What 2016 Taught Me, Lessons From Maria Dowse

What 2016 Taught Me Cover

I know, I know another one of ‘those’ blog posts, by another one of ‘those’ bloggers. So if you’re here reading I thank you, if it’s just me, then regardless of anyone else, my navel gazing introspection will carry me forward into 2017. But if by any wonderful force of nature you are here, then hopefully we can journey forward together a littler wiser.

So what has 2016 taught me? Well there are the obvious things like, bra removal is still a great thing to do the minute I walk in the house. Dancing with my eyes closed may mean running into inanimate objects. That light rings make all the difference while vlogging and the world does not actually end if I go to a party and my tights ladder. There will often be a supermarket somewhere along on the way.

But perhaps more on the more serious side of things, what have I learnt?

What 2016 Taught Me - Pinterest

To surround myself with people who KNOW me

Last year I read (well listened too) many Brené Brown books. In one of those books, she talks about how powerful women, break the gossip cycle. If someone comes to you with gossip, and that is NOT your experience of that person – say so. Don’t join in for the sake of it.

I was greatly comforted in 2016 to have friends that did that on my behalf. They knew me, and they weren’t afraid to stick up for what they knew about me.

I was thankful that firstly my actions were measurable, that they could see that wasn’t in line with what they knew about me. But mostly I was thankful that they stuck up for me. Then came and ASKED me about it first hand.

These are great people, and they are the type of people I want more of in my life.

To say no but to also say yes more

I am very good at saying no. It is often my default reaction. This is sometimes because it is my armour of protection, that keeps my anxiety at bay. If I say no, then I don’t have to do the thing that leads me to feeling anxious.

My word for 2016 was brave and part of my being brave was saying yes to new things, not even very big things sometimes. Joining a new club, showing up to a room of 100 people and sitting by yourself, going out for lunch alone, going to a party where I didn’t know anyone. Not life changing, mountain climbing, ocean crossing experiences, but HUGE things for me. I hope that in 2017 I will learn to say yes more to the right things in my life even if they do make me anxious. Because once that anxiety bridge is crossed, there can be some really lovely people to meet.

To make time for what I love

Love Writing

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One of the big things I did in 2016 was begin to write again. I have had multiple blogs over the years, but they were back in the day, people just did it for the love of it, not to make money or a living (not that there is anything wrong with that at all- it’s just a different culture). Last year I decided I wanted to return to writing. And part of returning to it, means carving out time and space in my life to do it.

That means I may have to get up earlier, or give up something else, or say no to something or someone. If I have an hour left in my day, and I have spent that largely helping facilitate other people’s lives, then I am going to take that time for myself.

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I have lived far to long, not doing what brings me joy for fear my family will suffer because of it. What happened instead that was that they suffered BECAUSE I didn’t do it as I often became martyr mum.

That I need to learn to communicate my needs better

I am not always the best communicator, I am not going to lie. sometimes I err on the passive aggressive side, sometimes on the *ahem* too aggressive side. One of the things I have really worked on this past year is take the time to identify what all those jumbled up emotions and thoughts actually mean. Rather than lashing out, reflecting on it until I can pull it all apart and communicate what it all means more effectively.

If I don’t advocate for what I need, then no one else will. So it is really important to try to get to the bottom of why I am feeling what I am feeling, and find concise and kind ways of communicate that.

As my kids grow up, parenting gets both easier and harder

Pareting Gets Easier

I know this is not helpful news to those of you with little kids, but I would be misleading you if I was to state otherwise. Gone are the days (mostly) of broken night sleeps due to kiddie problems, and gone is the physical exhaustion that comes with bringing up 5 little ones.

But hello mental and emotional exhaustion as you try to work out how to navigate teens and young adults through life. Hi there balancing act of trying to work out what is my responsibility and what is theirs, and G’day you feeling a whole other level of crazy when people hurt your kids. You think you felt anger when someone pushed your kid over in the sand pit? Wait until someone breaks their heart and you’re left putting them back together. Not only do you have to deal with their emotions about it all, but you are going to have your own, and trying to play fair at this time, can be tough stuff.

