Eight Lessons From 2018

I love new beginnings, as an opportunity to both set intentions and reflect on what has been. I usually do this each year for my birthday (in the summer), and every Fall as the beginning of the school year rolls around. 2018 was a big year full of high-highs, and low-lows; moved across the country, traveled to a bucket list destination with the people I love most in the world, experienced a deep and shocking loss, found my voice in telling my story, diagnosed with new confusing health complications, did a week long migraine intensive program with my Dad by my side, supported my boyfriend in beginning his medical school dream and so much more. Sharing eight of the biggest themes and lessons from this wild twelve months below ♥️

No. 1: You’re allowed to fully engage with life while you pursue wellness and recovery

Love this life, fiercely and frequently.

Love this life, fiercely and frequently.

You can move cities, travel and be excited about your life even while you are “trudging” through the in-between of healing. For a while, I felt like I didn’t “deserve” to do these things while my health was unpredictable and unreliable. It was as if the price I was expected to pay for my conditions was to put every other area of my life on hold until I could “get better”. I now see how unfair and backward that thinking was. But to be completely honest, I was stuck in it and all of its accompanying guilt for a long time. This year was full of so much good; I traveled to Tahiti (squashing that international travel fear), started this blog, celebrated my boyfriend’s golden birthday, and danced with sparklers with my best friend on the 4th of July. Over and over again, I flat out refuted to accept the limiting belief that while I am trying to get well, I don’t deserve to fully live all of the good moments of this life. Even though I remain in that murky health space between “no longer” and “not yet” in terms of having it all figured out, every day that I wake up alive is one I intend to be grateful for and grab as much joy from as possible.

No. 2: Love your people extra hard, and don’t take any time for granted

Celebrating my 26th birthday with Grandma Winnie and my family.

Celebrating my 26th birthday with Grandma Winnie and my family.

In the past two years I’ve experienced more loss than in my entire lifetime up to that point, and the particularly painful experience of very unexpectedly losing two people who I deeply love. This has affected me more than I can put into words, and put so much of my life into perspective. I now say with total honesty on tough days, “I’d rather be here and be dealing with this, than not be here at all”; and it’s in large part because I ache so intensely when feeling the absence and hole left behind by those who are no longer here. The last time I saw both my Grandma Winnie and one of my best friends Austin, I never could have imagined it being our final interaction. What I would give to tell them both one more time what bright lights they were in my life, and just how much space they occupy in my heart. The unexpected and out-of-order nature of their deaths has sharply reframed how I approach the world and my relationships. I intend to make absolutely certain that I am an instrument of love and soak in every moment with the people who mean the most to me. I understand more deeply than ever that no tomorrow is promised, and time with people we love is a gift that should be noticed and treasured.

No. 3: You are in charge of your own healing

#professionalpatient #wellnesswarrior

#professionalpatient #wellnesswarrior

I steam-rolled straight from college to my first post-grad job then stumbled right into the land of chronic illness, so this lesson took me a while to fully “get”. I went from my parents telling me how to succeed, to professors defining success, directly to my supervisor and colleagues detailing exactly what was expected of me in my first full-time position. When I found myself too sick to work, I looked to doctors; just as I had my parents, teachers, and bosses, to lay out the roadmap for success, the path to recovery. Although this model often works for acute illness, I had no idea how much self-advocacy I would need to develop to pursue wellness in the face of multiple chronic illnesses. This year I’ve learned that not all doctors are “right”, and many in fact will have differing opinions on what is right. I’ve accepted that I am the one directing this show (ya know, just the show of my life), and that at the end of the day I know my body best. I now understand that I am in charge of assimilating all of the different doctors’ and practitioners’ viewpoints into a plan and approach that works for me. This lesson has been hard earned and painful, through let-downs and lots of confusion, but I’m so hopeful about the direction it will take me in the years to come.

No. 4: Show up for moments of fun, joy, and laughter

Long weekend with the little brother.

Long weekend with the little brother.

Dealing with chronic illness can be heavy and draining, and there are weeks and months that have tested me in ways I could have never imagined. However, I’ve found that during those stretches of shitty, there are sprinkled in moments of shiny. You are allowed to and you should show up for those moments when they present themselves. Laughing wholeheartedly even when you’ve been in pain all day doesn’t invalidate what you’re going through. My little brother really helped highlight this lesson by visiting during what was an exceptionally rough three day weekend for me health-wise (I’m talking up-all-night-on-the-bathroom-floor-in-tears bad). Even though I felt so sick, we managed to mine out golden moments during our time together. We sat on the couch and watched The Office, he ate all of the normal food in my refrigerator while I subsisted on eggs and rice for every meal, we watched Will Ferrell movies we’d laughed at probably hundreds of times as kids together, and we sat on the balcony silently witnessing summer thunderstorms roll by. By the end of the weekend, we were even up for a few walks outside and a home haircut (my official calling I think). The fact that he was only here for three days forced me to show up for the good, wherever and however it presented itself. This lesson expands into the day-to-day of living with chronic illness, and  living in general. Soak in the good, notice it, appreciate it, even if it’s showing up during less than ideal circumstances.

