I think and think
then close my eyes again.
This year I hope
I truly learn
to fly – kick
not to kick anyone
so much as
- Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai
Oh dear, I’ve been away for an awfully longtime, haven’t I? Or perhaps you hadn’t noticed. Perhaps, like my kids, who simply continued as normal playing after I slipped out for a dentist appointment – and then when I returned home, they hadn’t even realized I’d left.
But now, I’m here, on the other side of the crazy fall semester, on the other side of a busy soccer season. My students (and me!) survived the hectic and emotional Napa fires. I’m here on the other side of the Christmas festivities: all gifts given, all events attended, all food eaten, all worries assuaged.
So now it’s the day before the new year, we started packing up the Christmas decorating and purging the house, we have been tackling the laundry and tending to the yard and 2017 is rapidly coming to a screeching halt. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m big on dates and anniversaries. I’m reflective and nostalgic. I am goal orientated by nature, so for me reflecting on the past year and crafting SMART goals for the upcoming year is just part of my nature. This past week as we drove and crisscrossed the state J and I wrote out financial goals, decided a list of books to read out loud as a family, and novels we personally want to tackle. We made professional goals and sketched out a list of household projects to attempt.
But these past few weeks as I ran through the holidays and the end of the semester craziness, I realized that I will forever remember 2017 as the year I learned about the necessity of self-care. Perhaps it was because of the demanding training for the Boston Marathon. Perhaps it was because I just kept burying grief and sadness and discomfort instead of honoring it. Perhaps it was the seven demanding years of constantly being pregnant or nursing. Prior to this year, I was always focused on goals, achievements and meeting the excessive expectations I had on myself. My high tolerance for discomfort meant I juggled all the balls I had in the air – but I knew that I was sacrificing my health and my attitude.
And through this year, I got to know myself better and know what I needed – not just to function, but to flourish. I started a gratitude journal. I learned that a cup of steaming tea and a good book actually makes for a more productive afternoon. I prioritized sleep and I started and ended each day with a giant glass of water. I learned to punctuate each day with a minute of awareness. I learned to focus my attention on my feelings and sensations and to be lean in with whatever those feelings were. I learned that it was okay for me to be selfish. I learned that it was okay to do something just because it made me happy. I practiced deliberately taking a break from technology. I practiced yoga and got massages. I learned to breath. I focused on lowering my own personal expectations.
I once read an interview about a professional acrobat. She shared bits of wisdom she founded nestled into her practice, but one stood out, “What fascinates me about acrobatics is that you start thinking in a different way. You’re not only thinking with your head – your body also remembers things. You can reach a mental state that you could never reach if you were just sitting on a chair. Movement is simply another level of thinking. Actually, when you perform super-complicated acrobatic movements, it’s dangerous to think. Usually it’s when you think it goes wrong.”
And there’s so much truth here, I think. There’s something to be said about the flow of life – the routine and the mundane and the ease of familiarity – that, sometimes, we over-think. The mind is a powerful tool, and this year, I want to learn that sometimes, it’s okay to put it on the shelf for a bit, hanging between the hammer of schedules and power saw of theory and – instead – move around a bit, pressing forward to another day. It’s a comforting idea, but a challenging task, choosing the scenic route over the fast track, learning to trust my own intuition and so my goals for 2018 include a few slower mornings and an appreciation for what surrounds me. Learning to trust and not to think.