I have this thing about life lessons. I think about them all the time! You may have noticed that theme throughout this blog. Earlier this year, I reflected on the lessons I learned on the back of a motorcycle. Last year, I discussed the lessons learned as an empath.
This being human thing is difficult. I need reminders all the time of the most important lessons. I suspect others can relate. Helen Keller said, “So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.” That feels about right.
As we wrap up a challenging 2023, a year I spent healing one of my deepest wounds, I am even more committed to sharing what I have learned in support of others. So, following are this year’s top lessons. Please add your own lessons in the comments section that follows.
1 – Abundance is More Than Money
Ever since the pandemic, my income streams have been a mere trickle. I don’t mind sharing that being an author, while fulfilling in many other ways, does not easily pay the bills. This has really challenged my money fears — fears that have existed since I was a young girl, stashing away my babysitting earnings instead of spending them on fun.
This year, I was offered a different perspective. Even if I don’t have the same cash flow as a steady salary, I am still provided for in ways that money never could.
My abundance comes from an endless supply of love from my partner, friends, family, and furbabies. It is ever-present through the beauty of sunsets in my backyard. It comes through thoughtful gifts from friends, blooming flowers, and meals prepared for me. I always have enough! I remind myself of that daily through a gratitude journal.
More importantly, we have all heard the phrase, “Health is wealth.” This concept has never been lost on me, as someone who has dealt with chronic health issues for decades. The improvements that have occurred in my health since leaving the narcissistic relationships in my life have felt nothing short of miraculous.
Add to that a few health scares at the beginning of 2023, some challenging health tests, and a minor surgery, and this year really drove home the reality of how valuable health is. I am reminded yet again that if it costs you your peace, it costs too much. I end this year feeling strong and content, which is priceless!
2 – Being Different is a Super Power
When I started online dating following my divorce, I had a fantastic first date with a man who had been love-bombing me. Throughout the dinner date, he gushed over how amazing and beautiful I was. He was charming and funny. I was impressed. That is, until he walked me to my car and dropped a bombshell. “I really like you. You’re quirky.”
As I drove away, I found myself muttering, “Quirky? Who is he calling quirky? How dare he?!” I can laugh about that now, six years later, accepting that I am most definitely “quirky.”
In fact, my partner of nearly five years called me that recently in admiration. I could finally see it as the compliment it was meant to be. He has always marveled at how different I am from other people in the best possible ways. He has made it clear to me that my sensitivities, empathy, honesty, intellect, and unique perspective are what made him fall in love with me.
Through his support, I can embrace my differences and let my freak flag fly. It is the most freedom I have ever experienced in my life. It feels glorious!
In my coaching work, I truly want to support such freedom in anyone who is sensitive or feeling disempowered. I realize now that over the many years of being married to a man who criticized me for my best traits, my light grew dim, making it impossible to truly live my life purpose.
We are all meant to shine in our own unique ways! Never forget that it is your differences that give you your power. Anyone telling you otherwise is likely intimidated and trying to trap you in fear and self-doubt.
3 – Creativity Heals
When I was in my thirties, even though I had been successfully working as a writer for many years, I didn’t consider myself to be creative. It is weird for me to think of that now, because as I reflect on my life, I can see I was ALWAYS creative.
As a Leo sun, I was born with a natural passion and spark. I always had the drive to do things differently. I loved to accessorize. I surrounded myself with bold colors. I used things in unique ways. And, in terms of my writing, I could often come up with clever headlines or a different angle to a story. However, because I was surrounded by narcissistic people who seemed hell-bent on diminishing my creativity, I couldn’t recognize the natural spark within me.
Flash forward to the present day, and I can see now that EVERYONE is creative in their own way. And tapping into that natural creativity is nurturing and healing. There is no better way to stoke your internal fire than to create something. ANYTHING!
Ever since the pandemic, I have started to paint recycled glass bottles and jars and then fill them with dried flowers that my partner gave me or that I grew in my garden. Those natural art forms bring so much positive, loving energy into my home.
It is important, though, to recognize that traditional creative “art forms” like painting, drawing, writing, or sculpting are not the only ways to harness your creativity. As I shared in my new course, “Free From Narcissists:”
Your form of art can be anything: baking bread, writing a personal essay, playing a new song, painting a picture, coloring a mandala, knitting a scarf, creating a playlist, or capturing a beautiful sky with your cell phone camera…the most important thing is that you are enjoying the process.
Our creative expression is unique. When you uncover your personal creative passions, that is when your body, mind, and spirit align.