No. 5: Identify the things that really make you feel good, strong and alive. And make it a priority to do them!

I feel like a strong af badass every time I can do a peloton ride! This def makes my list 😎

I feel like a strong af badass every time I can do a peloton ride! This def makes my list 😎

I used to make self-care lists by drawing from other people’s lists; writing out and doing things that I thought “should” make me feel good (like long epsom salt baths, a coffee date with a good friend, or reading a book). This year I really hammered out my own list, one that matches my capabilities at the moment and truly reflects what “fills up my cup”. By identifying and prioritizing what makes me feel happy and alive, I have a roadmap for how to raise my vibration every single day. Nobody’s self-care list is right or wrong, but every single one is personal and specific. Right now my list includes: sitting on my porch swing, peloton rides, walks with Finn and Will, warm drinks, watching sunsets, writing gratitude lists, meditating using the calm app, home yoga using the yogawakeup app, organizing my space, connecting on instagram, sending handwritten letters, lighting candles, diffusing essential oils, podcasting and audiobooking, crochet and being around family. I know that this list will evolve and grow over time, but having a “joy list” that I know well and do several things from each day has become a non-negotiable part of my self-care.

No. 6: I can do really hard things.

One of the lowest lows of 2018.

One of the lowest lows of 2018.

This year I learned that my resilience is stronger than my fear; that I am capable of getting through “I can’t do this anymore” moments over and over again. Several times this year I was thrown into “deep end” situations, unsure of whether I would sink or swim, and each time I managed to swim, even if just by turning over onto my back and floating through whatever was happening. Proving to myself in these moments that I can do really hard things broke down barriers of fear and stoked my “strength fire”. I have less fear about “what ifs” in the future, and am able to feel secure in the present moment knowing that I have the courage and capability to tackle whatever comes my way. In addition to getting through tough moments, I’ve taken on bigger challenges that two years ago I truly didn’t know if I could handle —  like moving away from my family despite my health status. I’ve proved to myself that I can and will go after the things in life that mean the most to me, even if the steps to get there are intimidating.

No. 7: As the seasons of life change, so will the way you support your partner 

New apartment, new city, new beginnings!

New apartment, new city, new beginnings!

My relationship with my boyfriend is probably the most unexpected gift of my life to date. The fact that the boy who I met on my 16th birthday has been the person beside me through every chapter since that day continues to blow my mind. I feel so lucky that as we’ve evolved as individuals for over a decade, it’s been in a way that’s continually supported each others’ growth into the best versions of ourselves. As we’ve sunk our roots into “adulting”, they’ve somehow intertwined in a seamless way that allows us to work toward our individual and shared goals and dreams together. We’ve learned this year that different seasons of life together require very specific and unique kinds of support in our relationship. We’ve continued to adapt and grow with one another through changes and challenges we never could have predicted. We’ve learned the art of identifying what we need to feel supported, and communicating that to each other in a loving way. I’m deeply grateful for the life we are building together and the way we are learning to navigate challenges and show up fully for good moments. 

No. 8: This life is a gift. Treat it that way.

Grateful for it all.

Grateful for it all.

The miracle of existence just floors me sometimes. The fact that I am here; I can love, be, learn, grow and engage and laugh, is just flat out magic. A deep well of gratitude has been cracked open and transformed the lens through which I view my life.  My appreciation for this world, my body, my relationships, warm drinks, my dog snuggled at my feet, sunlight streaming through the windows, colorful sunsets, and the sound of laughter from the ones I love is boundless; and I really spend more time than I ever imagined marveling at the magic of existence. I’ve found that the more I look for the good, the more good I see. And in spite of chronic illness, debilitating pain and grieving deep losses for the first time, this habit of looking for the good has cradled those burdens and allowed me to see and return to the light that exists alongside the dark. I am so grateful for the chance to be here, and to have struggles that give me time to figure them out. I want to be awake for my life, seeking out and creating goodness and love. I want to appreciate each day no matter what it brings, and not lose this precious awareness that’s developed over the past year.

Thank you so much for being here, for supporting me and following my journey. I hope that you’ve found this list insightful and I can’t wait to share 2019 with you. Happy New Year!

Natalie Sayre4 Comments