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Don’t begin 2017 without taking a look back at 2016

Happy New Year.

I taught my normal Saturday 11:15 a.m. yoga class on New Year’s Eve in addition to a “Resolve to Evolve” workshop with Dorie that afternoon. The theme of my class and my workshop yesterday was spending time reflecting on the year behind us before we zoom into 2017, forgetting (or choosing to ignore) all of the lessons the year prior held for us.

My social media feed has been flooded with posts/graphics/memes/etc with sentiments like, “Good riddance 2016….Thank god 2016 is over….2017 is going to be my year… 2016 was terrible…and so on.” We’re so quick to want to close the door and move on.

In reality, there is so much to be learned by doing the hard work of carefully examining the year you just lived. To being open to see the lessons it taught you and the ways it changed you. We are constantly growing and evolving, ESPECIALLY when we are being challenged. If 2016 was a tough or painful year for you, itโ€™s especially important to take a look back.

2016 was an extremely difficult year for me. And unexpectedly so. My uncle was diagnosed with cancer. My little brother died. Two months later my uncle passed away. My dad had a heart procedure. While doing my own processing and grieving, I also felt so much pain for my mom for all that she’s endured.

I woke up on January 1, 2017 with the same heavy heart that I went to bed with on December 31, 2016 (along with two golden retrievers…all the rules are off the table at this point). But even though I still carry my grief and sorrow with me, I am also able to look back at 2016 and see the lessons and blessings that it brought me.

I learned so much about myself and how to open up and share in a way that I never have been able to before. I also began to see how much love and support is available by being vulnerable and receptive. The deep connection I have experienced with some of my yoga students, friends and blog readers by speaking openly about my situation and my feelings has been unparalleled. I know that I’m not alone and I want you all to know that you’re not alone either. There’s nothing you’re feeling that someone else reading this post hasn’t endured or felt before.

It’s a practice to be able to hold pain, sadness and darkness in one hand while also being able to open your eyes to how much beauty, love and abundance surrounds you. It is there. And it’s okay to feel it. You can be really sad and really grateful for the things that you DON’T have to be sad about at the same time.

If you need a little guidance in reflecting back on the past year, here are 10 questions from The Art of Simple that can get you started. You can check out their full PDF with 20 questions here if you want to take a deeper dive.

  1. What was the single best thing that happened to you this year?
  2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
  3. Pick three words to describe this past year.
  4. Who were your most valuable relationships with?
  5. In what ways did you grow emotionally?
  6. In what ways did you grow physically?
  7. In what ways did you grow spiritually?
  8. What was the most enjoyable part of your work? (professionally and at home)
  9. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  10. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

And perhaps the biggest blessing of 2016 was getting to end the year by celebrating Christmas with my family and having my oldest niece join us. I feel so grateful for the line of communication that’s been opened that will allow me to develop a meaningful relationship with my brother’s two beautiful girls as they grow up.

Lots of love to all of you. Take a look back and then carry your lessons into 2017 with you. The work is worth it.


{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Madison January 1, 2017, 11:28 am

    I agree with this…those graphics from social media like “Thank God 2016 is over” makes my heart hurt. Let’s reflect on what has happened and move forward in a positive way. Thank you for sharing so openly with us! Sending love your way.

  • Mollie K January 1, 2017, 11:45 am

    This is beautiful. My word for 2017 is vulnerability. Focusing on, practicing, and reflecting on how its ok to be “not ok” sometimes and to ask for help.

    xoxo you’re amazing!

    • Remi January 1, 2017, 6:12 pm

      Mollie, that is SUCH a beautiful word to embrace! My word for 2017 is similarly “community”. It takes a lot to put yourself out there rather than pull away and I have to remind myself it is SO worth it.

      • Mollie K January 2, 2017, 10:35 am

        Thank you for your kindness…and yes! One must be vulnerable to put themselves out there and speak their truth and as a result hope to gain/become part of the authentic community they wish to be a part of/are seeking. You have to put out there what you want to attract, right? Connection/community is such a wonderful thing. You’re going to be amazing, Remi! Happy new year ๐Ÿ™‚

  • LeeAnn January 1, 2017, 1:18 pm

    Happy New Year my friend! I love this post – especially “Itโ€™s a practice to be able to hold pain, sadness and darkness in one hand while also being able to open your eyes to how much beauty, love and abundance surrounds you.” So profound.
    Sending much love!

