50 Things that Made my Year (2021)

1. My husband and I got vaccinated. As an HSP who thinks & then thinks some more, I wrote about the decision-making process in Feeling conflicted about getting the vaccine? Here’s How I Decided.

2. The book You are What You Risk was tremendously helpful in helping me decide to get vaccinated. It talked about how, in human languages, there was a time when there was no word for risk because risk was the equivalent of LIFE.

3. It was delightful to see author Amanda Linehan’s 365-day Visual Journaling Challenge inspired by The Empath’s Journey. (Picture above!) “Drawing what is going on inside of us is sometimes a better way to process emotions and energy than verbalizing what is going on inside of us.” I LOVE Amanda’s The INFP’s Guide to Goal-Setting.

4. “Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.” (Art Blakey) One of the most fun & rewarding things I did this year was watching Ken Burns’ 10-part Jazz docuseries. It’s about the history of Jazz as an art form, but because Jazz is deeply intertwined with the history of America, it’s also, in many ways, about the history of America. It appealed to both my love for music and my love of history. Later on, it was such a delight to recognize Take Five, the UTTERLY BEAUTIFUL jazz composition in the animated movie Sing. (Here’s another extremely beautiful take on Take Five by Sachal Studios & Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis is the first Jazz musician to win a Pulitzer prize for music.) We also attended our first live concert since the pandemic started during a little period of respite before the Delta wave hit. It was by Joshua Redman & Zakir Hussain at Stanford Live’s first jazz concert after things shut down.

5. History has things to teach us. Apart from Jazz, which was quite an undertaking, I watched a lot of documentaries, such as the seminal Anita — Speaking Truth to Power about the truly amazing Anita Hill, whose courage and dignity has raised the collective consciousness around sexual harassment. I also watched Berkeley in the Sixties through my library, which talked of, amongst other things, about the Free Speech Movement.

6. Context is one of my top 5 Gallup strengths. This is why looking back at history gives me a sense of relief, of being a small fleck in a larger time. I consciously worked on this strength this year.

7. I had a lot of energy almost physically buzzing through me in the first part of the year (and also later on) & my ears perked up when I heard the lovely Lee Harris talking about electrical energy.

8. If you don’t know where you end and someone else begins, you might just be a woman.

9. Early in the year, family in India was on my mind. There were also India’s Huge Farmer Protests, which many called the largest in the world. (Those farmers in turbans belong to the Sikh religion.)

10. “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” As I thought about my own boundaries as a “brown” woman (how I dislike that word!), I dipped into the Indian YouTube channel The Swaddle (in English & Hindi) for their thoughtful discussions.

11. Succeeding is not the antidote to feeling like a failure. I read this surprisingly insightful piece by Seth Godin after I did a marketing class in an attempt to dissolve my blocks to marketing my work as an artiste.

12. You teach what you need to learn. I wrote this piece on Grounding & the Biggest Mistake Sensitive People Make When Practicing it for Sensitive Evolution’s 2021 Empowerment Guide.

13. Brene Brown & Cheryl Strayed’s Favorite Books, How Birds Help Us Beat the Blues, and More. These podcasts & others like Clear + Vivid (hosted by the incredible 85-year-old Alan Alda) gave me much-needed shots of positivity. In a year in which I felt very burnt out, I really enjoyed enjoy the Abundant Decisions episode of the Better than Happy podcast and Your Insecurities Aren’t What You Think They Are (about Imposter Syndrome) on Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast.

14. When someone wrote a homophobic comment on a Facebook post where I shared an online event I was teaching called “Come Home to Your Sensitive Self” (the word “sensitive” triggered them), I had to remind myself that when you put your work out into the world, you will come across all kinds of energy, both positive & negative. I got the comment removed by Facebook. Later on, I was so happy to have Rick, the blogger behind the site Mystical Bear write this vulnerable & courageous piece for this blog in which he talked about his journey as a sensitive man who also happens to be gay.

15. A writer friend invited me to an artiste’s collective. I joined, and although I haven’t explored them as much as I wanted to, it was a real delight to be asked to be part of this circle.

