Early Nov, 2022: It’s a dark and snowy night. I’m tired, but not exhausted. I’m listening to a piano album as the car in front of me is awkwardly pulling into a parallel spot. As I watch the lights, the falling snow, and the car in the dark, I’m swept by the beauty of it all. There are a million things to do tomorrow and a million areas of my life to improve, but for now, on this gently snowing night, things are beautiful.
More than any other year, I caught myself feeling content and quietly charmed in 2022. Historically, my life has been a rhythm of highs and lows. Things trended in the right direction, but in a 6-steps-forward 5.5-steps-backward type of way.
This year was different. The accumulated work on my mental and spiritual health seems to be paying dividends. I felt connected to a stable sense of stillness and gratitude through much of the year. More than ever before, I experience the magic in the mundane.
As always, the last (and for 2022, only) post of the year is a reflection on the wins, losses, and lessons from the past 365 days. If you want to see the changes over time, you can read reflections from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.
What went well
Work was awesome! I had another great year at work, and I am so thankful to my clients. My heart swells with pride about being on your team as you took on some of life’s and the mind’s toughest challenges.
I also spent over 200 hours in training, achieving Level 3 in the primary intervention I practice (AEDP), sharpening my skills in working with disordered eating, taking a refresher in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, and beginning to study new interventions. I also joined the American Association of Sex Educations, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). Many people have complicated feelings about sex, and they come up in therapy often. I’m psyched to be better equipped to serve my clients and proud to be a part of their growth.
I took more time off and avoided burn out. I’ve had a lifelong problem with burning myself out, so last year I committed to taking more time off. Because I followed through and went on a couple vacations, I never burnt out! It was great. I did come up to the edge several times, but by canceling non-essential commitments and resting instead of pushing through, I managed to stay on track.
I went back to therapy. Once again, therapy helped me deepen into the human experience and flourish. This time around I was focused on honoring my truth within relationships. It brought me right to my edge, made me peer over, and rewarded me with an increased capacity for life and love. Obviously, I highly recommend it.
What I struggled with
There wasn’t enough white space in my life. With much of the world back to life post pandemic, this year felt like a flurry. When I wasn’t working, in training, or working on myself, I was running around. I took two trips to Mexico, went on a retreat in the woods, took trips to see my family, hosted my friends, hosted dinner parties, went snowboarding, hit the gym, etc. It was great.
But also, it was a lot.
I’m the type of human whose happiness and creativity flourishes with large chunks of time and nothing to do. Phone off, computer off, no plans. I didn’t have nearly enough of that this year. In 2023, I intend to create more white space and allow for more spontaneity.
Back pain. Holy hell does back pain suck. One thing I’m still adjusting to as a therapist is how much I sit. The combination of sitting, aging (I’m in denial!), and pretending like I’m still a 20-something in the gym resulted in multiple back injuries throughout the year. Eventually, I surrendered to the reality that I really do need to take better care of my body. I bought books, tried different exercises, and started going to physical therapy. As I write, I’m happy to report that my back’s feeling better.
My summer camp closed! My heart! I grew up going to sleep away camp for most of my childhood. As a college student, I worked there as a counselor, and through much of my 20’s and 30’s I was a staff trainer. Camp was home. In late 2022, it was passed on to new owners. Though my camp is gone, I know the spirit will live on.
At the psychological level, this recalls the bittersweet beauty that marks so much of life: we often fail to see what we have, until it’s too late. I’m heartbroken that I’ll never go back. It’s a reminder to cherish what we have now instead of neglecting it.
At the spiritual level, it’s yet another reminder of one of the few truths embedded in the human condition: everything with form fades. This, too, is something to let go of.
Write down the good things: despite their popularity in pop-psychology, gratitude practices never really made a difference for me. After reading “Hardwiring Happiness” by Rick Hanson, I started doing something that’s gratitude adjacent. When I noticed something good, I wrote it down in the notes app on my phone. This helped in a few different ways. First, it made me slow down and savor the good. Second, it created an archive of cool memories in my phone.
The mind has a nasty habit of forgetting the good and amplifying the bad. When I’m on a flight, I read through the list and find myself overwhelmed with memories and moments that would have faded away.
It’s survival of the nurtured. In psychotherapy, technique matters. If your therapist can’t tell the difference between an affect they should deepen vs an affect they should regulate, you’re gonna have a bad time.
And yet, as I reflect on my clinical practice, I’m forced to admit that technique isn’t everything. In fact, often, it’s not even enough. We’re born with an innate understanding of how to heal and flourish; I’m learning that a huge chunk of the therapist’s job is to remind people how to access their innate potential for healing and flourishing. Often, the most valuable thing a therapist can do is hold their client in stable and loving awareness as the body and mind recall how to heal. This creates the causes and conditions for the other person to begin growing.
So that’s a wrap on 2022. I’ll leave you with a remix of the wishes from last year: may you be kind to yourself and others and may you see the best in yourself and others. Everything else is distraction.