On New Year’s Eve, my mom and I bundled up and went for a magical late night stroll in the snow. It was the perfect way to ring in the New Year, “making fresh tracks” as my mom put it, breathing in the cool air, marveling at how quiet it was, and throwing a few snowballs of course.
I always love that week between Christmas and New Year’s when the mad holiday rush is over and a sense of calm finally fills the air. I don’t know about you, but I usually have a new pair of cozy socks on, a good book and WAY too much chocolate in the house. It’s a great time to reflect on the past year and look forward to all the possibilities to come in our next trip around the sun.
I like to take my time reflecting on the year and how I choose to do that looks a little different every year. Sometimes I write, or do this ritual. Sometimes I choose a word or a mantra for the year, or create a music playlist or vision board. It’s fun to be creative and switch it up. Sometimes I don’t do anything. I really wasn’t feeling it last year so I didn’t force myself. I think I made a vision board later in January, and then my Dad passed away and my world turned upside down.
This year I went to a restorative yoga class and throughout the hour and a half class, I found myself meditating on every month of 2016, working my way through anything that stood out, be it events, milestones, sad times, happy times, hard times, travel, time with loved ones, new friends made, goals met and so on. When I got home, I wrote it all down. Putting it on the page helped me dive even deeper into what stood out to me and why it stood out.
A couple nights later, I answered these 20 questions, which was also a fun exercise. I did it “rapid fire” style, making sure not to look ahead at the questions coming next and I wrote down the thoughts that first came to my mind. Again, it served as a useful tool to help me glean my greatest learnings from 2016.
It was a year shrouded in the grief of losing my Dad and attempting to find my way through the fog, while also trying to allow myself to just sit IN the fog. The death of a loved one is disorienting to say the least and in some ways I felt a complete lack of presence all year and in other ways I felt more present than ever, if that makes any sense. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to truly articulate how this experience has changed me.
I did find myself often coming back to the idea that “everyone is doing their best” (probably because I, myself was trying to do my best every day given the circumstances) and it helped me gain a deeper understanding in all my relationships – family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, even strangers. You never know what someone is going through. I also found myself being even more transparent and open in my relationships. “If you feel something, say something.” We make up so many stories in our heads, and sometimes holding those things in can lead to feeling stuck in how we relate to one another. In my experience, the best thing is to be brave and honest with our feelings, even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. That’s when the breakthroughs and growth happen.
While it was a heart wrenching year, there were still many things that made me smile and that I am so grateful for. My Dad sent down a little angel in the form of his first grandchild, my niece, Elise who was born three months after he passed away. She has brought SO much joy to our lives and she has definitely made me laugh the hardest this year. It has been loads of fun watching my brother be a dad and watching her grow over the last eight months (mostly via pictures and videos so far) and I can’t wait to see all the gifts she brings to this world. I think she’s gonna be a great dancer!
Other highlights included visiting my Grandpa and family in Madison, training for and running a half marathon with my friend Caitie, weekend adventures with my love to Steamboat, Breckenridge, Grand Lake, Glenwood Springs and my favorite Crested Butte where we met Elise for the first time, seeing Michael conquer an adventure of a lifetime – rafting the Grand Canyon!, Book Camp in the mountains with an amazing tribe of women, my Mom and friend Gini’s visit to Wyoming, Thanksgiving in Phoenix with my family, Christmas tree hunting with Michael, and a special trip with my Mom and sis to Orcas Island over the holidays.
And I am always grateful for the quieter moments – the many dog walks and hikes, the aimless country drives, wildlife sightings, yoga, sunsets, dirt road runs, meaningful (and not so meaningful) conversations with my girlfriends, focused creativity at work, cozy nights in with my man, and the three weeks I spent tending to the garden while Michael was away rafting, which ended up being one of the most healing times of the year for me.
SO. Here we are welcoming 2017, letting go of the things that we need to from 2016 and making room for more love, more light, more learning, more growth. I thought I’d share some of the intentions/ideas/stories/lessons/themes that have been rolling around in my brain and that I want to focus on and explore more this year:
Sleep & Ritual
I am reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington right now (recommended by my sis, thanks Nicole!) and am SO inspired by her chapter on well-being, particularly the section on sleep. And it’s not new information by any means, though some of the research she presents is quite captivating, but it was the reminder I needed to hear right now that sleep is crucial! (And she has a follow up book called The Sleep Revolution which I will have to get my hands on.) I am the girl that will stay up working on a project until 3am, then get up at 7:00am, and then wonder why I feel like a zombie all week. I am all over the map with my bedtime and have no sense of discipline, even when I’m clearly exhausted. Usually it’s whatever time Michael and I finish binge watching Shameless or House of Cards or whatever show we’re into at the moment. Or I just fall into the rabbit hole of social media or any other number of random things to read/look at on our smart phones. Bottom line is aside from flossing/brushing/washing up, I don’t have any rituals surrounding bedtime and I am definitely not getting a consistent, decent amount of sleep. (I floss like a champ though for the record.) Thus, I am ready to commit to getting eight hours of sleep a night and feeling awesome, energized and well rested! I’m sure I’ll write a blog about my findings. Actually I WILL write a blog in one month. Stay tuned. Or join me in the pursuit of sleep and we can keep each other accountable! I have a sneaky feeling a morning ritual will materialize out of this endeavor as well.
