Today, on 31st December 2019, as we find ourselves on the last day of this decade, my husband and I are sitting on the couch simultaneously nursing and fighting a head and chest cold. It is not the glamorous ending that we would have liked to have written for ourselves, but it is what it is and it does give me time to ponder.
What would come through if I reflected on the major events of the past ten years that led me to today, I wondered. Even if you decide not to read beyond this paragraph, I would recommend putting a little time aside to do the same. You never know what you might find.
Here’s what I found.
Instead of expressing my reflections in writing first, I started with the doodle that supports today’s blog post. What came to me were ten different faces. Ten years, each of which showed me a different emotion that the highlights of that year’s main events brought to me. I can honestly say that it has been an eventful and emotional decade.
This was a year of wonderful growth and excitement. I co-founded my first training and coaching company with a great friend and business partner. Our company was called Kaap11 - 11 because 1 plus 1 is so much more than 2. When you work with the right people, the result of your combined effort grows exponentially. This was absolutely true for us and having worked as a solopreneur for the past 5 years, it is still the biggest thing I miss.
My mother died in 2011. After many years of suffering with Parkinson’s and two years of battling with cancer, it was expected. What I hadn’t expected was how I would feel whilst watching her struggle before and during the dying process. Nor would I know how surprised I was about the way grief affected me and how much I missed her. And yet, somehow, I also learned about the joy I felt at feeling even closer to her in death than in life and how sadness and joy are just two sides of the same coin and how we can feel them simultaneously.
Things were going well very well in business but I felt very frustrated as I realised I needed more. What ‘more’ meant at the time I didn’t really know, beyond more meaning. I knew, however, I had a date with destiny in Australia (Tony Robbins fans will know what this means) and I decided to commit to finding out what more meaning meant to me by learning more about myself and who I wanted to be in the world.
Our company became more focussed and more successful but, at the same time, I also became more determined to follow my heart’s desire, to find more meaning. On a trip to New Zealand, my husband and I decided it was time to move back to the UK and the countryside (we were living in Amsterdam at the time). This decision focussed our efforts to sell up and move so we could create the space we both craved.
Auspicious timing meant that we sold our house, handed over the keys to the new owners on the day we moved back to the UK to pick up the keys for our new home. My feelings were full of hope for the future and joy for the bundle of fur that joined us a month later, our dog Eva-girl, who later became my muse as well as my companion.
I had plans for this year. Big plans and none of them turned out as I thought they would. Even our furbaby, Eva, gave us challenges that we had not foreseen. I was confused as what used to work for me didn’t work this time round. I started to learn that following your heart doesn’t come with a 3 step plan. That sometimes something needs to break for it to be put back together again in a way that makes more sense. However, I stuck to my commitment to find out what ‘more meaning’ meant to me and started to write daily on the subject, sharing my musings and connecting to many people around the world to find out what it meant to them.
The only way out of confusion is curiosity with a big dollop of loving kindness and presence. In amongst the chaos, I started to see patterns in my research and as I wrote, they became clearer and clearer to me. I started to see the different components of a meaningful life and how they interrelated. I also started to see how important it was for me to find my voice in all of this and that the only way to find my voice was to use it.
Following my personal research, I proudly published my first book, The Art of Contribution, created my first online programme and started talking about my findings. The thing about pride is that it often comes before a fall, and the fall came when I realised that understanding and talking about something isn’t the same as embodying and living it. This year, I started to move from my head to my heart and rebirthed as The Heartworker, to remind myself that the heart is the seat of courage, compassion and creativity - essential components when it comes to living a meaningful life.
I started practicing and shaping what wholehearted living meant to me. It unleashed my love for doodling as a way of expressing myself beyond speaking and writing and in a way that connected me to my heart more easily. I had previously committed to creating and sharing a doodle a day, and with each doodle I felt my heart opening and colour came flooding in. This brought me huge joy and playfully allowed me to hone my craft and embrace my inner artist, as I learned to express myself unedited.
This year was the hardest to sum up in just one overriding emotion. Perhaps it is hard to choose the emotion because I am still in it and it is difficult to be a witness when you are the subject. This year I wrote, illustrated and published another book called Annie and Eva Love Devon, created other products, new services and worked on changing my business by bringing my love for creative self expression and coaching together.
Despite the above, my first thought was fear, because there have been a number of fearful moments when our financial security was being tested as I am investing and relearning how to do business The Heartworker’s Way.
I knew, however, that fear wasn’t the overriding emotion. The overriding feeling has been of calm determination to focus on my inspiration. Of being able to trust that what I am doing is essential to my work and personal wellbeing and that I am in it for the long haul, not just the short term gain. To choose love over fear whenever I feel it bubbling to the surface.
Who knows, perhaps there was also an element of stubbornness, a desire to proof something. I am still sitting with it.
As I write this, I am only too aware that none of these events themselves made me feel anything. What made me feel something was how I experienced those events. How I experienced those events depended on how I thought about them. How I thought about them depended on my (or even other people’s) expectations and how attached I was to an outcome.
After sharing all of the above, it is also a good moment to remind myself, and you the reader, that we are not our events. We are not our results. We are not even our emotions. They are ways we have created to make something mean something to us in that moment. Change a thought, change the meaning. Change the meaning, change the feeling. Grief, anger and joy - they are our barometer and change with the changing seasons - sometimes all weathers in a single minute.
Our feelings are a way of expressing our humanness. One feeling isn't necessarily better or worse than another if we understand that our emotions bring us information to help us make sense of the world and, through it, they give life meaning. After all, without our ability to feel, life is pretty meaningless. What we do with our feelings, however, is another matter entirely but when we start with a greater understanding of them, we will become better equipped and are less likely to run away from them.
This knowing I will continue to bring into the next decade. No doubt I will have to remind myself of this often, when I am stuck in the middle of a drama or some other heightened sense of emotion.
Whatever the future holds, I know that I am in a better position to show up a little wiser and, as a result, I hope to be more useful to you as well as myself as we head into the new decade.
I wonder, how have you experienced the past 10 years and what have you learned from it? Whatever it is, know that it will not define you beyond how you decide to define yourself.
Here's to 2020 and beyond.
Ann, aka The Heartworker
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