4 – Resting is Productive
My dad was the hardest working person I ever met. He would work long days, barely taking any time off. Even his downtime was always busy, busy, busy. On the rare day off, he’d work all day in the yard. As soon as he sat down in his recliner for a moment of relaxation, he would fall sound asleep.
Although he never told me I needed to work as hard as he did, the message sent inadvertently by his actions was received loud and clear. Both my sister and I admit that we have trouble relaxing.
When I started studying astrology seven years ago, learning about Capricorn energy made me finally breathe a sigh of relief. My dad was a Capricorn sun, the archetype of the worker bee. It is the natural sign of the “father,” which possesses an energy of protection and oversight.
I turns out he couldn’t fight his workaholic tendencies even if he tried. Like my Leo creativity, his Capricorn drive had been present since birth. He enjoyed being busy, as it was part of his life purpose.
Understanding this and my own natal astrology has given me great peace. It has taught me that, given my predominance of Cancer energy, which is nurturing and sensitive, I must focus on my own healing and rest if I am going to be able to support others. It has also reminded me that we are all allowed to rest without guilt.
Given the collective traumas of the past three years, resting has been unavoidable. When I try to push myself, I crash. It is as if the Universe has put me into a “time-out.” I know it is not a punishment but rather a gift that I am meant to embrace and share with others. So, if any of this resonates, please give yourself the grace to honor whatever your body is calling for during these challenging energies.
5 – Everything is Energy
On that very note, this brings me to my next lesson, one that I have had to learn and relearn over and over again. You might remember that I have discussed it before here, and here, and also here.The power of energy can never be overlooked.
As such, it was a major theme in Free From Narcissists: A 10-Step Program to Reclaim Your Joy. Because, at its core, narcissistic abuse is about an energy exchange. Narcissists are the ultimate energy vampires. They take. Their victims give. It becomes a magnetic connection.
Naturally, that is a bit of an oversimplification of a dynamic that is filled with subtleties and manipulation. Regardless, awareness is the first step in breaking the energetic bonds.
Furthermore, when you fully honor and embrace the notion that your health and well-being are dependent on how you feel energetically, everything changes. You start protecting your energy. You become mindful of how other people and specific situations impact your energy. And you get much better at sensing your intuition, which is mostly a shift in your energy field alerting you to important information.
Maintaining awareness as to where you are directing your energy is one of the most helpful tools in healing. As you end this year, the following questions could be helpful in learning this lesson:
- How is your energy?
- Who takes from you more than they give?
- What lights you up? What drains you?
- How can you bring more joy into 2024?
6 – Self-Reflection is Crucial for Growth
Answering the previous questions prepares you for this year’s final lesson. Many of us breeze through life, keeping ourselves so busy that we barely stop to look back on what is happening around us energetically and emotionally.
Yet, it is the act of reflection and introspection that helps us evolve. Like the concept of pulling back on an arrow in order for it to spring forward, taking time to look back on our patterns is what enables us to heal and release them.
That is why there is a strong journaling component to the Free From Narcissists course. It is also why Step 6 of the program is to “Uncover Your Lessons.” When I finally stopped to question why I had been attracting narcissists, why I struggled so much with chronic fatigue, and even why I had money fears, I could see that there were a multitude of subconscious beliefs that were lying to me. Those negative messages were telling me I was weird (“quirky”), powerless, unlovable, and simply not good enough.
Recognizing that my mind had been infected by the harsh criticisms of the narcissists I’d encountered throughout life created a powerful shift in my awareness. After all, we can’t fix what we don’t see. And we can’t heal it if we don’t feel it.
Please take some time, as this wild year comes to an end, to reflect on the patterns in your life that might need support. Don’t get too hung up on fixing them just yet. Seeing them is the crucial first step.
And, PLEASE, in all this reflecting, notice all the good you have accomplished in the world this year. Here are some additional thoughts to reflect on:
- What did you learn about yourself this year?
- What are you most proud of? (Surviving is enough, but I know there are things you have accomplished. List them ALL, even the tiniest wins.)
- Who did you connect with (IRL or online)? Who or what has brightened your world?
- When did you have the most fun?
- What was your best laugh?
- What were your most magical moments?
If you are a visual person like me, your answers can come as images. Here are mine:
Most Fun – there are way too many moments, but since the furgirls are always bringing me joy they had to be included.
Best Laugh – this silly birthday card from my partner. In the words of Homer Simpson, “It’s funny cuz it’s true.”
Most Magical – that night when the purple sky matched the hydrangea. MIND. BLOWN. 🤯
I hope you have a healthy, happy 2024 filled with love and joy!
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Free From Narcissists and Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit. Sign up for Michelle’s FREE Gifts – The Natural Healing Toolkit and 33 Ways to Add More Joy to Your Life.