Please forgive the rambling below. I just had to get some words out. There are a lot of CAPITAL LETTERS, I don’t know what came over me.
Well, here I sit, glass of wine on one side and my gorgeous seven-month-old baby on the other, barely believing it is two thousand and fourteen already. It is ever the cliche, I know, marveling at how the years fly by, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
I love the way the promise of a new year can seem to drip a little oil into those creaky joints again, just like Tin Man in The Wizard of OZ. I’ve been feeling a lot like poor old Tin Man over the last two months. Just…
Rusted in a permanent position, holding that heavy axe above my head, afraid that eventually its weight will win.
Watching the world happen around me
Not being able to yell for help
Honestly, I felt myself sink into a period of depression. Even though it was a familiar feeling, for some reason this time I didn’t recognise it for what it was. I was in denial, for sure. It snuck (dictionary tells me this is not a word, well poo to that) up on me this time and really pulled a number. I wasn’t paying attention to myself and my needs. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I wasn’t eating well, I neglected planning routine into my days…
“Well, usually I am very careful about keeping myself oiled, but one day about seven years ago, while I was chopping that tree, I was so deep in thought that I didn’t notice when it started to rain until, with a screech, my arm rusted.”
But I think for me just calling it for what it is, that scary word ‘depression’ seems to not be so ominous*. Confiding in trusted friends and family and just eeking out, through clenched jaw, “Oil can… oil can!”, along with a reasonably restful week post-Christmas at the in-laws farm, has helped me feel a little more on top of life.
And so, in view of this feeling, I thought it apt to punch out the requisite New Year’s Post, seeing as how I couldn’t bring myself to write for much of November and the entirety of December.
I’m not normally one for New Year’s Resolutions – I prefer to have a theme for the year, it feels more organic to me, and allows me a bit more freedom to move within it – it feels More Like Grace.
Last year my theme called me out, called me up, called me to be more of Who I Am, and less of Who I’m Not. A theme for the year feels for me like a drawing towards, and inwards and outwards, and forwards. In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins “What I do is me: for that I came” — a theme is fresh mountain air for my lungs, where a rule or ‘must-acheive’ would feel like molten lead in my veins.
But, hey – that’s just me. I know some of y’all would thrive on the lists and goals and the podiums at the finish line, but I’m less an Olympian and more a ‘Surprise Chef’ – working with those jumbled-together ingredients in that random trolley, having half a dozen pots and pans going at once, pulling mystery condiments out of the fridge and coming up with something (fingers crossed) that is edible – nay – even tasty! I feel much more at home working in circles, revisiting ideas, chewing over the meat, spiraling slowly, phlegmatically towards a natural end rather than racing from point A to point B.
My theme last year was to Intentionally Connect with those around me, specifically in my friendships, and I wove myself in and around it, tasting, testing the waters, sometimes jumping in, sometimes being too afraid to bare my soul. But all-in-all, coming in to 2014 feeling so very much richer with what I feel like is my Very Own Army of amazing friends – you guys (well, mostly girls), you ACTUALLY GIVE ME BUTTERFLIES when I think about you.
And so, being January, (which I feel is kind of like a forgiving and elasticised seam in your Festive Jeans) it is time for me to start thinking about the year ahead, and the theme I would like to circle around, dip my toes in and poke with sharp objects. And, roughly (because I’ve only been thinking about it since yesterday), here is what I have come up with:
Consume Less, Say Yes, Embrace Mess.
Good grief, yes, It Rhymes. So daggy. But it makes it easier to remember. Let me break it down, for those of you who care, or who would like to follow along or do something similar, there are a few links below to further explore these ideas.
I’m so attracted to the idea of minimalism and a simplified, pared-down approach to life. Doing less, owning less, buying less (a challenge!), with the added sentiment of having a more ethical approach to the way I leave a footprint on this earth. Much of this for me is about mindfulness especially when faced with the everyday bombardment of advertisements that encourage us to embrace a life of more-more-more, me-me-me. Consuming less is going to be about not only quantity, but quality. Supporting local business, buying second-hand, considering the impact of the choices I make about where to spend our family’s income.
