2022: Better on Paper

Neon pink and green computer upload bar going from 2022 to 2023.

Much like my personality, 2022 looked a lot better on paper than in reality. It turns out that in 2022 I became the repeater of tales. Oh, did I already tell you that story? Three times? I’ve started doing this chuckle that makes me cringe, but seems reflexive and unstoppable. I now officially have a belly, which makes it feel uncomfortably like someone is sitting in my lap every time I sit down. Not prone to being slender, I was always going to end up here, belly chuckling while I tell the same story I just told five minutes ago. This is not to say I’m not making a game effort of caring about my health, my conversational abilities, or whether or not I chortle myself into a heart attack. But I can’t say I’m caring caring. It’s been a rough year or five.

It’s human nature around this time of year to assess where you’ve been or where you’re going. I had to pull out my planner to see what the hell I did with 2022. Apparently, I took a lot of people to doctor appointments. I taught some workshops. Showed up regularly for a writing group. Continued with my grad school courses. I wrote a lot, but it didn’t feel like much. I worked out, which felt like a lot but didn’t look like much. I volunteered, mostly because it gave me a license to complain about the state of the world. No one could answer my griping with “if you don’t like it, do something about it.” Well dammit, I did. Problems solved, right?

A red and black clock winding around itself.

We’re constantly exhorted to be present. Now I’m so present, that last year and the next are not real to me. I don’t feel the urge to meticulously plan at the moment. Perhaps, too, I’m firmly in my winter of discontent and not strolling on the sunny side of the street. My ambition needs a lot of vitamin D. But I’m not all self-denigration and snarky-ness. I have a lot that I’m grateful for at this moment. My daughter, a year after stopping chemo, is thriving and preparing to move out into the world. My mother moved from out-of-state and for the first time in 40 years, we live close to each other. I’m feeling the “circle of life” thing acutely these days.

There’s been some grappling with semantics in my head when it comes to the way forward. Goal is such a mismanaged word. Resolution sounds like passing legislation. I’ve settled on intention over the last couple of years. It feels very Gen X of me to use such a squishy, noncommittal word. Goals: Whatever. Resolution: Never set goals again. My intention has crystallized into: Spend my time and energy in ways that support my values. It feels more like a foundation that informs everything above it.

I’m not fond of bumper sticker philosophies and feel unadulterated shame when I utter them aloud. Be present. Breathe. I’m basically reciting the secrets on how not to die. Next: put one foot in front of the other. There is, however, something about having a quick set of reminders or mantras to keep yourself on the path. In a world that wishes nothing more than to have your attention everywhere, all the time, staying on track has become pretty damned important. I’ve been thinking a lot about what my guiding principles need to be for this next year. I’m going to share them here so that friends and family alike can mock me next year.

Woodcut of woman writing at desk in front of laptop. Dragon is coming out of screen.

Do work that is meaningful to me. I started off with do meaningful work, but that is undefined and doesn’t stop me from getting co-opted into someone else’s idea of meaningful work. This isn’t a high-minded concept of altruism. It’s a reminder that I either a) need to make sure my time and energy is spent in ways that serve my values and b) I need to re-frame things that feel like chores in a way that underscores their importance to me. e.g. I want to clean the bathroom, because I value having a clean house versus I have to clean the bathroom. Meaningful work to me involves writing and supporting other writers, learning writing pedagogy and developing curriculum, and promoting writing workshops. My own writing means revision, revision, revision, and finding an agent for my novel. Some things have to fall off the list. My organization volunteerism is the first to take a hit. No more leadership roles that require meetings and administrative work. My role as a full-time parent is downshifting to on-call status. Meaningful, but no longer all-encompassing.

Dark blue heart filled with pictures of green veggies.

Eat well. This means something different to each person and is part of a bigger picture. For me, it means not eating after 6pm so I can sleep. Eating a home-cooked, nutrient-dense breakfast, because it’s my favorite meal. Beans and greens. Whole foods. Non-heartburn inducing foods. Gradually eliminating meat and caffeine from my regimen. Likely becoming a very farty person which will continue to support my destiny as a suburban hermit. Continuing to hone my skills as a gardener so that I don’t have 265 tomatoes, 45 onions, and 3 carrots (not good at the planning!). I like the phrase eat well because it speaks to a level of self-care I’ve not afforded myself for the last decade. It’s affirming and not loaded with all the garbage language of fad dieting and fat bigotry.

Cartoon drawing of a pumpkin with muscle-flexed arms.

