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A Year of Beginnings

I’ve been sitting on this post for a long while and haven’t known how to begin. This has been my longest break in writing for the journal and I’ve got some shame around how absent I’ve been in this space. Every time I thought about writing you this letter I just couldn’t bring myself to open in the way that I need to be open when I write. Yesterday, I sat and stared at the computer screen for two hours cobbling together fragments of experiences and ideas to share with you but it wasn’t adding up, it felt off.

Thankfully, I received a newsletter from an old friend that summed up this year in a way that touched me deeply. Her letter wasn’t perfectly presented with bold headlines of all of her accomplishments. She wasn’t dismantling bite-size pieces of info that could be skimmed over in a few minutes while waiting for the traffic light to change. She got messy, raw, and vulnerable and it cracked me open in a way that I didn’t even realize how desperately I needed to be until I collapsed on my bed in a puddle of tears and relief.

The thing is, I’ve been afraid. And the fear wants me to stay quiet and small. It wants me to believe that if I share what difficult terrain I’ve been navigating this year (and am still wading through) you will think less of me. It wants me to subscribe to the idea that if I can’t tie up 2017 in a nice bow at the end of this journal post than I am much more of a mess than I realize. That I should quit now. Give up. Shut down.

2017, I owe you and myself way more than the sum of my fears, so I’m going to keep writing you this letter, sharing my experiences and feelings in the hopes that it brings affirmation and recognition to another fellow traveler. I see you. I’ve been there. I am here for you.

I’ll be super transparent with you, 2017, you have been one hell of a challenging year for me. You’ve brought me to my knees more times than I can count and in a the most visceral ways possible attempted to annihilate (with great success in many areas) what was unnecessary in my life including people, things, belief systems, behavior patterns, and places. 2017, you were a year of clearing the decks. If it didn’t serve my highest good it was gone. Sometimes I let things go with ease and other times I held on until the bitter end. There is that saying, let go or be dragged, and well, 2017, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I let you drag me around a great deal this year and god did it wear me out.

In fact, my grip was so tight that when I finally surrendered to the cries of my body I ended up in bed for two months over the summer thinking I had adrenal exhaustion (I didn’t, more on that in an upcoming journal post). The truth is 2017, which we both know, is that you were the catalyst for much of my core spiritual work this year. And as you catapulted me into new depths of release, I was initiated into the next level of growth.

2017, you were a year of initiations. One after the next. You showed me that many of my internal programs we’re seriously outdated and I needed a major overhaul when it came to grounding, self care, setting boundaries, intimacy, communication, and compassion. Interestingly, the word initiate comes from the Latin word initium, which translates as beginnings.

2017, you were a year of beginnings.

As we cleared the decks, retiring antiquated ways of operating the in world we worked slowly, making sure that our foundation was solid enough to rebuild on. This took some time and happened in phases. There was much spiritual weeding to tend to and may of the tap roots were way down deep. Several of them were pretty painful to remove, but once they were out in the open they were much easier to name, investigate, and see for what they really were. It’s funny how attached we can become to those tap roots we’ve had since childhood. Even though they cause us pain and we don’t want them anymore, there is this sense of loss and grief as we make more space for ourselves. Who will we be without those giant fears or beliefs that keep us trapped in a time where we had such few choices?

As we pulled those taproots out and tilled the soil, we created space for even more beginnings.

And in that space is where I learned to take better care of myself through slowing down, resting and reformulating my life in a way that felt simultaneously frightening and exciting.

Being on the run for decades, in other words, being in large part driven by the fear of not enough and hustling for my worth made even the idea of slowing down feel arduous. This is why I avoided it at all costs, even at the cost of my health. I knew that if I made space for slowness I would have to confront the unsustainable conditions I created in my life as a way to keep myself safe, i.e. not facing the fact that my body would no longer thrive in the fast lane. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to begin and I felt like an epic failure. I looked around to friends and colleagues who were living in different, more grounded ways and I couldn’t find any examples. I felt like there must be something deeply wrong with me being the one who needed to do a complete overhaul of my life. It was isolating. I was lonely. So I kept pushing myself, organizing my life in such a way that I could show up for clients, work, and my partner, just holding myself together enough to get by. Barely.

