We’re in the new year, and like I have every January, I wrestle with how arbitrary this designation is—and how sacred it continues to be.
In Minnesota, the light thins in January. It becomes soft and pale, and it lays itself on white snow. It’s a clean light, an energizing one. It’s become a yearly returning for me. We pack away the old year, and the days lengthen by seconds, and then minutes. In January, I feel a clarity and energy I usually have to work to find.
I like to begin each year with a set of intentions (semantics maybe, but these aren’t resolutions). The rules are: these intentions can’t be measured with a chart or checklist, they can’t rely on anyone else’s action or energy, they have to be able to evolve. My theory being that intentions bring a framework to a otherwise blank stretch of time. They’re a room to grow in, not a list of what to do.
For 2019, I’ve set five intentions for myself, each one representing a stepping stone in a process I’ve already begun (some I’ve even written about in previous year’s new year’s posts). Like I said, these aren’t goals I can ever finish; they’re tender spots I want to bring light to.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the year (any year) will bring with it whatever it will. There’s a wildness to life I’ll never get my hands around. Set down beneath those buffeting winds, these intentions get to be a gentle path. Think of it as an invitation.
Here we are again, come grow with me.
—Connect With My Body—
For years, I reduced to my body to its aberrant and unruly parts: it matured before I hit double digits, swelled and expanded while my peers remained girls. I learned I could manage it a bit, and slid up and down on the scale of deprivation (food) and punishment (exercise). In college, depression and anxiety manifested in my physical body; harsh acne medications ravaged my immune system, and I began dealing with what I now assume will be a long life struggle with inflammation and food/digestion issues.
I dealt with this from the earliest ages by separating myself from my body. I could exist outside its discomforts or expansions, divorce myself from it and from the attention it received it. The more it demanded my attention, the angrier I got with it. Now, I punish my body for being a body, and then I wonder why I can’t live inside of it.
In 2019, I want to change this narrative. Practice connecting with my physical self with the same level of attention, and gentleness I bring to my emotional or intellectual self. This means listening compassionately when it communicates its needs, embracing healthy movement as a form of love (and ditching the exercises that feel like torture), continuing to monitor which foods make me feel good and which don’t, but never punishing myself for what I eat. I’m hoping for a reconciliation: my physical body with my emotional body, honor and healing and love and care for both as one.
Have you ever heard someone joke about how they say no to plans, because they’ve already planned to do nothing? This is not a joke to me. If you invite me to something too last minute (and I’m in a particularly rigid mood), I’ll short circuit. I’ll probably cry; I’ll definitely need time to process; I may even get angry at you, because your kindness is highlighting my own rigidity.
In 2019, I want to grow my ability to be flexible. I don’t need to (or intend to) turn myself into a “go with the flow” girl, but I want to stop being the “actively thrash myself against the rocks to avoid the flow” girl. I want to problem solve better when a new decision needs to be made, to be more graceful in the moments when life interferes with calendar, to introduce more ease into my life (and the lives of people who have to navigate my rigidity).
When I shared this intention to Instagram, someone left a comment about how we cling to our structures, even when they don’t serve us. This structure of hyper-organization doesn’t serve me. I need to learn to be more flexible, so that when life gets in the way (as it always will), I can handle it without melting down.
That word “consumption” is tricky, because it applies to just about everything. Media, entertainment, advertisement, as well as food, clothing, our material possessions. And the double bind is: everything we consume impacts another part of our lives.
The more television I watch, the less time I have to write. The more money I spend on on clothing I don’t need, the less ability I have to travel or save (my perennial financial goals). Depending on how I buy food or what I buy, my grocery run will create waste that contributes to the thinning ozone and rising global temperature.
Half of being a person is consuming the world, and I don’t by any means intend to limit or reduce my consumption. Instead, I want to bring a higher level of awareness to what I consume and how. It’s like yoga, and how practicing it requires you pay attention to your breath and spine. We can take responsibility for what we’re aware of, and more than anything else, I want responsibility over my consumption. These are choices I make; let me truly make them.
—Take My Work Seriously—
And by work, I mean my writing.
I think everyone who is an artist as well as a teacher/nurse/electrician/desk jockey/service worker, struggles to claim their art-work as a pursuit as serious as their for-pay work. Last year, I turned a corner in understanding the responsibility I have to market what I create, and in embracing that, the framework I put around my writing sharpened. I want to take that 2018 energy and put it to work in 2019. More writing, more sharing, more practicing, more learning, more seriously pursuing audience, and readership, and platform.
I think often about what Cheryl Strayed said about her Wild success: “I didn’t just get lucky—I worked my fucking ass off, and then I got lucky. And if I hadn’t worked my ass off, I wouldn’t have lucky.” Several years ago, I decided to work so hard on my writing that if I never achieve traditional success, I won’t be able to blame it on myself. That’s the kind of energy I’m bringing to 2019.
I’m excited this year of writing. I’m excited about what could potentially happen, but more than that, I’m excited about what I’ll learn, and how I’ll grow.
—Tune In To My Intuition—
This is the big one, the true focus of my new year. If I were to choose a single word for 2019, it would be intuition.
2018 was a year of extraordinary change, but so was 2017, and in quieter ways, 2016. This transition into my late twenties has been a series of gangbuster growth moves, and massive development of the self. My gut tells me that in 2019, there will be fewer wild leaps into the unknown, and more more measured steps forward, but in a strange way, the slow steps feel more frightening and fraught then the big leaps.
When we decided to move from Minnesota to Maryland, we did so knowing that we knew nothing. It’s was exhilarating and reckless, (in a financially sound, meticulously planned, deeply interrogated way), and we knew the experience could be anything between extraordinary and disastrous.
In my yoga practice, the instructor I follow talks often about how we already have everything we need. I think this is more true and more universal than I’ve ever allow myself to believe. Going through old journals last year in preparation for our move, I had the beautiful and painful experience of seeing, in a kind of retrospective realtime, the ways my younger self both listened to and ignored my gut instincts. I can see how I once had everything I needed, and while in the most essential moments, I listened, in all the ones leading up to crisis point, I didn’t. Reading those journals made me want to shake or kiss the girl I once was, but I think a better way to honor her is to grow.
In 2019, I want to listen better to my intuition. In the same way I want to listen more carefully and more compassionately to my body, I want to listen more carefully and compassionately to my internal knowledge. If it’s true we already have everything we need, let me learn to hear and trust it.