In the annual time of reflection, PHS Managing Editor, Trish Wylie, talks about the highs and lows of the past year and the precious gifts we receive, sometimes without realizing it.
You're doing it too, right? Playing the 'how'd I do?' and 'What am I gonna do next? game?
We all need to pause and take stock of our lives from time to time. To look at how far we've come, the things we've changed for the better, to study how much we've grown, and to renew our determination to build on those things to improve our physical and mental well-being and better our lives. It's a healthy thing to do.
I'm still here. I survived another very up and down year. That's the usual baseline for my self assessment. Then I check the inventory. To see if I have too much of something or too little (too much fear, not enough drive, too much stubbornness, not enough time). What I should rely upon more (gut instinct) and what has let me down over and over again (self-doubt).
It's a stock-take of the soul. A necessity if you want to increase your self-realization and keep working on your self-improvement. Because if we don't take stock and learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, we'll just keep spinning around and around, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. And we all know what that is the definition of, don't we?
In the past year, I've walked away from the last remnants of toxic relationships in my life, freeing up space for new people to step in and become friends who energize and inspire me. I've made a concerted effort to spend time with family and check in with them more often, accepting there will be times when we all get busy and have stuff going on, so if I don't hear from them for a while, it's nothing personal and doesn't mean they don't care, I've thrown all the 'writing rules' out of the window and chose to write whatever the hell I want, however the hell I want, freeing my creativity, and as a result, am writing more often and - better still - loving what I'm doing. I'd genuinely forgotten how that felt. The rush. The lift. The smile it can put on your face.
As a result of putting in that work, my confidence has grown and I feel better about myself. And with a new haircut and some new clothes to give myself a little lift after a recent illness, I'm looking forward to the festivities and am genuinely excited about the new year and what it might bring.
But it's not just a new year headed our way, it's a whole new decade, which is even more exciting. So many possibilities! So many opportunities! And while I don't doubt there will be lows as well as highs, having survived the last decade, I feel better equipped to get through it. Even during the times when it feels like I won't.
You see, the end of this year marks the ten year anniversary of the beginning of my decline. First came the burnout after a decade of writing highs, then writers block, then depression. Not that I recognized the latter at the time. By the end of 2010, it was harder to ignore. Then my family fell apart, cracks in relationships becoming gaping chasms which made harsh truths impossible to ignore. It was swiftly followed by the great freeze, which lasted into the start of 2011, forcing everyone to work twice as hard to do simple everyday things and fraying nerves.
It marked the start if what proved to be a tough decade. After plunging into a deep depression and fighting my way out from under the safety of my duvet, I lost the four-legged equine love of my life, my precious pooch and my particular puss in a rapid one-two-three of hits within a seven month period. We lost two deeply loved family members within three months of each other, the second suddenly, without warning and too soon, resulting in a culmination of overwhelming grief I'm still dealing with today and have had to learn to cut myself a huge swathe of slack on.
Maintaining a positive glass half full (or if worse comes to worst, hey, at least you still have a glass) attitude during that time wasn't easy. But there were also highlights.
The birth of each of my great nieces were three of the brightest days. As are every one of the days I've got to spend with them since they arrived. Through their eyes I get to see the world the way I used to see it before my perception got blurred or skewed or blinkered by the pain of losses I never wanted to experience again. I realized I'd become guarded and cautious without accepting the reality of what that meant in terms of the things I might miss out on. They also helped me learn how to appreciate the little things more. A process which was easier having experienced times when I had nothing and was living below the poverty line in the land of depression. And they taught me about unconditional love. How being present and living in the moment is more important than expensive gifts or fancy clothes or working every hour of every day to afford those things.
Perspective is easier to gain with hindsight and experience. So while the last decade has tested me ten ways to Sunday and at times involved a pretty damn steep learning curve, it has also made me stronger and more resilient and more appreciative of the things I have right here and right now. The latter doesn't mean I don't want more. I still have dreams and goals and a long bucket list. But I no longer beat myself up if I'm not as far along the road as I wanted to be or if I suffer a set back. And that, my friends, is HUGE. Something infinitely precious that I treasure and appreciate. A gift that can't be bought, wrapped up in pretty paper and handed to you.
Looking back at 2019 in terms of the PHS, I have to put into practice those life lessons and not allow the bad times to out-shadow the good. Because yes, confession time here, as bright and cheery and positive as we always aim to be here at the PHS, there are tough times. Burnout of PHS editors is a constant risk. Particularly when they put in long hours or have to scramble at the last minute to pull everything together while still dealing with everything that's going on in our own lives. And like all internet friends, there's only so much we can do to help from so far away when one of us has a hard time. But we're family now. We all care and still believe in the work the PHS does or we wouldn't be here. But there are times when that belief is tested.
In the last couple of months when I've struggled to get things done here and it's had a knock-on effect on our deadlines, As a result, I've been riddled by guilt. I hate letting people down and as team leader, I'm supposed to set an example, so double the guilt with a cherry on top. Talking to friends and family about it, they always ask the same thing: Is it worth it? Do you want to continue with it? Does it make you any money? And for the first time in a long time, I found myself pausing before I replied. Not because it's difficult to make outsiders understand. I'm used to that with my writing, Not because it's ever been a financial thing for me. Few passions ever are. But because I wanted to be honest, both with them and with myself.
Once again, that meant taking stock, this time of what the PHS has achieved.
In the last year, we ran our first ever Reviewers Choice Awards and they were amazing. The response we got from finalists and winners was all the reward we needed for our work. Not that we're supposed to need it (but let's face it, we all do from time to time), it validated us. Got us through a couple of bumps on the road and made us determined to continue. Then not one, not two, but THREE members of our editorial team got book contracts . And to top off the year, we discovered we were on the shortlist for the RNA Industry Awards! So many highs in one year to balance out the lows. And they were HUGE highs!
How could I not want to continue after that?!
So, when answering friends and family and then discussing it with the rest of the team, I realized it wasn't that I didn't think it was worth it or that I didn't want to continue. It's absolutely worth it! It just can't continue as it is, because I'm not willing to burn anyone else, myself included. And that means pausing to do some more stock-taking. It means looking at what has worked and what hasn't and formulating a plan to move forward from there. That's why, at the start of the new year, we'll be scaling back for a little while to come up with a plan which works for everyone and doesn't stress anyone out.
Watch this space!
If I didn't have friends, family and the team to talk to about this stuff, to rally round and offer solutions and make me think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, my life would be so much less full than it is right now. And that's another precious gift. One they've all given me, quite possibly without even thinking about it.
So, during the holidays, have a wee think about all the gifts you've been given which weren't wrapped in pretty paper and ties up in a bow. Then maybe you'll do what I plan to do, and thank those people so they know how much it means to you that they are part of your life. They might need to hear it. I know there were times when I did.
Happy holidays my friends. And may 2020 bring you many. many more highs than lows!
For more information about Trish and her writing, check out trishwylie.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Do you reflect on the year which has passed and the new one headed our way? What were some of your 2019 highlights? Does the fact its the start of a whole new decade in 2020 excite you or fill you with dread? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on this subject on our Social Media using #PreciousGifts