Gratefully 2017, you left me no choice in continuing down that path. There was no room for the frequent debates I was having with myself about going on vacation, working less, comparing myself to others, or fleeing the country. And there was no more room to run. I came screeching toward the end of the track and the only option left was to crash and burn. And I did. Hard.

Once I came to and began to heed the calls of my body giving it the nourishment, tenderness, and restoration it had been begging for, eventually we met up in this newfound space. At long last I heard my inner voice and was resourced enough to listen to her. Each morning I woke up more exhausted than the day before, yet I somehow had enough energy to focus on the most important jobs at hand: clear the deck, weed, till the soil, rest, and repeat.

It felt a bit like the movie Groundhog Day where each day was like the day before. I ate, I breathed, I talked to the Redwoods, I napped, I cried, I felt all of the things and I resisted help until once again, I had no choice. I surrendered (again) and in the midst of that beginning, of learning how to live in a new way, a way that scared me and a way that I knew was the key to my healing, you were able to help me plant one tiny seed of hope in our lush, fertile, and well tilled soil.

And everyday since I have chosen, with your support and encouragement to acknowledge that tiny seed, to tend to it and to nourish it. As I learned to let go with less of a death grip I enjoyed longer and more frequent periods of ease in my body, heart, and psyche. I’ve had countless moments of pure, clear, contentment and for this retired runner whose mind is often in rapid fire mode, this settling has become such an asset to me. This settling, this landing fully in my body has also become a pillar that I am learning to trust, lean into, and dare I say, the new compass of my heart.

2017, you taught me that it is possible to settle and land in my body and within that lives a desire to soften into the present moment. When I am present and soft I am much more receptive and able to take in all of the joy and expansion that you brought to me this year as well. Clearing the decks and rebuilding my foundation set the tone for countless opportunities to choose what I really wanted this year. I said some major YESES to committing to my dreamboat partner, overhauling my self care practices, radically setting boundaries in business, and making even more room for my creativity to come back to life.

And the yeses keep coming.
And this is still, just the beginning.

As I sit here writing you this letter I sense just how much mystery remains in these beginnings. While most of this year that elusiveness brought with it a hefty amount of discomfort, my practice today, looking ahead, is to settle into the mystery and soften into the unknown. Thank you 2017 for teaching me that it’s essential to slow down, that landing can be gentle, that rest is a vital part of thriving, and that the wisdom of my body will never lead me astray.

Here’s to the next beginning.

All my heart. x


Photo: Marielle Chua


  • Jennifer

    Every word written was like the pen in my hand expressing exactly the way I have felt over this past year, however, I couldn’t articulate it! Thank you, absolutely beautiful!

    • ashley

      Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know Jennifer, I’m glad to know we are in this together! Wishing you an abundant and integrative 2018! xo

  • hope

    ashley – i sit here reading your letter nodding my head over and over…YES! Your journey of clearing the decks and slowing down to heal, notice, and settle into your body is the same journey I am trying to navigate for myself. I’ve always lived my life in the fast lane, doing, moving, making, helping others, doing, and more moving…always moving. I agree, I think it’s fear of slowing down…I don’t know how, what will my life look like, what will I amount to if I am not DOING? I want nothing more than to find peace, joy, and healing in the slower more intentional life. I am building in new self-care practices and designing new rhythms for my day that include breathing, resting, eating, yoga, and being with my sweetheart husband…but there are days that I am still doing, moving fast and getting things done…and then I feel exhausted and as thought I failed my goal to SLOW.

    (To give you some context…I am also dealing with my share of health question-marks….I have no sense of a regular cycle and have struggled with adrenal/pituitary/thyroid that are manifesting as infertility in a big way. I want nothing more to support, heal, and love my body, but it’s clear that I need help to get there. I just don’t know who or how to find that. The search continues!)

    I would love to learn more about your journey…would you be willing to serve as a sort of mentor and/or coach me in some of your techniques? I welcome any sort of partnership, guide, wisdom as I navigate this path.

    All my love & a big ‘cheers’ a beautiful 2018!!

    • ashley

      Hi Hope! It’s wonderful to hear from you. I completely relate to what your experiences have been on all levels. I would be honored to support you this year and will shoot you an email tomorrow! Here’s to continuing to practice slower living as a means to truly thriving this coming year. More soon! xo

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