Listen, I love a good new year. I love a new calendar, new lists, new outlooks, and temporal cycles. I love resolutions, goals, and second chances. There is so much hope in a new year being born. This year, I feel there less baggage attached to my resolutions, less fear. I've grown accustomed to the mystery and the uncertainty. Mystery is my friend.
And that said, I'm going to immediately contradict myself in outlining four things that I feel fairly certain about it. They are four things that have helped me to exist as a human person, and I carry them with me into 2018. In addition, I will list for all to see my resolutions for 2018. Hopefully, in a year, I will have some wisdom to speak about them. Okay, here they are, my life lessons from 2017:
1. Make My Bed Everyday
I used to be a nonbeliever in the bed making ritual. It seemed like a blind faith chore that only non-questioning, type-A hyper-tidy, do-gooders did. So, for years and years, I never made my bed--not even in college. (Sorry roommates for enduring my mess). Then, I heard a wise woman on a podcast tell me to make my bed. She told me to believe in it. So, I tried it out and have not looked back. I am a faithful servant now. I full on drank the Kool-Aid. Here's the thing. I could have a day full of doubts and fear, of poor decisions, of dirty dishes and dust-bunnies, of a vegetable-less dinner, and I still made my bed. I still did one thing that an adult does, and no matter what my actions, I made my bed and will lie in at night for eight glorious hours of rejuvenation. (More on the eight hours later). Your made bed is a second chance---everyday. It's also the little things that add up and make bigger things easier. Making my bed makes it easier to eat more vegetables, or something like that.
2. Make Breakfast For The Family
"What? Is this 1950? Doesn't Anna have a degree in Women's Studies?" Here me out. This past year, I found myself at home in the mornings and drowning in the school time morning routine, which many of you may recognize as an hour of pure chaos and torture full of nagging children to brush teeth, searching for lost shoes, grumbling about making lunches, and remembering to do last minute homework. I realized that my very responsible Abraham was waking up to a cold and dark kitchen as he made himself his lunch, often his sister's lunch, and breakfast. I thought to myself, "What the hell are you doing?" By this time, Pat had taken over the majority of dinner preparations, but I could take care of breakfast. I wondered what would happen if Abe walked down to a warmly lit kitchen that smelled like homemade scones, hot oatmeal, or sauteed potatoes. What if instead of feeling anxious for the day, we met each other around the kitchen island to eat a warm meal, help each other make lunches, and talked through what was on our minds? People often talk about the importance of family dinners, but I have to plug the family breakfasts. Since I have the luxury of being at home in the mornings, it is my responsibility to give my kids a positive morning that makes them feel safe, less anxious, and well fed. Soon Abe would ask before bed, "What's for breakfast?" and I learned that instead of being a stressful, chaotic panic, breakfast could be my favorite time of the day. Of course, there are days when I fall short, or the kids are in a particularly disgruntled mood. In that case, when even scones don't help, I put music on and dance or sing until my kids are embarrassed for me, and they are more than happy to run from the house to the bus stop to escape it.
This was the year that I came back to regular exercise. I remember sitting in a doctor's office a couple of years ago discussing my depression and anxiety. He asked, "Can't you exercise or meditate?" I wanted to punch him in the face. No, I couldn't! I had no time and more so, was struggling to just brush my teeth. That's how depression works, Dr. Dude. I needed the meds, and he was happy to give them to me. I've since weened off of them, and have come to realize the while I can manage without the meds, I can not do without regular exercise. I need it for my brain. Walking is my drug of choice. It works for me. It's simple and free. I walk three miles around my hilly neighborhood. It's enough to get my heart rate up and sweat out the stress and anxiety to reveal me. It enables me to work better. So, I even think of it that way. Walking is work. Thinking happens while walking, and when I don't feel like doing it but do it anyway, it's a physical manifestation of making the impossible happen. So, I put one foot very literally in front of the other until I climb that hill even when it was hard, or really cold, or don't feel like doing it. I think to myself that's the only way I will get anything done or get close to achieving what I want for my career. It's one step in front of the other, one made bed, one blog post until I figure out the next step. Lastly, walking is a way for my hermit self to be in the public--to be seen and to see. I think it's important for me to have a physical presence in the world and my community, and right now as pathetic as it might sound, my neighborhood is it, but I suppose that's a good place to start.
4. Sleep Eight Hours
I've come to this last one kind of late in the year. I've always been someone unwilling to forfeit her sleep. I'm a morning person, a breakfast maker, not a late night owl. I'm pretty sure there is genetic proof of that. Anyway, the research is in (somewhere out there, google it) that every human needs eight hours of sleep, and if evolution could have found a short cut, it would have. It's the way our very mortal bodies are made, and denying sleep, for me, only leads to less focused performance and more depression. For awhile, I was trying to cheat evolution and wake up early to walk, cook, or write, and then promise myself a twenty minute nap in the afternoon before the kids got home. I would slog through the day, gulp extra caffeine, and succumb to the afternoon nap which was fraught with guilt and pressure. I would half-way hyperventilate until I fell asleep just before the kids barged through the door. I never felt refreshed--just sullen and more tired. Since allowing myself to sleep, the whole day has opened up. I'm better able to focus and enjoy being awake. Our subconscious and immune system need time to work-- eight hours, in fact.
Enough back patting! Of course there are plenty of times when I break all of these rules (except making the bed) in a single day, but more often than not, I stick to them, and the sticking to them gets easier. So, it's time to challenge myself again because that is what the Gregorian calendar says to do. Here are my three goals for this year:
1. Meditate Regularly
I tried doing this during the cheating sleep phase of the year, and I would just fall asleep meditating. So, I'm going to try again this year. Meditation is kind of like making the bed for me. I'm doubting the process, but I really hope to be a believer by the end of the year. We'll see. I realize this is a lot harder than making the bed and takes something like a lifetime to get the hang of. So, better start now!
2. Make Money Moves
Now that I have some creative moves under my feet, it's time to get my financial ducks in a row. So, I'm setting some specific goals for this year as well as a general resolution to try to be a better business person which begins by valuing my own work and ends with putting myself into uncomfortable places. Nothing risked. . .
The word "play" has been a recurring theme of 2017. Like, the universe was telling me to play more. When I feel out of control, my natural tendency is to buckle down and sow some punishing structure. (Maybe that is totally apparent in the previous paragraphs). So, I dreamed up this grand research project that would entail reading about play and adults and design curriculum games for myself and others to incorporate play more into the everyday. But then I realize that all sounded like a lot of work, and I have money moves to make. So, I think I'm going to learn from the experts at play: kids and my childhood self. I'm trying to be more observant about how play crosses my path (Even the deer and cats play--reindeer games of course). I want to notice the play, try to incorporate the play, and report about it in a playful way non stressful way. So, this is vague and unspecified and I'm going to leave it at that. Even if all that happens is that I go to more movies. That's fine. Let's see how play evolves in 2018. . .
If you've read this entire post, thank you! Your time is precious, and I appreciate you! Thank you for all of you who stuck with me through 2017. I hope your 2018 is magic, and if you feel like leaving your 2017 wisdom or goals for 2018 in the comments, please do!!!! I want to hear from you!!!!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.