My absolute favourite website for being inspired to simplify is becomingminimalist. It’s like a magical portal for me. After spending some time on that website I find myself fantasising about a bare, white, square room…. pure bliss!
I wrote a little while back about being afraid to step fully into life, because getting out of my pyjamas sometimes takes too much effort. Well, so what. Let the world see me! One of my favourite quotes that came out of that post was in the comment section, where a young lady (my darling little sister, actually) poetically reflected: “If I were to say ‘yes’ to life, would I have time for perfection?”
Truthfully, I started experimenting with this whole ‘say yes’ thing shortly after I wrote that post. I would get a call from a friend, asking to catch up or drop in or go out, and rather than taking the path of least resistance, looking at the mess in my kitchen and making up an excuse – I decided to change that excuse to a big fat ‘YES – come over, I’m in my dressing gown and wearing last night’s make-up and my kids are half-naked but the important thing is for me to CONNECT WHO I REALLY AM WITH WHO YOU REALLY ARE AND TO HELL WITH THE DISHES FOR HALF AN HOUR.
And, OH, what life that gave me. I think some of the reason I slipped in to a bit of a hole the last couple of months is that I stopped doing this. I put up my walls, I stopped letting those who care about me into my messes and smells and humanness. Saying Yes is not about overloading myself with tasks and requests from others to do or achieve or produce. Saying Yes is more about jumping in, taking a few risks, getting out of my comfort zone a bit, being willing to Fail Joyfully. Ultimately, to push against the fears, insecurities and neuroses that can fight to define me.
Yes, I will allow you into my home even though I haven’t cleaned the toilet this week.
Yes, I will go out for drinks even though I haven’t waxed my eyebrows and I’m feeling a little bit like Nanny McPhee.
Yes, I will open up to you and share my pain, even though I feel like I could die at the feeling of being so exposed.
Yes, I will say what is on my mind rather than being afraid of rejection for having an opinion or a need or a desire.
It’s no secret to those who know me well that I’m a bit obsessed with the Enneagram. I get lovely daily encouragements and challenges in my inbox (sometimes those challenges are reeeeal doozies) based on my Type (I’m a Nine). Today it was this, so very pertinent:
“Today accept your invitation to abundance: to actively engage yourself in the struggle to create real peace and healing in your world—remembering that your participation in life is necessary and vital. It is your True Nature to be an inexhaustible font of serenity, acceptance, and kindness in the world.”
Because I have tendency to check out of life when the inertia is too much, having a theme of Saying Yes is going to be a great reminder, and probably a real challenge, for me this year.
Again, for those who know me well, (and particularly for my long-suffering husband who grew up, basically, with Mary Poppins for a mother – she can click her fingers and the work is done, why do I find it SO. EFFING. HARD? I digress…) this particular part of my 2014 theme might be a source of amusement! I am a messy person, I get things out, I don’t put them away. I fling my clothes far and wide, condemning them to fall where they may, lying hopefully in wait for ‘laundry day’ (wait, people have these?). Dear husband (if he is reading this) will be thinking “DEAR GOD NO, you’ve done enough embracing, woman!”
But the reality is, I’m afraid of mess. Terrified of disorder. It paralyses me. I’m easily overwhelmed by clutter, even as I allow it to engulf me. I hate mess. Yet I so often live in it. I’m afraid to do arts and crafts with my kids because of the mess it creates. Sometimes I don’t want to let them play outside because they will get chicken poop on their shoes, or crack the eggs and rub egg-yolk in their hair (THIS HAS HAPPENED, MORE THAN ONCE). It’s easier to let him sit in front of the television that to let my precious son ‘snip some paper, mummy’ which he is so longingly, adorably desperate to do becasue I am too over-taken by the prospect of a confettied floor.
