular cultural trajectory. Even when you’re at your most confident and assured, there’s often this gush of societal winds that whisper to you on your morning walk, “you’re not doing this right…” or “you’re not doing enough.”
And the reality is, when you actually look back on your life, you will find that even though you may not have lived up every expectation that was placed on you by society, family, or even by yourself, you still lived fully. You laughed with your whole body. You cried with your whole body. You sang out of key. You loved when you didn’t know if you would receive love back. You took the trip. You made the hard, but necessary decision to let that person go. You make the courageous choice to let someone else in. You tried and failed. You tried and succeeded.
Traveling through life “day by day” doesn’t often feel like much in the moment, but when you actually go back and look at your life, “day by day,” you will find that you’ve lived fully. You have held the tension of many things. You have had so many moments where you were authentically you without even trying. And amidst all of the expectations you did not meet and all of the things you could not control, all along, you were still whole. And that is still true of you today.
Continue to travel through this day by day. Continue to trust: you might not see how it all comes together right away and that’s okay. You can still know peace, anyway. Tomorrow is on its way, and in the meantime, you will by mindfully breathing through today.
Two things can be true at once
Give yourself permission to acknowledge and have grace for the tension that exists in your life.
It is easy to lose count of the number of decisions we have to make each day. Whether we’re choosing what we will eat for breakfast or which task we will tackle first, we travel throughout the day constantly choosing one thing over the other.
However, beneath the daily choices we each have to make, for many things in life, we do not have to choose…even though it feels like we should.
Take a deep breath and remember: Two things can be true at once:
You can look forward to the future while also missing what was.
You can be grateful for how far you have come while also grieving what has changed.
You can be excited for your friends and excited for yourself.
You can support others while also acknowledging your own needs.
You can love someone while still establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
You can be grateful for where you are while also acknowledging that you don’t feel lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed at times.
You can challenge yourself while also being gentle with yourself.
You can share your story openly and honestly while also choosing to keep certain things private.
You can give your all while also acknowledging that productivity is going to look different in this season.
You can aim to be the best version of yourself while also recognizing that ‘best’ is subjective and we are often our harshest critics.
You can have that desire to give your all to something new, while also acknowledging that it’s okay if it takes time to heal and find the courage to dream again.
You can give your all to work and also, give your all to learning how to rest.
Give yourself permission to acknowledge and have grace for the tension that exists in your life. Multiple things can be true at once. You don’t have to sort through and make a quick decision in the area of life.
Choose connection over comparison.
Moving On, When It Hurts
Remember to choose connection over comparison. Choose to find the connecting threads that you can relate to and gracefully set aside what you can’t relate to.
One of the hardest things about letting go is that freedom and grief happen at the same time. Even when we have to break away, it can be hard to leave behind what was…especially when there are people involved…people we love and are close to.
Perhaps the way to move forward is to move forward slowly. To recognize that letting go doesn’t always happen in big leaps. To remember that even when it’s the right thing to do, leaving someone might feel like a tapestry tearing at the seams. It took years for that tapestry to be woven together. There’s history there. If it takes time to get close, then it will take time to heal when things fall apart.
Be gentle with your heart in this space. Allow yourself to feel and pace yourself on this journey. There might be moments where you wish you were further along and there may even be moments where you feel the sudden urge to turn around and go back to where you started, and at that moment, you are free to just breathe. And if that exhale is the only ‘letting go’ you can do right now, that is more than enough. Trust. That is more than enough.
And keep in mind that you might feel the pressure to “let go” like someone else. You might look at the way someone else articulates their journey and how much they have healed and moved on, and you may feel insecure about where you are. In that moment, remember that while many of us walk through similar experiences in life, there are no completely identical scenarios. Your path won’t look like theirs and vice versa.
When you’re listening to someone else’s story, always remember to choose connection over comparison. Choose to find the connecting threads that you can relate to and gracefully set aside what you can’t relate to. Hold on to the threads of hope and healing that make you feel seen. Because if you’re in a place where other threads in your life are severing right now, you’re going to need new threads to hold on to. You’re going to need those threads of hope that remind you: love and connection are still possible…even on the other side of letting go.
