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?
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.
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.
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.
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?