This holiday season I joined a challenge and set a plan to avoid sugar for the holidays. My goal included reading labels for hidden sugars, which meant I failed right out of the gate. It turns out in the US sugar even hides in vitamins, even if you thought you've already checked. It's been said more than once that I should have disregarded that because it wasn't technically a fail, but I don't feel that way. I joined the challenge to pay attention to detail and live more mindfully. I joined it to change.

The only caveat I failed to factor in is that when we decide to make a change, opposition arises.

Be it a principle of the universe, or chance, or our own doing, if we decide to make a positive effort, we will be met with a storm of resistance. There are even books written about it.

What those books never told me is, it's impossible to predict the type of opposition or its strength, or to measure it against the power of your own resolve.

To finish the year without added sugar isn't some weight loss diet craze or bikini body goal, although I think it's fine if people want to do that. To finish the year without sugar to me, is to find out if I can exist in a new way.

It isn't the first time in my life I have tried to cut out sugar. In the past I have had successful seasons, even a year where I didn't indulge in sweets regularly. I've had years where I used healthy alternatives to sugar.

But this year is different. This year is impossible to sum up, impossible to quantify or describe to anyone for a number of reasons I keep to myself. This year has had some of the greatest challenges and difficulties I've ever faced. This year has been full of tremendous growth. This year I ran a ten miler and then two half marathons. This year I joined jiu jitsu, found my deltoids, perfected my handstands (or tried to), and managed to do pushups again. This year I grew past incredible, debilitating pain from an auto accident. This year there were days that waking up felt like crawling out of a grave, and showing up felt impossible, and when I arrived, it felt magical, because I knew other people are hurting and stressed too, and showing up with a little music has soothed souls for centuries.

This year the greatest gift that God has given me is showing me the areas in my life where I have operated and made moves and determined my choices out of fear. Fear of what others think, fear of backlash, fear of negative voices, haters, ridicule, fear of harm, fear of failure, fear of missing out, fear that comes in different names that surprised me but had hidden the same animal.

The most painful realization for me was that all of these fears had held me back had actually helped determine who I was today. If I didn't make choices out of fear, what would be driving me? Where would I be today if I had shared my music sooner? If I hadn't been afraid to join a sport? If I hadn't been afraid of what other people would think?

One of my close friends passed away a few years ago and one thing that astonished me was seeing what pictures people posted of her when she died. Part of me felt a little bit of disbelief, because it wasn't the "her" that I knew, even though of course we can all know someone in different ways. Part of me even felt a little angry, because she was fancy & absolutely glowed and sparkled everywhere she went and was very carefully dressed with lovely makeup every time you ever saw her out and about, and here she was on the internet immortalized in junior high camp photos and some-perhaps embarrassing-videos.

It opened my eyes to a reality that I had not previously understood. We have absolutely no control over anyone else's belief or understanding of who we are inside. We have no control over how any snapshot is viewed, word is perceived, or expression is taken. We can show up with our one hundred precent best, and someone can view it from the wrong angle and believe it was our one thousand percent worst.

And if I was choosing not to share or live my life out of fear of what others thought, what did that mean for me? That I had waited, wasted time, held out, kept to myself the music and the life that others maybe needed or would have enjoyed. Or that others would literally never have even paid attention to. It meant I had kept myself from living well for absolutely worthless reasons.

What does this have to do with sugar and the holidays? I recently heard someone talking about how worried she was about going into the holidays and being pressured into eating and drinking things that weren't healthy, and I knew that feeling. People with good intentions want us to eat and drink with them and have a good time. But in the end, I've had to realize where I've refused to say no to unhealthy food and drinks out of fear, of disappointing others or missing out on connecting with people. Is it really connecting if it's making some of us sick? And if we don't want to indulge, and we don't make our decisions, what is it that's driving our choices? Regardless of whether or not someone else is going to be disappointed in us when we don't indulge, we know we will be disappointed in ourselves if our resolve fails.

This year my deepest goal is to determine what the "new me" will look like when I am confident I'm making my choices out of who I am meant to be, and what my mind and body need, and I'm excited to see what the future holds.