I feel like, at this moment, that embracing those opportunities for mess-making might seem counter-intuitive and that’s what convinces me that perhaps it’s actually PURE GENIUS (Oh my. I’m so sorry for all the capitals – this is so unlike me.) But time will tell.
And time will tell for all three parts of my 2014 theme! I’m sure I will be checking in with these here as the year unfolds.
A few more things before I sign off, for anyone else who is interested in developing a theme or those of you who find yourselves a bit like me, and don’t do ‘linear’ very well:
-I love this post by Ann Voskamp, I found it really inspiring, and the way she has written out her list is something I can get behind whole-heartedly. I love every single idea and reminder in here. She’s called it her “25 for Sanity Manifesto” and I love love love it all. There’s even a printable, yay – less work for me.
-Today I received my Right Brain Planner kit and I’m so excited to use it. Hopefully I’ll be able to share my experiences with this unique tool as the year unfolds as well.
-I did a writing course (Story Sessions) online in early November (which is where I met Teresa, the Right Brain Planner, @stargardener) and it was won.der.ful. I recommend you check out Elora Nicole’s blog. And if you fancy yourself a writer or just want to draw some more out of yourself through written expression, then do one of her short courses. It was so easy, even with the time differences (she’s in Texas, I’m in Melbourne), so affirming, and consequently I have a backlog of material that I’m hoping to form into more polished blog-posts over the coming weeks.
-Books: still haven’t managed to get back into fiction like I had grand intentions of doing. Instead I finished Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist. READ THIS BOOK. You will not regret it. Reading Sarah’s words is like sitting in front of a warm fire with a hot cup of tea and a cozy hoody. Check out her blog too, while you’re at it. I am working my way through Richard Rohr’s ‘Immortal Diamond’ – it’s like an expensive, smoky, single-malt whiskey. You want to savour it only a nip at a time, let those flavours vapourise in your mouth, roll the golden liquid over your tongue, and let it slide ever-so-slowly into your belly. It’s a whole-body experience. I’ll write about some of it soon. I’m nearly finished with Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird: Instructions on writing and life’ which is hilarious and lovely and all kinds of scrumptious. Lastly, I have the very sumptuous “Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper” by SARK at the bottom of my book pile, which I have been ‘waiting for the right time’ to jump into. But I think perhaps I need to take my own medicine, and just say yes, and start (it’s a bit of a project/prompt/writing/self-reflective sort of book)
-Blog: I have really enjoyed my little moments of writing over the last six months, I hope to be a bit more regular this year. I’m working on opening up a guest spot (maybe once a week – will have to see if there is much interest!) You don’t have to be a blogger to participate. The guest spot will be about sharing stories that have shaped us. There will be more info to come in the following weeks, but in the mean time, if you think you might be interested in sharing about an experience that has shaped you, stay tuned, or contact me via the Failing Joyfully Facebook page.
Anyway, I think that is me exhausted for the evening. If you’ve stuck with me this far, tell me:
Do you prefer a list of goals, or are you more inclined to work with a theme? There is no right or wrong. One of the things I love about people is how different we all are. So please do share your resolutions, hopes, dreams, goals and themes for the year. A challenge – for the ‘goal-setters’ if you had to pick a theme, what would it be? For the theme-weavers, if you had write down one measurable goal for 2014 what would it be? (Honesty moment: I don’t know what mine would be yet!).
*I’m speaking purely for myself, from my own experience. I’ve been through a handful of depressive periods over the last twelve years or so, and haven’t reached a point of requiring medication. My experience of shaking off depression is unique to me, and I in no way endorse the stigmatisation of medicating depression. Drugs are often necessary and life-saving. For me, talking things through and being aware, and asking for help seems to work really well. For others, this may not be the case. Respect to all those who have dealt with this debilitating condition in all its forms, in whatever way helps you to function better in the world.