16. Dreamwork: I taught Dreamwork principles in different events, such as one with Melissa Schwartz at The Shift Network’s Empaths, Sensitives, and Intuitives Summit. Melissa and I talked about the difference between Freudian & Jungian dreamwork, our mutual attraction to the symbol of the hummingbird, and more. I also wrote a related piece about Dreamwork: How Dreams Connect Sensitives to Our Intuition.

17. The Hummingbird Symbol: I had another synchronistic encounter with the hummingbird this year, very similar to the encounters I write about in The Empath’s Journey. Again, I was at a low moment and praying. Again, a hummingbird came. Apart from this “real, live hummingbird,” it was synchronistic to talk about the hummingbird with Melissa & another reader. It felt like the hummingbird was everywhere, such as in this article that talks about the hummingbird being connected to the perceptual level of the soul.

18. In related articles like this on the serpent, it was really synchronistic to come across archetypal images that have come to me in dreams or in synchronistic events. In The Empath’s Journey, I talk about visiting the old Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico and being suddenly surrounded by images of snakes that had also been coming to me in dreams.

19. Rays of Sunshine: I watched The Dodo for some heart-melting animal videos. This one has a guy obsessed with getting a hummingbird to land on him. I also enjoyed the always-inspiring Martha Beck’s blog posts. My husband and I watched the old Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I grew up reading the Poirot books, and David Suchet is the only actor who can play him, as far as I am concerned. My husband and I really enjoyed this Food + Culture YouTube channel with videos like Trying 5 Comfort Foods from 5 Countries.

20. Repetitive dreams are trying to tell us something. In the first half of the year, I had dream upon dream where I was walking away from the ocean. I stared longingly at it as I got distracted or made shallow conversations. It was when I recommitted to going even deeper with dreamwork in the latter half of the year that this dream series disappeared.

21. Some of the dreamwork books I read/dipped into included books by depth psychologists that focused specifically on animals: Neil Russack’s Animal Guides in Life, Myth and Dreams and Marie-Louise von Franz’s The Cat. This is a great article on Instinct as Guide: Animals in Women’s Dreams.

22. I countered The Joylessness of Pandemic Cooking by reading the beautiful book Kitchen Creativity. What could be better than a cooking book that also talks about deep creativity & Jungian depth psychology?

23. I enjoyed attending the first-ever seminar for high sensation-seeking sensitives, hosted by Dr. Tracy Cooper. As someone who is BOTH a Highly Sensitive Person & a High Sensation Seeker, this was so cool. For much of my life, I have felt as if there were two very different people inside me — the sensitive part of me that is very cautious, that pushes the brakes and the variety-loving part that gets bored really easily.

24. I took part in a research study on Creativity. This was part of practicing my intention of supporting other artistes and independent creators.

25. I am a movie buff! I watched the beautiful love story Sir on Netflix (in Hindi, subtitles available), which premiered at Cannes & A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies through my local library.

26. I love animal tarot cards. For me, tarot is not really something that predicts the future. Its images spark my own intuition & bring up synchronicities. I discovered the lovely Dr. Steven Farmer & the beautiful Scott Alexander King’s Animal Dreaming work this year.

27. A paper notebook is like a walled garden.

28. This year, I discovered that I LOVE Mozart after reading and hearing 5 Minutes that Will Make You Love Mozart. One of my favorites is Piano Concerto №20. So, so beautiful! Hear Mozart on YouTube.

29. I felt my battery drain again and again this year. Again and again, I had to remind myself that I am built for depth, not speed.

30. As a highly sensitive creative, I was FASCINATED with this article on the difference between Thoreau & Van Gogh’s creative lives. I have always been fascinated with both of them.

31. Reading other people’s experiences with the pandemic at the Pandemic Journaling Project gave me perspective.

32. I came up against a lot of resistance as I worked on my book for sensitive, intuitive writers. The voices of perfectionism seemed to have grown larger in my head. I am still working on the book, and I dipped into my old copy of the beloved book Women Who Run with the Wolves. It reminded me that frozen feelings and frozen creativity are related.

