My friend Amanda recently shared with me that she completed a little journaling exercise to help her discover her "word of the year". Even though my gut reaction was **cheesy!** I was curious and asked her to send me the link to the free program she recommended. And thus I embarked. Turns out, it was exactly what I needed - some intentional time during the day to look inward and figure out - what is it I want from this upcoming year of my life?
As we all know, things have a way of not going as planned. I came to terms with that years ago when my young person idea of "what life wickets need to happen and when" just blew away in the wind like a fluffy dandelion. I'm glad I learned that when I did. Plans are just ideas. I'm also not a fan of new year's resolutions. They usually come wrapped in a pretty package of restriction and unrealistic expectations that I almost 100% of the time fail by the time January ends. And, if by some miracle I actually make it through something like "dry January" (honestly, why bother? I mean, I'm still in the Navy right?) when I go to have a nice glass of wine with my dinner on 1 February I just feel like a fucking failure. That's what you'd call NOT PRODUCTIVE. So this exercise was not a way to plan my year, or create a resolution that I would just chuck out the window in two weeks. I looked at it as more of a way to figure out something intangible - how I want this year to feel.
Now, those of you that know me may be thinking "whoa what is all this woo coming at me from that brain of yours???" Maybe it is woo. That's cool. Maybe I need a little more woo? Who knows. I do know that it was the first time I've been able to really frame my thoughts and actions in a POSITIVE way on one single word, and for me that was very powerful. An unexpected result of working through the process to find my word for 2021, I was able to wrap 2020 up into one word as well (totally on a roll now, you see). And I feel like before I can fully leap into 2021, I gotta put 2020 to rest.
The word that sums up my 2020 perfectly is ADRIFT. Everything was everywhere. My thoughts, my home, my life. I know I'm not the only one. I lost my Dad suddenly in November of 2019. I didn't have him to lean on during the most upside-down year of my life. In hindsight (it's 20/20 right?...seriously go away already, throw out your pennies from 2020, they are all bad!) I think his death may have been my unmooring. What to do without him? Who to talk to when shit really starts hitting the fan? Who to tell you to put your head down and get through it? Of course I am so lucky to have my steadfast husband and my small circle of family-friends, but man, not having Dad around to bounce ideas off of, or discuss a good book was a real kick to the gut. I'm not unique in experiencing deep grief. It'll find us all eventually. But that's another topic, and I'm not sure I'll talk about here. Probably not.
So his death kind of kicked off a year of change. And when too much change happens all at once, it feels like chaos. It's hard to focus on what to put your energy on, especially when the world is telling you that you need to care about one thing or the other, which I personally cannot stand. Don't tell me how to think, how to act, how to respond. I need to sit and learn and contemplate before I can even state where I stand on something. I'm not just going to follow the crowd. It was hard to see clearly last year. Hard to sit with my thoughts because I wasn't even sure of what I was thinking and feeling. Like I said, everything everywhere, just bouncing around in my head. I'm still unsure about a lot of it. Unsure in the sense that I am open to new information. If we can't be open to new information, how will we ever really learn? I don't know, folks. All I do know is that I'm wary of those that are so damn sure of themselves, regardless of topic. Anyway, I digress. See what I mean about adrift? Woof. I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe 2020 taught me how to co-exist peacefully with uncertainty - something that I am familiar with having been in the military for almost 20 years, but definitely didn't do successfully all (read: a lot of) the time last year. I ended some bad friendships. I pissed off some people. I learned from it, and tried to glean some good lessons from the tumult in my own life, and that in the world at large. I hope (and I believe) I became stronger. The only way out is through.
Which leads to this year's word: RESTORE. I knew this was going to be my word on Day 3 of 5 of the exercise. As soon as I wrote it down, that was it. It makes me feel relief, inspiration, and calm. It feels like a bear hug from my Dad and a spark under my ass all at the same time. The phrase that keeps popping into my head is "do you want to restore this device to its factory settings?" Yes, yes I do. Factory settings being the things that brought me joy when I was a kid, when I was so wonderfully innocent of the impressions and expectations of society. Drawing, writing, decorating, curating. I used to walk through the neighborhood with a butterfly net, and when I found one, made it a "house" from a giant pickle jar with freshly picked marigolds arranged inside and holes I poked in the lid with a screwdriver so it could get fresh air. I learned quickly that the poor things wouldn't survive in a jar with dead flowers (sorry guys), but the fascination was still there. There will be much more of that - chasing my fascinations (and not feeling guilty about it) - this upcoming year. And although, as an adult, I don't have the luxury of being immune to the responsibilities I now have, or shit the world can throw at me, but I sure can reframe those things.
Feeling pressure (100% self-induced) to be somewhere else, do be doing something more productive or useful?: RESTORE YOUR CALM.
When I'm frustrated by how slow yoga class is going and what am I even getting out of this anyway?: RESTORE YOUR PATIENCE.
When I'm feeling lazy and I don't want to work out, or conversely, when I'm feeling tired and just want to sleep?: RESTORE YOUR BODY.
Feeling guilty for sitting all morning/afternoon/evening drawing/coloring/playing music/reading, instead of working out/tending to something on my to-do list (again, the "be more productive" demon): RESTORE YOUR SPIRIT
I'm sure there are several of these phrases that I could generate right now, and there will be others that crop up during the year. But being as it's only 12 days into the new year, I'm feeling pretty good about what I have so far. I feel guilty a lot for not being a certain way or not doing a certain thing. Seems like a stupid thing to say as a 41-year-old, but it's a real thing for me. But guilt is useless in this case. It serves no purpose other than to weigh down the mind. So I'm trying to let all that go - the perceived pressure, the self-generated guilt, the nagging thought that somehow I'm fucking it up. It's taking energy from what my purpose is here. Not sure what that is yet, and maybe I'll never know. But I know deep down that I need to restore and nurture that boundless childhood curiosity and creativity into my daily life. Just the thought of it gets me excited and optimistic. It feels like a breath of fresh air.
From this vantage point, 2021 is going to be another year of huge change. I'm retiring from the Navy very soon, and moving to Texas to finally be with Scott and kiss our long-distance days goodbye. We are building a home that we've spent countless hours imagining and talking about. I will begin a life without as much externally enforced structure. This is super thrilling and also a bit daunting. I'm sure it'll take me a hot minute to figure it out. Piper is getting older, and has to get a toe removed for what looks to be a malignant sarcoma. He might be just fine after the toe is gone (15 is plenty of toes), or he might not. The uncertainty is always there. But this will be the year of the Restoration of my Self. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Until next time,