Take heart, breathe deep. You have not seen all there is to see.
Even here, more awaits
Take heart. Breathe deep. You have not seen all there is to see, and that my friend, is a beautiful thing.
How wonderful it is to know after everything you have been through, your heart can still bend toward a new horizon? You can still hope for a new day, that reminds you of what is possible.
Even when you are weary and overwhelmed, there is still room for Light to pour in. There is still room for healing, new beginnings, progress, growth, no matter the suffering we have known.
As long as we are living, our hearts are still capable of being reminded of the love, grace, and truth that sustains us.
So, when you feel too tired to carry on and you are not sure how much more you can take, take heart. Remember: you are still wrapped in this beautiful grace that reminds you, through it all, you will bloom. You have experienced a full spectrum of emotions, and also, a full spectrum of color…different hues and tones that create a masterpiece that never would have been possible if everything had stayed the same.
I do not know what storms you have had to weather recently, and I do not know why. I do not know why certain things wound up coming to an end the way they did. But I do know that you have not seen the end. I do know that you are more than where you have been and there is more that awaits you on the other side of the horizon.
Remember who you are: a strong and radiant soul who is beautiful and whole. Take heart. Breathe deep. You have not seen all there is to see, and that my friend, is a beautiful thing.
There is something to be learned at every pace.
For the one who feels they are moving slower on the path than desired:
There is something to be learned at every pace. There is wisdom to be gathered on the journey no matter the speed or the length of time you’ve been traveling.
On the path up the mountains, you will encounter people who seem to know the way better than you. They will move swiftly past you with long confident strides and you will watch them disappear to new heights. New heights you’re not sure you’ll make it to. You will wonder why it looks so easy for them. You will question if you’re worthy of the journey.
And in that questioning, in that wondering, you start to look around. You notice the lone flower rising up from the backside of the rock. You notice the strong, swift wind finding its way to your skin. Even at your slower pace, something in you comes alive again.
On this journey, you have been all too aware of what you haven’t been able to do, and the more experienced travelers moving swiftly past you, and this is also true: by moving a little slower, you’re noticing other things too. You’re hearing the sound of the bird in the distance. You’re feeling the sun as it finds its way to the ground. By moving slowly, you have more time to look around. And now, all of your activated senses are teaching you: your experience on this path is not worthy any less than the others just because it looks different. And you’re learning to let that be enough.
May today be the day you embrace not only the pace you are traveling, but what you notice as a result. We see different things whether we are running or strolling through. There is something to be learned at every pace. There is wisdom to be gathered on the journey no matter the speed or the length of time you’ve been traveling.
What can I smell?
What can I taste?
What do I hear?
What do I feel?
What do I see?
I hope today, no matter the pace you are traveling, your senses can take you to a place of discovery––discovering what is beautiful and rich about this journey that was always available for you to encounter, right here, where you are.
Through all that is still unknown, I do know this: I have grown.
Reminders for the Week
Through all that is unknown, I do know this: I have grown.
Three reminders for the week
May you never compare your progress to those around you. May you never compare your progress to former versions of yourself, or the version of yourself that you feel like you should be. Right here, where you are, you are growing how you were meant to. Every small step matters, even when you can’t see the progress. Trust: You’re going to look back and find that you are growing in ways you couldn’t see at the time. The progress you were making mattered, whether or not others recognized it. Whether or not you recognized it yourself.
There’s a lot going on right now, so please be kind to yourself. There is no shame if you don’t feel like you can show up with the strength you feel like you should have. Pace yourself through each moment knowing that even the quiet, slower, moments, you are strong in the way you can be, and there is grace for that. Whether the pressure comes from outside or within, remember that strength goes beyond what is seen. You can’t hold a single inhale or exhale in your hand, and yet, your ability to make it through the breath cycle each day, over and over, is a sign of strength all on its own. Trust: your strength goes beyond what you can see. Quiet strength is still strength.
