Choosing Gratitude and Growth (2018 Review)

Recently I was thinking I'm not sure that I actually followed through on my intentions this year as much as I have in the past: body acceptance, more music, and presence. After reflecting upon the past year I think I did more than I am giving myself credit for. I definitely didn't play as much music as I had hoped to, but I did work a lot on body acceptance and presence.

Last spring I went through a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at work. It was twice a week over lunch for 8 weeks. I got this letter in the mail from myself a few months later:

Dear Melissa,
You completed the MBSR program at work on May 2, 2018! I know you may not feel like you are being as mindful as you "should" be - but remember not to should on yourself. Please accept your beautiful body as it is - it is a sacred vessel that has done so many incredible things! Continue your mindfulness practice in a consistent way - whatever that means for you. Maybe take 15 minutes on your lunch break at work to breathe and be outside if it's nice out. Continue to work on eating mindfully. If you still want a more regular practice, be sure you are getting to yoga 2x/week and hiking AT LEAST 2x/month. Know that you are always doing the best you can. Keep being grateful for the many blessings in your life.
Love, Melissa :)

This fall I took two classes: Compassion Cultivation Training and Body-Mind Balance. I initially signed up for the Compassion class because I had hoped it would help me get into more of a routine with meditation, since daily meditation was required as homework. I really struggled with making time to sit each day to meditate and now that the class is over, I think I've decided that I prefer more somatic practices for mindfulness over sitting in silence with no movement. For some reason group meditations are different for me though - I love to meditate in a group. There is something really powerful and beautiful about a group meditating together.

I know I did a fair amount of exploring in 2018 so I decided to put together a list of parks I hiked based on photos I posted. Even though I started the year recovering from knee surgery, I feel pretty accomplished! Lafayette Square Park, Rockwoods Reservation (Trail Among the Trees, Turkey Ridge Trail, Rock Quarry Trail), Valley View Glades, Matson Hill County Park, Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve (IL), Wallace Falls State Park (WA), Tumwater Falls (WA), Victor Falls (WA), Mastadon State Historical site, Lost Valley Trail, Onondaga Cave State Park, Camp Manitowa at Cedar Point, Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Lester Park (MN), Meramec State Park, Eldon Hazlet State Park Carlyle Lake (IL), Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI), Whitefish Point (MI), Tahquamenon Falls (MI), Wagner Falls (MI), Tannery Falls (MI), Au Train Falls (MI), Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area, Salt Lick Point (IL), Hawn State Park, Hughes Mountain, Rockwoods Range (Fox Creek Spur and Round House Loop), Cahokia Mounds, Sunset Park, and of course Forest Park.

A few highlights of this year were getting back on rollerskates for two parties, getting the sweetest gift of a magic space kitten princess in an egg from my partner, and adding sweet Luna to our family.

The past year definitely had some challenges, and I think my biggest takeaway is one I thought I had learned but I guess needed a reminder: you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it. The only things I can control in life are how I choose to spend my energy and money, how I respond (or react) to others, my attitude, and my perspective. I choose to find the positive. I choose to consume things that contribute to my personal growth and healing. I choose compassion. I choose to learn lessons from negative experiences. I choose forgiveness. I choose gratitude.