Did anyone’s year go as planned? Despite how frustrated, exhausted, and generally over it I’ve felt lately, at least I know that I’m not alone in those feelings. So many of the plans I made at the beginning of the year just didn’t come to fruition.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for: a roof over my head, a great family, two very cute cats, fulfilling creative projects and work. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a little disappointed that things didn’t turn out how I’d imagined them.

Acknowledge the feeling

Before you can move past those feelings, take a moment to name them and acknowledge them. Are you angry, disappointed, grieving, frustrated, and/or exhausted? Whatever that feeling is, name it for yourself.

When we name the feelings, we are taking the first step toward acknowledging what is at the heart of the conundrum we’re in: our humanity. We can’t control or plan or perfect our way into things going exactly as we want them to—mostly because we’re people, not robots.

So name what’s going on, with compassion and tenderness.

Recognize what was out of your control

And speaking of not being a robot, recognize all the things you couldn’t have predicted or accounted for, even if you’d tried. Between COVID restrictions and the fact that most things in life are out of our control to a certain extent,

This lack of control can feel scary—or it can open us up to grace for ourselves. Ultimately, the only thing we have control over is our efforts. The outcome, really, is never something we can completely count on. When we understand this, we can cut ourselves some slack and recognize that what matters is that we keep showing up for what matters most to us.

Forgive yourself

We live in a society that equates our productivity, accomplishments, and ability to cross things off our bucket list as markers of our worth. So while you can know intellectually that some of those plans were out of your control, not making them happen can still feel like failure.

Didn’t write a book/raft the Grand Canyon/get a big promotion this year? Maybe you were really busy just surviving. Forgive yourself for your imperfections or shortcomings in a moment (or several years, at this point) when things are even more extraordinarily unpredictable than usual.

None of this is your “fault” obviously, but it might feel like you should have risen above anyway. Cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself for (once again) being a person instead of an automaton.

Celebrate the unexpected

Spend some time recalling the sweet, unexpected, unplanned moments that made the year memorable. While my year didn’t go as planned, it wasn’t the goals I accomplished (or didn’t) that make up my year, as I’ll remember it.

For me, it’s getting back into one of my favorite childhood hobbies (sewing); singing some of my favorite songs in the car with my kid; meeting my dear friends’ new baby; and decluttering my house. None of that sounds glamorous. None of it was planned.

And yet, in a time when everything is upside down, it’s important to hold onto those unexpected joys for dear life.

Use this as information

When I realized that “learn more Spanish” had been on my New Years Resolutions list for five years and that I hadn’t made any progress, I felt guilty. When I realized that I was allowed to simply not put that on my resolutions list again, I felt liberated.

Whatever this year brought, whether it aligned with your plans or not, use that information. What really matters to you in this season of your life? What feels good and right? What feels important and necessary?

How did you spend your year? Notice what you want more of and less of, and use that information as a way to move forward into 2022. This is how we live lives that might still be unpredictable, but are ours entirely.

Christy Tending is an activist, educator, and writer. She teaches online courses about sustainable self-care to students all over the world, and hosts the podcast Tending Your Life. She lives on occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland, CA) with her family. You can learn more about her work at www.christytending.com.

Image courtesy of Gustavo Fring.