There’s a lot going on and this is also true: You are free to breathe, right here. You do not have to sort through everything today, even if it feels that way. There might be moments this week that cause you to wonder if you’re prepared enough for whatever lies ahead. In those moments, you might feel pressure to try to imagine every possible outcome. You might feel your heart racing and you think about the possibilities of how plans could fall through or what you might end up being disappointed by something, or someone. I cannot tell you what lies ahead or how it will all come together, but I can tell you that the inhales and exhales you take, right here in the in-betweens, might just be the way to fill this very moment with peace…endless, boundless peace, running wild like a river through your life, even without knowing what tomorrow looks like.
Let every new season teach you what it was meant to teach you.
When you need closure
Let every new season teach you what it was meant to teach you
For some things in life, you never find out the answers to what actually happened. You never get the closure you were hoping for. But perhaps with these experiences, you can start to see: closure might come in ways you were not expecting.
It may seem that closure can only come from an actual conversation, an apology, or a detail you were always missing. But maybe closure can come from closing the door and choosing to walk away. Even if you have to walk away from things that were never resolved the way you wanted them to be, and you can still say:
“Today is a new day. I am going to move forward.”
Sometimes, this is what healing looks like. And it is beautiful, all the same. And, yes, it will likely be tempting to look back thinking of everything you wish you could change. People in your life might bring up old things that cause you to doubt your decision-making skills. You might have moments where you wonder if you did the right thing. When you find yourself reflecting and you’re not liking what you see, remember: this is still time for you to focus on who you want to become. One definition for the word reflection is, “the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.” (Oxford Languages).
Even though this definition relates to physics, it tells us something about our lives as well. Reflection isn’t absorption. We can look back while also recognizing, we are different people today. We are free to reflect and also walk away, choosing to focus on who we want to become. The past did not define us. There is more to me and there is more to you.
Focus on who you want to become while knowing that you don’t have to have everything in your life decided yet to choose the path to be a person who chooses love, joy, and peace beyond understanding. Let every new season shape you. Let every new season teach you what it was meant to teach you. Learn as you go. Even when you feel like you don’t meet your own standards of worthiness, you are worthy of the freedom of new beginnings. You are worthy of starting over, even without the closure you thought you would need. Even here, there is room to know peace.
In grace, there is room to stay curious.
Let this be the season you continue to pay
attention to the curiosity stirring within
For all of the places you have yet to travel to and for all of the people you have yet to meet, perhaps, even here, you can hold on to your sense of wonder. Perhaps, even though you have had to wait, you haven’t lost your curiosity and hope for what could be.
So for whatever it is that you’re waiting on, may you hold on to the grace to dream. The grace that allows you to imagine what tomorrow could be, even though so much still remains unknown.
What seeds are you wanting to sow?
What is your hope for your community?
What would it look like to do something different and make a big change…even if you’re a little afraid?
Now is the time for asking questions.
Now is the time to recognize: for all you do not know, you do not have to hold back. Even here, you are allowed to take action. Even if the actions are small. You are free to reimagine what it might mean to give your all.
Where do you want to invest your time?
Where are you being propelled to go deeper?
Where are you willing to challenge yourself even if it means going beyond all you have ever known?
Let this be the season you continue to pay attention to the curiosity stirring within. What might you be willing to do and where might you be willing to go if you knew that no matter what, there will be grace to learn and grow?
May this be the time of your life where you choose to keep looking beyond the shore in pursuit of something more. There is so much more to life than what you have been seeing.
Rhythms Over Routine.
To reconnect with your natural rhythms
of rest, start with this question: “where
do I feel the most free to simply be?”
As we begin a new week, remember this: You will need to carve out moments of rest.
However, one thing that’s important about rest is this: rest doesn’t always mean sleep. Oftentimes, to “rest” is to simply take a break.
Take a break from problem-solving.
Take a break from creating.
Take a break from socializing.
There are so many ways to take a break, and now is the time to reconnect with all of those ways you can “rest” in this season. Of course, sleep is vital to our well-being but there are many other things that are vital to our well-being and it is worth it to take the time to figure out what those things are.
