Why I Didn't Create a Vision Board For 2018
Entering 2018, I was bombarded by Instagram Stories of vision board parties, social media posts about creating intentions for the new year, and a plethora of inspirational self-help articles with tips and ideas about how to make this new year different. I was swept into the wave of inspiration and immediately bought a cork board, envisioning a world of opportunities to flourish out of a fun brainstorming session at home with some wine, music and a stack of magazines.
As expected from the title of this post, I didn't end up creating a vision board. The week after was filled with unexpected moments of sadness and lethargy, and I just couldn't shake those feelings despite my efforts. It got worse as I went out for lunch with friends, but that was when I finally realized what was going on: I was grieving.
As many of you might have heard, the Santa Barbara community was hit hard by the Thomas Fire, which quickly became the biggest wildfire in California history. After a week of intermittent power outages, hazardous air, and an exhausting state of hypervigilance, my husband and I decided to pack up almost everything into my tiny sedan and head South to stay with my parents. Although we were not yet in an evacuation zone, we figured we probably wouldn't come back to our place until the fire was mostly contained. I tried my best not to panic as we were sorting through everything, evaluating every belonging and forcing myself to be okay with potentially saying goodbye to things I'd leave behind.
During our month of living out of suitcases, I learned that a friend I grew up with had committed suicide. It was the second friend I had lost to suicide within the last 5 years. We also lost two members in our church community: one succumbed to an ongoing illness, and the other passed away in a freak accident on the freeway (note: each person's passing was unrelated to the Thomas Fire). Fast forward to 2018, and my husband and I finally moved back to our place. For the first two weeks of January, we purged everything we realized we didn't need. Anxiety quickly returned when we receive those dreaded county text alerts, issuing evacuation orders for specific areas in Santa Barbara County in preparation for the storm.
The mudslides...were beyond what anyone was expecting. As the stories and news reports populated my social media feeds, I became numb. I felt guilty. I felt guilty for not immediately feeling devastated, for not being directly affected by these natural disasters and for being able to enjoy the otherwise beautiful, clear skies in the rest of Santa Barbara County.
I'm not writing this for you to feel bad for me, nor to receive any sympathy from anyone. I'm writing this for two reasons:
- Today was the first time I finally cried, because I finally realized what was going on with me and acknowledged those emotions. In order to heal and move forward, I have to process this, and the only way I know how to at this moment is to express it through words.
- I want to tell you that it's okay. It's okay if your year didn't start out the way you expected, or if sometimes you can't bear to keep going on sometimes because of everything you're going through. Whatever it is, it's okay.
I thought that having already taken a grief and trauma class, I would've been prepared for this, but I was wrong. I learned that many people are uncomfortable with loss, don't know what it looks like to grieve in a healthy way, or how to respond to a friend who's processing their own losses in life. Self-care is not only fancy bubble baths and spa days, but also giving yourself the time and space to breathe, to cry, to laugh, to think, to rest.
As for me... I'm just not there yet. Before I can start planning for the future, I need to process my past so that I can eventually become fully present and focused in the now. And I'm okay with that.
If you're struggling with letting go of something that you've lost, whether it be a loved one, a job, or even a dream that might not have panned out for you, I highly recommend reading H. Norman Wright's book called "Recovering from Losses in Life." Please note that this is not sponsored. This is the book that served as the basis of my grief and trauma class, and I would make EVERYONE read a copy if I could.
If you end up reading it, please feel free to share your thoughts. I would love to hear how it helped you.
Thank you for reading. This was particularly therapeutic for me, to say the least.