December 17, 2019

Walking in the woods feeds the soul, and 20 other life lessons from this year

There’s no time like year’s end to reflect on what we’ve been through, and this has long been a habit of mine.  But this year, I tried something else: regular monthly reflection that has helped me pause and acknowledge the large and small, difficult and wonderful moments and learnings of my life.  This practice has brought a new level of focus and gratitude to my professional and personal life, and I suspect you will find the same if you try it yourself.

I shared my list from the first half of the year this summer.  Here is more of what I have noticed, celebrated and learned this year:


  • Blocking time on my calendar for creative tasks that don’t fit into 30 minutes is an important way to leverage my work
  • Time to focus at some length on what I am doing and why is a very helpful way to jump-start my thinking. I’ve been reading the book, Deep Work, by Cal Newport, to build my awareness of this concept. I highly recommend the book.
  • One should walk away from a bad (or dark) movie before it ends (I’m looking at you, Tim Burton, and your remake of Dumbo).  
  • Celebrating birthdays with friends is a comforting ritual.


  • Birds like to eat tomatoes.  I have watched a beautiful pair of cardinals eating tomatoes and tomato blossoms off my stressed and hot tomato plants.  And I can’t blame them for their choice. It’s OK to share!
  • A big rainstorm clears the air in a way that nothing else does.
  • Sometimes I have to NOT try to solve another’s problem — it’s my task to just sit for them in their pain.
  • Watching my nieces and nephew launch themselves into the next stages of their lives is a joy. We have a new pilot, a budding attorney and a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band in our midst. What a crew!


  • Walking in the woods is very good for my soul. 
  • There are some amazing women leaders out there. I was delighted to meet the ELAM Class of 2020! 
  • It’s great to relax at home after a long trip away!  Building in recovery time is critical. 


  • Sometimes, even if I do all that I know to do in terms of self-care, my body has a way of humbling me. When that happens, I must learn to ask for help. 
  • Overcommitment by me is not only noticed by others.  They are affected by it (as I am), and they have their own experience of its consequences.
  • A new friend who is a cancer survivor told me something that went like this (paraphrased), “I used to be a ‘when-then kind of girl.’  Now I don’t wait for ‘when’ to do what I was going to do ‘then.’  I get on with life and my choices.”  Words to live by.
  • If you need further inspiration to follow my friend’s advice, consider this stanza from a poem by John O’Donohue: “May I have the courage today to live the life that I would love, to postpone my dream no longer, but do at last what I came here for, and waste my heart on fear no more.”  May it be so. 


  • Cold weather is bracing, refreshing, and, well, COLD.  One must dress accordingly.
  • The oldest friends are the truest and best, and the sweetest for all that they know (and keep to themselves) about us.
  • I am glad to be with family at the holidays.


  • We are all on a learning curve – I have had some key learnings in the last month about power dynamics and managing my own intent vs. impact
  • Joy may feel like a nebulous thing, but it is tangible and real and important.  It cannot be pursued, but must be attended to when it arises.  We can, and should, pursue our ability to create the conditions for joy to arise.
  • It has been a good, and special year in my life.  I am grateful.

I am also so grateful for this community of my friends and colleagues, students and teachers. I hope this year has fed your soul in some way, and that you see many bright spots when you look back over the past 12 months.  I hope that where times have been difficult, you were surrounded by support and care.

What have you learned this year?

I’d be happy to hear some moments from your own experience, if you are willing to share in the comments.  Best wishes to all of you.

Last updated December 19, 2019

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