  • Jen January 1, 2017, 3:04 pm

    In 2010, I lost my Dad, an old co-worker, my husband’s boss and his wife, a friend’s 6 month old daughter and ended with a friend of mine who was just 36, went to bed one night and never woke up again. That was hands down the worst year of my life. The next few years were just as hard because I didn’t know how to deal with grief and was just angry and miserable.

    In 2014 when we had our miracle baby arrive, my life changed and I started to look for the positive again and am much happier with myself and my life.

    2016 may have had it’s ups and downs, but I can still point out something happy and amazing from the year! I have goals and things to work on for this year, but for the most part, I’m just taking life one day at a time!

  • Hilary January 1, 2017, 4:20 pm

    This particular year was also a rough one for me, and as the end of the year approached I noticed that my feeling towards this restart was not something of excitement, but once I stopped and reflected on the year you realize everything you learned but more than that you also realize what all you have going for you.

  • Kayla January 1, 2017, 6:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing those reflective prompts – I am definitely going to take the time to fill it out. I am so sorry for all that you went through in 2016. I truly hope that you have a better 2017, filled with love, good health and lots of laughter. Sending positivity your way! xoxoxoxo ๐Ÿ’•

  • Remi January 1, 2017, 6:09 pm

    Your posts are just so good! I finished reading that with such a deep sense of gratefulness… thank you for making this space REAL and meaningful. I am a firm believer that we grow the most in difficult times, so they aren’t to be swept under the rug. Thank you for pushing us to embrace that!

  • Lauren January 1, 2017, 6:59 pm

    In 2014, my husband was hospitalized and came very close to dying. Before that, I had a pretty charmed life, and had never dealt with anything really “hard.” That was hard. No, it was #$%^&@ traumatic. Since then, I’ve gained an unbelievable appreciation for life. I look at my my now 2.5 year old daughter and my 4 month old son and feel grateful every single day. Every. Single. Day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. That hard stuff changed me so much, it’s now just a part of my core. Things I cared about before – the petty, crowding thoughts – now they are replaced with decisiveness and gratitude. I’m so grateful my eyes are now open – I can see things I never saw before. Some may be lucky enough to avoid heartbreak till they are old and gray – or never even. But I always look for the positive and am thankful I can see now in a way I never could before.

  • Jeanna January 1, 2017, 7:13 pm

    I have followed your blog since 2011 I think, and I have always found so much comfort, joy and inspiration here. I feel like your new way to open up more shines through here as well and I would really like to thank you for your honesty. I love your way of writing even more for each year. Wish you so much sweetness for 2017. Love from Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Danielle January 1, 2017, 10:46 pm

    Thank you so much Jen as always for your insightful and honest posts! I have really appreciated how open you have been in sharing your experiences this past year, as difficult (I can’t even imagine) they have been. Taking a look at those 20 questions now! Hope you have a wonderful start to the new year.

  • erin mcdermott January 2, 2017, 5:08 am

    this is the perfect piece to read to start the new year…thank you.

  • Julie Running in a Skirt January 2, 2017, 10:26 am

    2016 was also a pretty bad year for me too. I haven’t done an exercise like this and started it at your suggestion. Such a good idea and way to close the door without so much negativity! xoxo

  • kate January 3, 2017, 1:43 pm

    I’m so exhausted with everyone saying good riddance to 2016. It was a hard year for many people, but like you said, let’s learn something from it! I would like to say that your blog has changed for the better. I think that it’s something to be proud of, being so open about everything going on since your brother’s passing. Your willingness to share has helped me to open about about my brother since his passing also. Thanks Jen, and happy new year!

  • Claire January 7, 2017, 3:59 am

    This is so important, Jen. Thank you for the list of questions – I’m going to sit down and think about them after yoga. Your paragraph about seeing the beauty of the world around you during dark times made me think of the movie Collateral Beauty. It’s extremely emotional but absolutely wonderful – I’d highly recommend it. Hope everyone has a beautiful day!

    • Jen DeCurtins January 12, 2017, 11:03 am

      Hey Claire – thank you so much for the comment. I haven’t seen Collateral Beauty yet but it’s on my list. <3

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