Real Books & Alarm Clocks
While we’re on the subject of bedtime rituals, I am also committing to less screen time and more books in 2017. I am keeping my cell phone out of the bedroom so I’m not tempted to stare at a screen before I go to sleep or when I wake up. It just doesn’t make me feel good to start or end my day like that, and I want to feel good! I have a stack of books on my night stand and I can’t tell you the amount of times I end up looking at my phone instead of reading a book before bed. No more! I just bought this cute little analog alarm clock to replace my phone alarm. I love those little clock hands already.
Plain and simple, I am committing to joy this year, because 2016 was heavy and sad. More fun, more play, more laughing, more spontaneity, more adventure, more travel, more dancing, more music, more sex! Joy is one of my words for 2017. I kept trying to pick a different one and I just couldn’t get joy out of my head, it kept showing up everywhere. It’s also the title of our first read of the year for Novel Grapes, an online book club my friend Jacki started. If you’re looking for a book club but can’t commit to doing one in person, or live in the boonies like me, this is a great option! You can totally go at your own pace too which is nice. Case in point, my book hasn’t even arrived in the mail yet and we’re heading into week two tomorrow. Check out Novel Grapes here.
Creativity [Makers Gonna Make]
If you haven’t read Big Magic yet by Elizabeth Gilbert, be sure to put it on your reading list. She says, “Your own reasons to make are reason enough. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” I read Big Magic at the end of 2015 and told myself I would create more in 2016 for the sole sake that I feel inspired and lose track of time when I am being creative and I love that feeling. For me, that’s usually in the form of writing and aside from a few things I was moved to write about my Dad last year, my journal and blog didn’t get much love. So I’m declaring a RE-DO! I will commit to writing once a month on my blog this year, which for me, also goes hand in hand with unplugging more and removing myself from the distractions that make me feel uninspired or launch me into comparison mode. Whether you write or paint or dance or sing or play music or knit or cook or garden or do wood working or scrapbooking or photography, or anything else creative, let’s do MORE of it this year simply because we love to do it! What makes you lose track of time?
I took a wonderful yoga mentorship course led by one of my favorite people, Mary Beth LaRue in November and we focused on narrowing down our WHY – in this case, the reason why we feel inclined to teach yoga. Our homework was to spend some time getting grounded and write our Why statement and then the following week we had to narrow it down even further into one or two sentences. As Mary Beth said, “Your WHY is what cuts through your bullshit.” You have to be completely honest with yourself when doing this. It was a powerful exercise and one that I have since found myself using in other areas of my life. When you doubt yourself, or have that questionable feeling in your gut about something, or you’re “shoulding” a lot, get back to your WHY. Why did you start in the first place? Why did you say yes? Or no for that matter. Why are you at this current place in your life? Why is this person in your life? The cool thing about getting clear on your WHY is that it usually will help you discover what you don’t want as well.
I’m calling this one ‘Rise,’ because after the presidential election in November, it’s what I felt like I needed to do. I’ve been sitting back being a lazy citizen and it’s time to wake up, rise up and stand up for what I believe in. I’m committing to paying better attention to global issues, to being more informed politically on a local level and to getting clear on what issues and causes matter most to me so I can get more involved. I imagine I’ll be writing more about this throughout the year as well.
The Big Picture
One of the last things I did with my Dad before he passed away was put the Christmas lights up. Instead of putting lights on the house like he usually did, we decided to take an easier route and put them in and around the front garden instead. As I was fully immersed in one of the bushes, trying to spread the lights out evenly and silently getting frustrated with myself, my Dad broke my concentration and called for me to step back. I let the lights go and walked to where he stood in the yard and he said, “Sometimes it helps to step back and get the big picture, see?” So there we stood, in the dark, assessing the Christmas lights, and then making adjustments where we needed to. It was an exchange I didn’t think too much of at the time, but has since become a special memory and mantra that I use when I get stuck in the small stuff.
I wish you all the love and light (and sleep!) this January as you begin making your own fresh tracks.
To sleep I go!