In 2019, Just Say NO
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about my intentions for the new year. I’ve been traveling since December 18th and, despite not having my usual routine of quiet time in the mornings and evenings, it has created lots of opportunities for thinking and reflecting. All I have to do is look out the car window, let the music take me away, and daydreaming starts organically.
What is it that I want for 2019?
This question has been ringing in my ears and I’ve let it come back; I’ve let it take me by the hand into the past year and out into what my subconscious might be secretly hoping for 2019.
Last year for the first time, I decided to choose a word that would guide my actions and intentions for the year; I chose “quiet.” It had come unannounced, naturally, a bit as if I’d been playing a game of hangman with myself.
Quiet came naturally because - or so I assumed - 6 months earlier I’d read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and a few months prior to the 2018 bells ringing, I’d spent 30 days at a yoga studio, where I’d started each day, with my fellow yoga teacher trainees, breathing, meditating, and practicing asana as the sun rose over the Southwest coast of France. These two major events had me crave for time on my own — guilt-free. I wanted to be sure all my actions respected my desire to be soft and quiet from the inside out, to take time to reflect and be present always, in the easy breezy times as much as on the sad, gloomy, and challenging days. Quiet allowed me to do that.
Right now, I’m realizing that most of the year, I’d forgotten about my word. It never came straight to my mind like thoughts tend to — written clearly behind my eyelids in meditation, when I go to bed or when I wake in the morning. I’d forgotten about it, but I did feel guilt-free about being the quiet me I’d always wanted to make space for. It worked, I guess — this idea of having a word to guide my actions — and yet I’m not sure my actions would have been much different if I’d not expressly decided on it. I wonder.
Now, as I watch the palm trees of sunny Florida go by alongside the road from the comfort of an air-conditioned van, next to my sleeping husband, I wonder some more — what word do I want for 2019? What mindset to I want to guide my actions?
It doesn’t come. Not naturally like quiet did, anyway.
My mind keeps exploring with questions, much like a child likes to play building sandcastles and kicking into them right after the bucket is put to the side. Do I really want a word for 2019? And if I don’t, what do I want? Do I need a list of projects, goals, ideas, intentions? Do I need and want them, even if I might not even complete them, even if I might change my mind about them only 2 months into 2019?
I do know the power of writing, and countless are the times I’ve gone through old journals to find forming ideas and dreams written down months, even years before they’d come into fruition. Writing sometimes feels like taking out all the lonely socks I’ve accumulated in the back of my underwear drawer — I get to throw out the ones that have lost their partners (or, lately, upcycle) or match them back together, then put them back in the drawer until I find new loners again.
Writing helps us put things into our subconscious: this way, they stay in the back of our minds without using up the energy we need to focus on the day-to-day (which is probably what happened to my “quiet” word this past year — it went straight to being carefully backed up in the iCloud of my mind).
Now, after a few days of pondering, some precious words do come to my mind: trust, curiosity, openness, kindness, generosity, love, adventure, connection, courage, and clarity. Quiet is most definitely still in there. But I’m not sure I want to, on the one hand, limit myself to just one of them and, on the other hand, limit them to being valid for 2019 only. Sure, they’re meant to be in the spotlight so they actually become part of my mindset and stay for much longer than the year, but right now, choosing one feels confining.
And I don’t want to be limited; I want to be free.
And this idea of freedom has taken my mind toward a completely different direction: what if I focused on what I don’t want? We always consider how letting go is beneficial to us in that it helps make space, automatically, for what we want and need — just like when we stop wasting hours scrolling through social media and realize how much time we suddenly have for reading.
While I’m not sure what 2019 will look like, I’m absolutely certain of what I don’t want.
I don’t want to procrastinate on writing projects. I don’t want to let people waste my time. I don’t want to feel forced to do anything. I don’t want to feel rushed, I don’t want to lack sleep, I don’t want to feel nervous about things that don’t need me to be nervous. I don’t want to waste time on Instagram. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed as often as I’ve been in the past. I don’t want to let days pass before I get started on projects I truly want to begin. I don’t want to worry about money. I don’t want to get into movement, meditations, conversations, events, that I reasonably know will not be of help to my well-being. I don’t want to not say no just because I’m afraid of how people will respond. I don’t want to make excuses that’ll prevent me from taking responsibility.
I don’t want to be mean, ungrateful, impatient, inconsiderate, unkind, passive or selfish.
Suddenly, not only does this feel freeing - as I wanted - but it also feels much more accessible to me. If I’d decided I wanted to be more patient, then there’d be two steps to getting there: first I need to notice when I’m impatient, maybe get to some sort of neutral place (if it exists?) and then take action to feel patient. That’s 3 steps, 2 of which I’m not sure how to do, and that already feels overwhelming.
I can’t make excuses and say I don’t know how to stop doing things - I can start by noticing when I’m mean, impatient, scrolling endlessly through Instagram, and closing my computer when I still have a little energy and desire to write a few more words. I know how to notice my impatience, and I know how to look at it from close up.
It also feels much easier to build upon this: once I get rid of all that I don’t want, I’m left with space for all the things I want. I trust that my intuition and humanness will guide me when these moments present themselves. Approaching the new year this way feels more gentle, and if I’ve learned something in 2018, it’s that the more gentle and soft I am with myself and others, the more I can grow, feel present, grateful, and free.
So, here’s to a year of gentleness and freedom.
With love & curiosity,