To reconnect with your natural rhythms of rest, start with this question: “where do I feel the most free to simply be?”
Is it outside on the back deck?
Is it alone in the house when no one else is there?
Is it in a cozy nook with a book?
Is it with a friend who encourages creativity?
It is important to reconnect with the times, places, and people that allow you to simply rest. No matter the busyness that finds you this week, give yourself permission to intentionally seek out ways to rest.
It may feel strange to talk about “resting” at the beginning of the week when we’re preparing for all that lies ahead, but the reality is this: resting is one of the most productive things we can do. Not that our lives are all about productivity, but resting is a form of productivity that actually replenishes us instead of draining us.
This week, carve out moments of rest.
Give yourself the space to simply be.
You will have so much more to give when you take the time to reconnect with all the ways your body and soul crave rest.
Embrace your story without overthinking it.
We tell the best stories through the
lives we choose to live
Here’s a little reminder that when it comes to telling your story, there’s no need to overthink it. So many things have happened in your life, but if you can’t remember it all or put it on a sequential timeline, you are still living your story in a meaningful way every single day.
Live your story by choosing to be present where you are. Being a human being with a story doesn’t mean you’re always reflecting on the past. Every present moment — including this one — is a part of a story. You might not be able to tell that part of the story yet because you’re actively living it right now, but that’s nothing to worry about at all. You have already lived through an infinite number of present moments where you were not consciously thinking about your life as a story and you made it through just fine.
Thinking about our lives as stories isn’t about trying to make sense of everything that has ever happened in life. There will be some chapters that remain unfinished, or some that don’t even get written. What matters is that we know that we tell the best stories through the lives we choose to live. We tell the best stories by choosing to love and be present to others. We tell the best stories by listening to other people’s stories and making them feel seen. We don’t have to be gifted writers or speakers to be storytellers. We are storytellers by choosing to live the story, right here, right now.
So whenever you start to feel stuck again, just remember that being present is more than enough to make it through. Being present to each moment is the way to create a story. So dare to create by being present. Embrace your story by living it, right here, where you are.
It’s worth it to keep living to
experience the beauty of wholeness over perfection
One of the best ways to overcome perfectionism is by recognizing that you don’t have to be good at everything. Once we can start with the idea that we’re not going to do well in every area, then this gives us permission and encouragement for trying new things without doing it perfectly. A lot of people are afraid or unwilling because they would rather avoid pursuing anything if there’s a chance their efforts won’t work out how they want them to. What happens instead is these people miss out on all sorts of growth opportunities as well as real wisdom from trying different things and getting different outcomes.
Think about the people you’ve looked up to in your life, whether it’s someone you know in real life or a favorite author or designer. We all admire them and learn from their wisdom. But imagine if they had done everything perfectly? You wouldn’t be able to relate to anything that person said because of how different our lives are! If they never failed, there would be no way for us to connect on an emotional level with what has been shared by this perfect individual who’s experienced every outcome imaginable without any pain at all.
The people that we actually end up connecting within this life are the ones that have shown us that there is no way to do something perfectly. They are the ones who reveal to us what’s impossible even when we’re in the lowest valley. The more someone only focuses on everything they’ve done right, the harder they are to actually relate to. We are humans, so we relate to humanness. Remember this when your outcomes aren’t what you want them to be – this is a part of what makes you human. It’s okay. You’ll keep learning more and more about your process as you go. With time, you’ll learn where to challenge yourself and then, where to let go and just let things be. This takes time. But it’s worth it to live this way. It’s worth it to keep living to experience the beauty of wholeness over perfection.
So here’s a little reminder to allow things to not go according to plan. We have to allow room for things to not go according to plan so that we can become awake to what needs to change and also what we want to have gratitude for, as it is.
The idea that we are going to give our all in life and still deal with imperfections can be daunting, but at the same time, it can be pleasantly surprising when we discover that when we surrender the desire for perfection we find a life worth living for. We experience wholeness over perfection.