I know that January 1st is really just another day and we don’t have to use it as an excuse to make changes in our lives. But I do feel like something shifts as one year ends and another begins. And even in some practical ways, that’s true. We switched to a different health insurance company this year and our deductible starts over. My kids get a fresh start at school, as it’s the beginning of a new quarter/semester. The girls’ schedules even changed, in some ways for the good and in others for the bad (gym class… ugh). New calendars begin. I started a new 2020 planner.
But beyond those things, something feels different. Like the weight of the previous year has been lifted and it’s time to slowly, gradually carry new weight. Have new experiences.
I am not one for making resolutions for the new year. I think that it sets people up for a lot of disappointment if they don’t accomplish the goals that they chose. Too many people start things and don’t finish them and honestly, I am kind of one of those people. I’m not afraid to admit that, which is why I know that resolutions don’t work well for me.
Instead, I set intentions. I choose a word or words for the year that I use as a mantra of sorts, that I will keep in the back of my mind as I make decisions throughout my life that year regarding how I want to grow. Because to me, that is what’s important… personal growth. And not just at the beginning of the new year, but every day. So for me, choosing a word is far more helpful for me to stay on track.
This year, I chose the words “purpose” and “prioritize”. As I reflected on 2019, I realized that I sort of felt like I was just floating in the ocean, bobbing along in whatever direction the current took me. Since I ended my time at my job outside of the home, I almost felt as if I were half-assing life. Deep down I know that I was accomplishing certain things that I had been incapable of before, particular from a mental health perspective, but it wasn’t anything truly meaningful to me.
Sure, I get out of bed every day (I even make it!), I maintain a clean house, I stay on top of laundry, I get my kids everywhere that they need to go in a timely manner, I’m organized and no longer overwhelmed. And yes, those things matter. Having my life in order in that way gave me the opportunity to dig a little deeper within my mind and soul, trying to figure out what I want out of these short years that I have on this earth.
So as 2019 ended and 2020 began, I decided that I was going to explore my purpose on this earth. What sorts of things am I called to do. What I want to learn. What I want to improve upon or practice in my every day life. What I want to bring to the world or to the lives of others.
Even though I pour my life into my family and focus on their needs, I am also selfish in some ways, particularly that I live within my own mind a good part of the time. I am not always engaged in what’s going on around me. I spend a lot of time contemplating things that I want to do with my life, but rarely act on them. Hello, Enneagram type 5! I research things to death and get in my own way.
So instead of striving for perfection, I simply want to try new things. Figure out what matters to me and what direction I am headed in the coming years. After all, my children won’t always be here with me, in my home, demanding my endless attention. I need a life outside of them and I want to find that.
When I went to therapy this weekend, for the first time of the new year, we talked about this at length. The consensus? That I need to make myself a priority. That this is literally the only way that I am going to do the things that I want to do. How I’m going to find my path.
I look at my calendar on my phone and my planner and very little of it involves me, aside from some necessary appointments. For the most part, it’s things that my kids are doing. Things that require early pickups from school or transportation or arranging rides for the other kids while I am somewhere with one of them. There is nothing there for me that is not absolutely imperative to my health.
But I’m shifting my way of thinking. These other things, things that I WANT to do, are imperative to my health, physically and mentally. So it’s time to prioritize those things. Put them on the calendar, even if that means that they happen to conflict with other things. I need to work it out. Hand off responsibility for the kids to someone else for a change, even people outside of my husband and my mom. Allow others to help when they offer.
Here are some things that I want to make a priority in my life:
Writing – I made some progress in 2019 by revisiting my blog and bringing it back to life. But I didn’t do nearly as many things with it as I wanted to do. I spent too much time cleaning and running kids around than on my laptop, brainstorming new ideas and following through with them. There’s a women’s writing group in Bloomington that I kept meaning to attend, but the scheduling never worked out. I put other responsibilities ahead of it, because I felt like it was something fun, but unnecessary. But I’m coming to realize that it is necessary to my writing process, which is something very important to me. So I’m going to do it. I’m going to find one and put it on the damn calendar and if something else pops up, someone else will have to take the reigns. Or I will simply bow out of that other “thing”, because it’s no more of an obligation than the writing workshop.
Hiking – Something else that I am not great at prioritizing is my physical health. I spent so much time in recent years focusing on my mental health that I simply didn’t have the spoons to be motivated to be physically active. I was tired. I gained some weight as a result of my medication. I was either not eating at all or eating things that weren’t giving me the energy that I needed. So I started hiking in the fall. But as the weather turned and it snowed, I decided I’d rather hunker down in my nice, warm house. Plus, I don’t own any hiking boots, anything truly waterproof with solid soles that can handle rougher terrain or the harsher elements. Again, with Christmas, hiking boots simply weren’t a priority. Good ones are pricey, after all. But I’ve decided that I’m going to budget for them. The kids don’t need to see a movie this month and we don’t need to eat out as much. Why those things, along with an excessive amount of Christmas presents, were more important than something that promotes health and safety for myself, I don’t know.
Cross Stitch – I splurged and bought myself a $20 cross stitch kit from Amazon after Christmas. I know, big spender. I enjoyed cross stitching a lot when I was a kid and it’s something that I already know the basics of. I can see myself being able to create more elaborate pieces and it would be nice to show my family that hey, Mom can be crafty sometimes. For those that don’t know, I am NOT a crafty person. But this is actually something that I could realistically do, maybe even do well.
Yoga – Traditional exercise and cardio is rough for me because I have pretty severe asthma and some back problems. I know that I have physical limits and I’m trying to respect them, while still trying to be active in some capacity. Yoga has always been really good for me, mentally and physically. It calms me, helps me focus, and usually makes my back feel really good. I stretch muscles in my body and in my brain that I had been neglecting. But yoga classes cost money, so were they really important, especially when I could do yoga at home? Yes, they are really important because they encourage me to actually DO IT. At home, I could make excuses as to why I didn’t have time or didn’t feel up to it. But if I schedule a class and pay for it ahead of time, I’m committed.
I don’t want these ideas to be confused as resolutions or even goals. They are things that I’ve explored in my mind that I think will give me a sense of purpose. To grow as a writer. To improve my physical and mental health. To give me an opportunity to put myself first once in a while. After all, I can’t pour from an empty cup, and mine is usually just running on drops. So that is what I want to focus on this year – finding my purpose on this earth and making myself a priority in my family. Because I can better serve my family if I take care of myself, too.