Last week, I reflected back on the mostly professional recap of 2020.
This week, I needed to go mostly personal.
This year, more so than last, was a year of game-changing reflection for me. I not only had to look at my own behavior and lifestyle in the midst of a pandemic but in a certain type of personal crisis. I needed to dig deeper with my therapist, my wife, my clients, and that person I see when I look in the mirror.
Most of the discord in my life stemmed from one place and one place alone: feelings of self-worth.
Nearly every bad thing I’ve done or been inspired to do in my life came from whatever story I told myself about personal value in this world, what I contribute to those around me, and how the skeletons in my closet choose to come out and make their presence known.
Somewhat frustratingly, I’ve always had this uncanny knack of taking the successes in my life and finding some way of sabotaging them. God forbid, I just “be happy” and grateful for what I have because I know intimately what it’s like to be without.
Stepping outside of myself for a moment, I’ve seen some pretty incredible things happen this year. People who I saw who had little confidence in their own innate abilities to succeed became more confident, more proud, more capable. People who I know who lived with grudges, a lack of forgiveness and a general darkness in their hearts became more loving, more forgiving, more understanding.
2020 gave me a moment to step back, take the things around me in, and remind myself: look how far you’ve come. Don’t lose ground.
Despite the many successes (and there were many) in 2020, I found that every slight hint of failure would crush me. It wasn’t enough to celebrate the good, I had to agonize and carry on over the things that weren’t going as I’d want them to.
A couple of months ago, an online client/friend I have worked with on and off for many years decided to discontinue training with me. She was once a face-to-face client and then she and her wife moved out of state several years ago. I knew she had a lot going on in her life and I had to remind myself that she had “bigger fish to fry” by embarking on a journey with a therapist. While it was a letdown to not have her actively training with me, I felt that if she could get some quality work in with the therapist, we could possibly reconnect again sometime down the road.
So, it took me by surprise when I received a rather large package in the mail from her just before Christmas. She has developed a fantastic hobby of crafting custom handbags and I’ve watched her develop her skills over the years. In the box, she made a leather backpack for me. There inside the box was a handwritten letter that she has been kind enough to allow me to reprint here.
“Dearest Jason, This is my third rewrite. Not unlike the amount of tries at the perfect bag for you. I’ve wanted to create something for you for the longest time. My skills have grown to a point that I felt good about making something that would be worthy of you wearing. Worthy of you. Every hole has two stitches. For me, it represented every time you poured into me and I rose to meet you. It is not a perfect bag. Some stretches of stitching are flawless, then there are some areas where I may not have struck hard enough, off center or distracted. In the moment, I curse and want to kick myself. In the end, I work at the flaws and decide it had purpose. I mean, even if I made the same exact bag again, I would learn at different points. No one would have the exact same strike pattern on their version of the bag. Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m doing well in therapy. I’m doing well with mindful eating, back to tracking everything I eat and drink (Why do I stop that? It’s so effective-duh!) I work out every other day. I have full health clearance and I’m not sad as often. You’ve changed my life so much and every time we’ve reconnected, who I am now is part your doing-and that is a good thing. The love poured into this bag reflects that. It’s built to get worn and scuffed up over the years, so I’m hopeful you’ll wear it as much as your cowboy boots. I love you more than you’ll ever know.“
In a year marked with a lot of feelings of “worth”, it was a hard letter to read. Hard, because, I have to remember that the person I see in the mirror is not the same as others see. And, I hold myself to a mostly unreasonable standard that can be difficult to attain.
However, it reminded me of some simple truths:
-Progress looks different to everyone.
-If you think people aren’t listening and watching what you do, they are.
-Sometimes the most effective work to do is the least flashy and the hardest to be consistent with.
-Your life, despite how you feel about yourself, is of greater value than you know.
I said these words to my clients a couple of days ago and I’ll say them here. If you feel that you got a raw deal in 2020, remember that someone else had it worse in 2019. Someone altogether different may have it worse still in 2021.
We have no guarantee that 2021 will be markedly different or better than 2020.
We are still left with the scant few things we have control over in our lives: how we eat, how we treat our bodies, how we react to life as it comes to us and how we treat others. That’s it. Everything else is completely and utterly out of our control.
For me, I remind myself of value and self-worth. Do good, try and do better each day, forgive, forgive, forgive.
And to G, who made me the bag. The bag is amazing, thank you. But the letter…you’ll never know what that letter meant to me. This time, I rise to meet you.
Signing off for 2020: Be strong…be healthy…be kind.