Some days I find this season really hard to be honest. But with those tough times, also come a whole other level of reward when you see those parenting choices you made when they were little, start to pay off in their levels of responsibility, resilience and ability to face the world well.

If I am stressed, lower my expectations, and if I am still stressed lower them some more

2016 saw quite a large renovation happen to our home. It was really, really stressful at times. And not always because of the renovation. Sometimes my own stress came from how others were handling the stress of it all. But this quote really saw me through my own personal levels of exasperation .

No one wants to accept anything done in an inferior manner. Share on X

This one is interesting in terms of a renovation, because no one wants to accept anything done in an inferior manner, so I am not really talking about building works etc. I am talking about my own personal expectations of timing, mess and chaos being put right.

My stress was often due to circumstances I could not control, which meant my expectations weren’t really very realistic, because they weren’t within my scope to change. I could certainly communicate what I was feeling, but ultimately, all I could change was my own reactions to circumstance.

Once I caught hold of that lesson, I was a much happier person. Frustrated somewhat at times, but overall, much happier.

Stress rattles foundations

Stress Expectations

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If there was thing I learnt about myself and my relationships during our renovation, it was that stress reveals your weakness. It showed up where my character was weak, it showed up where my resilience needed work, and it showed up where our relationships need to change if they are going to survive big stressful life events. This to be honest was a bit of a shock too me, as we have been through quite a lot over the years.

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The stress that comes with illness, renovations, moving house, loosing a child, having a miscarriage, loosing a job or any other life event that puts additional pressure upon your life, will reveal your weakest and your strongest attributes. Like it wasn’t hard enough anyway, we now have to face with how those things affect us too.

This is both a blessing and a curse, and life would be so much sweeter if no one ever had to undergo hardships of any kind.

Random bad things don’t happen for a reason, and there are no flippant feel good reasons that people can give for them- and people should STOP giving them.

This year has taught me that the ONLY thing we can control about any of it, is how we allow those thing to shape our future. That is the one choice we have. How we move on from here.

Everyone has burdens it’s not a competition

I really struggled this year, with balancing being authentic about how I was feeling, and knowing that not everyone connects with other people’s stories in the same way.

To someone undergoing something hurtful and painful in their own life, my story of how I was feeling about my nice new shiny renovation, may make absolutely no sense to them. I felt that I often appeared ungrateful (which I totally wasn’t). I was sometimes left feeling, how could you possibly be unhappy? I don’t know about you, but things don’t make me truly happy. Relationships make me truly happy, so then I felt guilty for being not feeling guilty or something like that.

Of course it wasn’t the nice shiny new renovation that I was struggling with, it was all the under lying issues that came with that and there were some big ones. But people sometime hear, and see what they want too and whatever is easiest too at the time. And sometimes unknowingly, when they are in pain too and they filter your experience by their own pain.

I am always grateful to those who HEAR what I am saying to them. I made some really lovely connections with people who could hear my stress and strain this year and the very real impact it was having on my life. Serendipitously, sometimes those connections came in places I didn’t expect them.

So what did this teach me? I need to meet people where they are at. Hear their story and find the point of relate-able empathy. I need to put down my pain filter and really try to understand what THEY are feeling and what, if anything I can do about that. Even if it’s just a hug and a listening ear.

People are great

For every person that showed me the negative side of human nature in 2016, there were far more who illustrated the positive.  I met some really great people in 2016, people who loved when it might have been easier to walk away, who were brave despite their fears, who everyday put up with all kinds of circumstances but got up did the best they could that day. People who struggled with chronic pain, who never stop serving others, people who lost but never gave up hope, those who have real adversity but their lives continue to inspire others.

2016 went a long way to restore my faith in humanity.

So what about you? What did you learn in 2016? Did you learn more about yourself? About others? About the world around you?

Would love to hear about your discoveries too.


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