33. As highly sensitive people, we are similar yet different.

34. Among the events and interviews I did, I really enjoyed this podcast with Naomi Harrington. We talked about many things, including my experiences as a sensitive child.

35. I experimented with finding joy through small, tangible things. This led me to the Joy Generator app & to thinking about how “Sometimes, the most beautiful experience with a flower is brief.”

36. A reader got in touch with me about an issue I have heard about from different people over the last few years: Sensitive kids being misdiagnosed as having ADHD. But if you DO know someone with ADHD, Dr Gabor Mate’s book Scattered Minds might be helpful. It makes the compelling case that ADHD is not genetically based, but linked to childhood trauma.

37. I was on Yoga Journal’s website talking about Essential energetic boundaries for sensitives.

38. Cutting Back on Social Media: Social Media is definitely a grey zone for me. On the one hand, the magpie in me looks at it as a treasure trove of information. But reading articles like Political parties told Facebook its news feed pushed them into more extreme positions makes me feel like a hypocrite for feeding into the corporate machinery. There’s a huge push & pull. This year, I worked through some of this by using social media a lot more consciously. I deleted all social media apps from my phone, and I tried to use it as a tool. I felt a lot more peace.

39. Ideas from two books on Perfectionism.

40. Learning about the vagus nerve through Discover Your Vagus Nerve and Dr. Natasha Fallahi of The Sensitive Doctor.

41. Learning Spanish on Duolingo. Spanish is everywhere here in California. On a drive, it felt like a little delight to spot “escuela” and understand that it meant a school. Or think about how the Spanish word for money (dinero) is related to the currency Dinar. Learning new things makes the high-sensation seeking part of me happy.

42. I did collage & collected trivia as an artiste’s date. I took out my old Smithsonian magazines and cut out the little trivia questions they have.

43. An Online Class called Introduction to Sufi Whirling by Farima Berenji. It’s something I have been meaning to try for years! I also attended events with the beloved Julia Cameron talking about her book The Listening Path & Neale Donald Walsch.

44. Finding Free Talks: I attended talks at my local library, such as one by Rick McIntyre, the first Wolf expert at Yellowstone National Park who told touching stories about the wolves there. I cried, and so did some other people.

45. I kept a tiny journal called The Little Book of Meaning. I did this imperfectly & missed lots of days. But at the end of the year, it felt amazing to have a written record of meaningful and serendipitous things that happened during the year.

46. I kept an imperfect Dream Journal.

47. At the year-end, I put a lot of effort into Diwali, the Indian festival of lights (buying candles, cleaning). The highlight, though, turned out to be watching YouTube videos of other people prepping for Diwali. Looking forward to something felt like the best part of happiness.

48. In the last few months of the year, I did a huge decluttering. I am pretty considered about what I buy, but things had built up over a decade of homemaking, including the pandemic period. I used ideas from Dana K. White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life. Although I thoroughly enjoy watching Marie Kondo-style shows, I am also a very sentimental person. If I had to think about what sparked joy and what didn’t, I would never throw anything out. Everything feels meaningful to me.

49. Thinking about The Silent To-Do List.

50. Wrapping up the year with a wonderful hot chocolate from a local store.

It felt hard to make this list this year, but doing it actually gave me a positive lift! Here are 50 things that made my 2020.

If you liked this list, you’ll enjoy my newsletter The Highly Sensitive Creative in which I collect & curate links & helpful resources for sensitives. Sign up for it HERE.

This post first appeared on Ritu’s website Walking through Transitions.




Author of The Empath’s Journey. Silver Medal Awardee at the Rex Awards, co-presented by the United Nations. Writing Coach. www.walkingthroughtransitions.com

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Ritu Kaushal

Ritu Kaushal

Author of The Empath’s Journey. Silver Medal Awardee at the Rex Awards, co-presented by the United Nations. Writing Coach. www.walkingthroughtransitions.com

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