Exercise regularly. I’ve worked out my whole life. I am one of those people who actually likes a good workout. However, it is disconcerting to work out as if I’m an athlete, yet look like a human pumpkin. It’s a combination of aging/hormones/living in the sandwich generation – caregiving for both children and parents. But I’m coming out of that phase and it’s time to turn my attention to my health. My challenge isn’t a lack of training or knowledge, it’s a lack of consistency, combined with that whole thing above, the eating bit. Subject to depressive cycles, workouts are the easiest way to give my brain a needed boost. Catch-22. When I’m on the downswing, the easiest thing to do is nothing. My intention for this next year is to do something, anything on the regular. It means tracking workouts so that a two-day break doesn’t turn into two months.

At my last workshop we discussed setting writing intentions. I asked the question “What do you want to have done by this time next year?” The answers were as varied and delightful as could be. Self-knowledge, starting small, and a positive framing are foundational ways to get where you want to go – and plenty of compassion and forgiveness when you have to hit the restart button. My hope is that next year I won’t have to look at a calendar to see where the time went, because I will be living with intention and not just because someone told me to breathe.

What are your intentions for 2023?

16 thoughts on “2022: Better on Paper

  1. My intentions are to be ready for the good things. (Or, to NOT let the negative things first reduce me to tired, apathetic rubble). By this time next year, I hope to have even the boxes, CDs and memory sticks of family photos squared away.. and, who knows, to self-publish some tolerable poetry from long ago. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “be ready for good things” – I love that. What a great way to counter the mindset of waiting for the other shoe to drop. What if it’s a good shoe or a shoe I was missing? Oof, organizing photos in various media forms is a big one. And we can all hope to publish tolerable work. Heck, even intolerable work will get readers. Wishing you a wonderful new year!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely an umbrella that most of our intentions fall under – anything that makes life better. The trick is figuring out what that means for you. I struggle with focusing on what has meaning for me, because we are bombarded with a zillion ways things, people, diets will make our lives better. I hope that you have a year bombarded by moments of joy, Luanne.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hallelujah, Sister!! You have written my thoughts and intentions almost exactly–which is my way of validating all of yours! 😀 May you find all the support and energy you need to act consistently on these intentions, and also the self-compassion to forgive yourself when you don’t (you sent me that book on perfectionism, right?)… I’m practicing it all, too!! We can do it together!!! ONWARD!!!


    1. Hi Cathy. Good to hear from you and thanks for the encouragement! Your comment about doing it together segues quite nicely into what I’ve been thinking about lately – that we cannot raise our boats alone and what does that look like in a world that is so disconnected? Wrote this post lightheartedly, but thinking about writing another regarding a big intention to foster, nurture, and facilitate more connections. Thanks for the reminder. I hope that you have a year ahead riddled with joy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Michelle and happy new year(ish)! I like how you talk about living up to your values. That’s a new way of looking at things for us too, something we learned by way of our oldest daughter when she went through a wilderness intervention this year. Learned a lot vicariously through her, and think it’s a great way for you to go. Glad to hear your mother has moved back nearby too, and that your daughter’s chemo is through. Wow! Life! Intentions does sound like a good approach too, I’d line mine up with the values focus too. Surprising how easy it can be to stray from your values and not even recognize them anymore so I want to do more of that. Be well, really enjoy the sound of your writing and voice too having known you that way for so long. You sound great. Bill


    1. Hey Bill! So good to hear from you. I’m always learning from my daughter as well. That values-based living sounds like a cliche until you interrogate what your values truly are and line it up next to your actual life. Whew – that can be an eye-opening process. “Wilderness intervention” sounds awesome – we could all use some of that. Working this next year with a life coach partner to create and facilitate a combined writing/nature class, a direct reflection of my intentions/values, so I’m pretty excited about that. I hope that the year ahead provides moments of joy and discovery for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no intentions whatsoever. Maybe because I’m much older…76. But perhaps it’s just to keep plugging along doing just what I want, even if it’s nothing.😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If, as “they” say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I’ve already taken a step or 2 down it this year. I read all day yesterday instead of finishing a sort of annual letter I’ve done for the past couple of years. I have, however, continued to breathe, so maybe my intentions for this year should be limited to that. I guess if I wanted to up it to a goal, I could try to really breathe in and not just breathe out. That’s a real thing for me. My kids have both pointed out that they hear me doing that a lot!


  6. Must memorize this: “Spend my time and energy in ways that support my values.” I spent today listening to a book on tape and sewing a pair of embroidered eyeballs. My values are weird.


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