Two years ago, I took a tip from Dianne Sylvan and chose the word DECISIVE to guide myself through 2014. I was surprised at how effective the technique was; I filtered everything through the lens of that word and I accomplished several tasks I could never figure out how to approach. Turns out you get a lot done just by deciding to get those things done.
Last year I neglected to do this exercise and I regretted it. While my life definitely went through changes for the better (boyfriend and a house just about covers the positives), I neglected a lot of aspects in my life that could have used generous amounts of TLC. As a result, 2015 felt like a very unfocused year with no clear accomplishments or goals on a personal level, or at least not until the very end of the year. (Did I mention I quit smoking? Saving that story for a later post.)
I was determined to reinstate the “word of the year” for 2016 and this was reinforced by seeing Crissy – who I share many traits with, especially not-so-great ones – work so diligently at reworking her personal habits. (More on that later, too.) I already set certain changes in motion late in 2015, but the new year really does feel like an energizing start for me. I know, I know – that’s what they all say, but accomplishing the intimidating task of quitting smoking makes the other changes I want to make seem easily attainable. I feel like I have a leg up and I need to capitalize on this momentum or risk falling into bad habits again.
I chose CULTIVATE as my word for 2016. There’s no passivity in that word. If I want to accomplish anything this year, that shit’s on me to do it at every level, even if I only get as far as the try stage. And I need to be at peace with the fact I will fail and that fact should never be a deterrent before I’ve made the attempt.
What I want to cultivate in 2016:
- Blogging. I don’t think I can match Crissy-levels of blogging dedication, but my attempts have been laughable these last few years. And then I think about how I used to write on LiveJournal nearly every day for five or six years straight and get it together, self.
- My Bullet Journal. I started my BuJo on December 1st and, while I’m still working out what works for me and what doesn’t, I’m already finding it invaluable in how I plan my week. I’ve mostly been using it as a planner but I’m hoping to integrate more journal-y aspects moving forward.
- Staying hungry for new music. I’m already well on my way here because of my radio show. It’s been a blast rediscovering my love of music and falling down rabbit holes as I click around Bandcamp and blogs.
- Finish a piece of writing. It can be as short as a story or as long as a novel, but I must write and I must finish it.
- Read 50 books. Keeping up with my GoodReads Reading Challenge goal has never been a problem, but I do want to be more diverse in my selections this year.
- Make tangible things. This is the year I will learn how to build and maintain an herb garden, as well as landscaping my house. Luckily, I live in the desert, so my front and back yards contain small rocks instead of grass, but I have trees, three flower beds, and I really want my herb garden, dammit. I’m fortunate in that the boyfriend’s mother is an excellent and passionate gardener, so I’ll have someone to guide me when I get discouraged and/or am killing things deader than dead. I also bought a copy of this book because the thought of making my own ricotta fills me with a sense of well-being that only cheese can accomplish.
- Better daily habits. I’ve already started laying the groundwork for this one in an attempt to ward off seasonal apathy. (I don’t call it seasonal depression because, while it’s a very real problem for many, it feels hyperbolic to refer to what I experience as depression.) I love the autumn, but as I get older I realize how much I crave daylight and longer days, and when it’s completely dark by 5:15pm, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep. For a while, I was doing yoga/stretching as soon as I got home from work, which helped to keep my energy up and, incidentally, made my body feel loose, flexible, and awesome throughout the day. I don’t know how or why I stopped but I’ll be reinstating this habit ASAP, as well as maintaining my newfound habit of showering before I go to bed so I’m forced to wash off my make-up. (I thought I was alone in nighttime face-washing shame, but then it turned out Crissy is my soul sister in all things.) This has also helped give structure to my evenings; instead of wandering around listlessly until I fall into bed, I come home from work, do chore-type things, check and answer email, make and eat dinner, shower and relax with a cup of tea, watch a movie, read, and generally enjoy the rest of my evening. Now I just need to slide my yoga in there, and I’ll have a solid routine to further build upon.
- Get active. I mentioned reinstating the yoga/stretching habit, but I really want to make physical activity a priority this year. K (the boyfriend) comes from a very physically active family; his mom is a personal trainer, hiking is a big family passion, as is running. This is the complete opposite of how I grew up and, admittedly, it makes me feel self-conscious…but also curious. As I explained to K just last night, I’m easily bored when it comes to exercise, but he called bullshit. He knows I can be competitive and that I like activities that have clear goals, accomplishments, and rewards. He argued that I’ve never actually made the effort and he’s absolutely right. For Christmas, K took me to buy my first pair of proper hiking shoes and I’m actually excited to hit the trail. (Since Tucson is surrounded on all sides by mountains, we’re spoiled for choice on hiking trails for people with all levels of experience and skill.) Then the other day I found myself idly considering whether I could learn to like running – mostly because it would give me an excuse to do something while listening to my iPod. The jury’s still out on whether I’m serious about giving it a shot, but it’s helpful knowing K is there to be a motivator/hold me accountable. Also, we could do it together, so not as easily bored, and we now live in a neighborhood where I feel safer going by myself if need be.
- Caring for myself. I haven’t been back to my primary care physician since I had my emergency surgeries in 2013 and that’s…terrible. Because I’ll be 37 years old in 28 days and it’s time to start monitoring this walking sack of meat I shuffle everywhere. I pay for health insurance, so use it, dummy.
- Repair/reignite/maintain old friendships and cultivate new ones. The truth is that I am not very good at being a friend. It’s not that I’m untrustworthy or don’t deeply care about my friends, but maintaining friendships has always been a problem for me. This also extends to family. I am very much a person that has no problem maintaining those relationships if those people are physically in my life every day. Fortunately, my family and friends love me and all of my flaws, even if I don’t always deserve it. But I can do better. I need to do better. I need to break out of my so-called comfort zone (which is really just a polite way of saying “apathetic”) and thoroughly engage with others. Last night, I very nearly crapped out on attending a New Year’s party because I was on day two of my period (I feel Day Two really deserves to be capitalized) and cranky and tired. But we went, and I got drunk on bourbon and brown sugar-cream cheese-frosted cupcakes rolled in toasted coconut, and I had wonderful, fulfilling conversations with people I’d seen at other parties and only casually chatted with before. And then I did something I would never have done in the past: I told these people I was going to friend them on Facebook and then I did it. (Past!Heather is cringing herself into oblivion right now.) There’s the New Year’s superstition that posits whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you will be doing for the rest of the year, so I used the first few hours of 2016 to make new friends. Sure, they’re Facebook friends right now, but the ball is in my court to turn that into something more.
Will I meet all of these goals? Maybe. Or maybe I will fail spectacularly at every single one. But the end result does not matter. What matters is that I make the effort instead of sitting by, passive, expecting results just because I wish it. So I expect lots of Instagram photos of my failed attempts at making cheese and growing rosemary.