Reflecting and Planning: A Writing Exercise by Sarah Frank, LMFT

As a new year begins I try to look back at what I have gained from the past year as well as ahead to what I hope to cultivate in this one. I don’t think I differ greatly from anyone else when recounting both positive experiences and difficult ones in 2016. In recovery we learn to find gratitude each day for people in our lives, circumstances, near misses, hardships that have strengthened us, and for the very gift of having found our way to recovery.
Based on a marvelous idea from a family member I decided to follow suit and make a list of 12 things that stood out to me from the past year that I am grateful for. As I sat down and put pen to paper, my first thoughts, in all honesty, went to some rather difficult experiences. But then I went deeper and asked myself what silver lining could be found therein. The words began to flow and I found I had finished my list in minutes. Most of the experiences I wrote down were positive aspects I came to appreciate from initially painful, disappointing, even anxiety-provoking events and circumstances. I noticed themes of resilience (both mine and others’), inner strength, support from family and friends, and positive outcomes I could not have imagined happening a year ago; experience, strength, and hope.
The second part of this idea is to write down an occurrence I am grateful for on a weekly basis for all of this year, and then go back over them at the end of the year. Sure I might miss a week here or there, but overall what I stand to gain is a more mindful experience of what I want to be doing each day, each week, each moment. To add to this exercise I am keeping a list of goals and intentions to use as a guide for this year. I know from experience that life cannot be harnessed fully, no matter how carefully we plan, but that we can also receive the most wonderful, meaningful gifts from the most unexpected things.

Elana Clark-Faler
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