Month: December 2022

Honoring the Occasional

Sliced avocado with a southwest hash and sourdough toast. Flanked on one side with a mug and the other with a book.

Sometimes the avocado is perfectly ripe on the same morning when I have leftover southwest hash, a loaf of sourdough bread, and a brand new mug that changes colors when hot. On such a morning I can pretend that I’m the sort of person who always reads complicated books over a lovely breakfast. The reality is that I spend more breakfasts with a microwaved burrito and social media on my phone, but occasionally everything aligns.

Yet, while I’m acknowledging that the majority of my breakfasts are far less photogenic, I should also recognize the occasional. The only part that is pretend is the part where I imagine that all of my breakfasts are like this, instead of just some of them. I’m sitting here with photographic evidence that gorgeous breakfast reading is, in fact, a thing that takes place in my life. I AM that sort of person. I give myself too little credit when I try to pass off today’s lovely breakfast experience as a form of cosplay.

We may not always be our most ideal version of ourselves, the person we want to be, but if we honor those anomalous times when we do have an idealized moment, they become less anomalous. Tomorrow’s sloppy and rushed breakfast does not counterbalance or erase today’s lovely leisurely one.

And every so often, the avocado is perfect when I slice it open.

Why I Reached Instead of Setting Goals

I found the post from last January which explains why I said I was “reaching for” things instead of setting goals. It is a beautiful thought that I want to carry forward with me. You can find the whole post here, but this paragraph catches the idea:

The yoga practice has been a particularly useful addition. For the few in-person classes I attended (before Omicron necessitated staying home again), I found a teacher who constantly emphasized accepting our bodies for where they are at. Reach for your toes. It is okay if you can’t grab them, because the reaching is what matters. I discovered that sitting in that reach, breathing in and out, slowly the reach extends farther. By repeating this practice gently day after day, in an unexpectedly short amount of time I can touch the toes I’ve been reaching for. Patience, breath, and acceptance has led to far more progress than I thought possible. Yet I’m not reaching for progress, I’m reaching for the sake of reaching, progress is just the inevitable result. There are so many lessons in this physical practice that I can use in all the other aspects of my life.

Exiting the Cocoon by Sandra Tayler

After reading that, I feel much better about failing to achieve so many of the things I was reaching for. The reaching was valuable and the process of reaching was part of what propelled me forward into lots of growth that isn’t measured by the list of things I was reaching for. My list for next year is starting to take shape. It isn’t going to be a long list of things I’m reaching for. Instead it will be a short list of priorities, pillars around which I’ll organize everything else.

Or at least that is the shape things have today. I’m still in the process of pulling blog posts, journal entries, and stray thoughts into my annual book. I’m moving through a year’s worth of growth and beginning to understand the journey of the past year. This annual practice helps me set important lessons and decide how to move forward. Like the practice of yoga, the process is far more important than the result. The reach matters more than the grasp. So I’m not rushing to define my thoughts for next year yet. I have reaching and processing still ahead of me.

New Notebook, New Lists

Today I’m starting a new notebook, the one I carry around with me to make lists of To Dos and catch thoughts before they escape. It would feel more neat if I could start the new book on January 1st matching my books to the calendar years, but I’m out of pages and I have things to keep track of in the two weeks left to this year. So I launch into my new book ready or not. The primary task of starting a new notebook is to decide what to carry over from the old one. Task lists are easy to copy over, no thinking there. But which of the quotes that I jotted down in the margins do I want to carry with me into the next book? Which tracking processes should be created anew and which should be abandoned?

In considering this, I am confronted by a list titled “Reaching for in 2022” that contains things like “teach 5-6 times” and “write 12 pieces of short fiction.” I didn’t call them goals, because I knew some of them were a stretch that I wouldn’t achieve. And in fact, I did not reach most of them. Some of them I barely reached for. My first impulse was to copy the list over, give myself another chance to reach for these things. Except the fact that I reached so few tells me something. These goals / hopes / reaches are somehow misaligned with the life I’ve been living. If they weren’t misaligned, I would have grasped more of them. Instead of assigning them to myself again, I think I need to take this space between now and the end of the year to assess what I’m really focused on and what it makes sense to reach for in 2023.

When I make my new list, I won’t even look at the old one. If I forget to put something onto the new list, that means it is no longer a high enough priority to be alive in my thoughts. After I’ve made my new list, I may compare them, just to see how I am different and how I am continuous. Perhaps when the new list is settled and feels right I’ll share it here as well as writing it into my new notebook.

Sidling up to Christmas

I’m sidling up to Christmas carefully this year. I would like to engage with it as a traveler to a strange land who comes to be surprised and delighted with what it has to offer. Unfortunately Christmas requires conscious creation and if no one shows up with lists and tasks and advance planning, the the space for Christmas to arrive does not exist. And in our house, I am the keeper of lists. But my list-brain is overtaxed and reaching exhaustion. I’ve never done the experiment where I do nothing, plan nothing and wait to see if anyone else steps up. I’ll admit that thought is attractive this year when I am tracking and planning so many other things. But it is always unfair to spring a test on other people unaware and unprepared. Doing that sets everyone up to fail. Also, disappointing people is a huge anxiety trigger for me. I would only add to the stress I experience around the holiday, not lessen it. I cannot abandon my usual holiday role wholesale. But I can, perhaps, offload pieces. Make it so that I am not the working solo on a holiday that must always be a group project if it is to function.

To be fair, it has never been only me making Christmas happen. The others show up gifts in hand. They’ve always participated in our shared production of Christmas. But maybe I can let go of being the Christmas taskmaster. I can let us all drift into the middle of December before someone puts lights on the tree. I can wait and see who decides that putting up ornaments is an essential element. I can let go of checking in on everyone else’s portion of the project. I could even abandon any lists related to the holiday and instead do the holiday things that happen to land in that triple intersection of available time, energy, and interest.

It is a scattered approach to a large scale project, but I might be tired enough to pull it off. And it might help me rejoice in the holiday instead of being burdened by it. I would like for this to be a season of rejoicing. It is supposed to be, after all, a joy to the world.