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Reflections On 2016 -- Life Lessons Of Acceptance And Forgiveness

Learning how to care for but not save everyone.

21/01/2017 04:59 SAST | Updated 21/01/2017 04:59 SAST
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So it's a new year and I love it when we all wish one another a prosperous year on the 1st of every year. I love all the repetitive good wishes we all have for one another and it warms my heart that someone out there wishes prosperity for me... And two hundred of their other friends on their contact list. We have just closed off a year that as a planet we have collectively chosen not to speak about. The turbulence of 2016, even for me, has made me reevaluate what a successful year is and how we deem our strides based on those of others.

The many traveling experiences I have encountered over the last few weeks have given me a point of reflection for 2016. During this time, I have realised that the challenges I faced have built me in ways that I cannot even begin to understand. I'd love to share a few of the lessons learnt and how I came to this point.

You can be important to people, but not all the time.

I started a business in 2016 and although I had read countless books which detailed the loneliness that new business owners endure, I had never imagined it for myself. It was always a distant harsh reality. I was sure of my friends and not only expected their support but believed I had earned it from the countless ways I had shown up for them. The piling debt; unanswered questions; inability to vocalise my frustrations; and the constant thread of thinking "maybe you just don't get it" in various conversations about business with friends, all left me with a hunger to move more into myself.

The beginning of entrepreneurship is made up of lots of self-doubt and tiny moments of elation over the smallest things. I felt very few understood this and I slowly felt myself compartmentalising my friendships and yearning for so much more support. In retrospect I see that in fact the best people to lean on for business ups and downs are business-people. Your friends will help where they can, as they should, but they do not have the answers and are often too busy to search for them.

Bend, but do not break for people

For years, especially in high school, I valued my friendships with males more than I did with women. And the reasoning for this is because I believed at the time that I did not have a stable female friendship group. As I matured, I realised what a privilege it was to know individuals without the pressure of group think. There is a comfortability in having people who can relate to you based on your sameness as well as your difference.

Thanks to Alex Elle's new year's intentions, I defined that I "break for people who will not even bend for me." I give so much and end up feeling angry with myself for having nothing left for me. And the level of empathy I feel for everyone in my life leaves me guilty and with little time for myself. This is something I have intentionally planned to work on this year: learning how to care for but not save everyone. With this intention set, I expect that I will feel less angry and disappointed in the people in my life. With this desire in mind, I pose this question to you: "If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?"

Accept the reality of who people are

This year I had a conversation with my general practitioner that made me reevaluate how I look at people. For years I had lived my life with high expectations and punitive measures for those who did not meet them. I lost friends and had baseless arguments with good people and I'd feel offended for people who forgave and let mean people back into their lives. My constant involvement in people's lives and solving of their problems was infuriating me in many ways. For years my sister kept telling me: "You will always feel offended when you refuse to see and accept people for who they are."

Last year when my doctor told me that the most liberating thing she has done in her forty-three years of life is to accept people for who they are and to allow them the freedom to be themselves in her presence, it really struck a chord. The conversation came about because I told her that my hand surgeon had showed little concern when taking off my splint when I told him that the pain was such that I couldn't breathe. He'd simply said that if I can't handle the pain, the only thing he could do for me was to put on back my cast. I was relaying my frustrations and telling her that surgeons were devoid of any emotion.

One thing I've always focused on is potential rather than reality and I too have been weak in speaking up against ill treatment. Hermann Hesse, German novelist, was correct when she said that "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." And just as I type this, a quick look at my Instagram feed cements this. A bible verse on an account I follow reads 'Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.' (Romans 15:7)

Every season has a lesson whether we choose to acknowledge it and often it is our most demanding seasons that contribute the most to our growth. Experiences change us and we cannot allow the black and whiteness of success or events in our life to blind us from the grey areas. We can grow from each setback or failure, we just need to give ourselves the heart space and vulnerability to do so.