Last year, the one little word I lived by was JOY. For 2022, I’m going to focus on being more PRESENT.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and December 10th, I was bouncing back and forth between my kids, trying my best to do right by them in our little homeschool. However, I was distracted. My mind was thinking about work-related emails I needed to check, the Bat Mitzvah I was starting to plan, and the Omicron Variant. Whenever I had a moment of downtime, I’d swipe up on my phone to unlock it. I’d check email. I’d check social media. I’d check the news. For the first time in a long time, I felt scattered.
Soon after, I upgraded to iOS 15 sometime and discovered the focus setting. It went beyond the do not disturb and driving features I’ve had set up for years. Now, I was able to create personal and work settings so I wouldn’t be bothered when I was homeschooling the kids or working in the afternoons, respectively.
After setting up both personal and work settings, the word present presented itself to me. I am more grounded, happier, and mindful when I focus on one thing, task, or person at a time. Rather than continuing to multi-task, which I’ve gotten quite good at, I want to work on staying more focused and being more present in all areas of my life in the year ahead. It’s my goal to be present this year. Some of the ways I can be present will plait together some of my past words, such as balance, joy, laughter, and wellness.
The digital world is wonderful. Most of us are more connected than we’ve ever been because of technology. However, I realized it’s coming at a cost to me. I plan to activate the focus settings on my devices more often so I can stay more present in 2022.
Do you have some tips for helping yourself to stay present? Please share them with me as a comment on this post. I’d love to read your tips!
Recovering from foot surgery + a global pandemic helped me read more books for pleasure last year than I’ve ever read in one year of my adult life. Reading served as my escape when I was unable to leave my home. I traveled all over the world — to places like Australia, Austria, Bolivia, China, and Singapore — and across the United States from the comfort and safety of my home.
After three weeks of reading A Promised Land, which is the longest book I’ve ever read, I found myself a little over the 50% mark. I needed to take a break so I read some novels. First I read Last Tang Standing, which gave me a case of the giggles. Rather than returning to President Obama’s book right away, I picked up Katherine Center‘s newest novel, What You Wish For. It was in the pages of What You Wish For that I found my One Little Word for 2021.
Before I tell you what my word for 2021 is, come back in time with me for a moment. You may remember the latter portion of 2019 was a when-it-rains-it-pours kind of time for our family. I chose the word restore to guide me through 2020. At the time, I thought restore was a bit of a pipe dream. We had a family member who was extremely ill and I didn’t even know if/when I was going to have surgery. While I’ve had to claw my way back to being able to use my foot properly again (I’d say I’m about 90% recovered. The final 10% is going to be challenging. So will taking off some of the weight I gained from being sedentary all of those months, but I’m digressing.), I feel as though I’ve been able to restore most of the things I took for granted before I injured myself in 2019. Plus, said family member has gotten good news twice in the past three months. Amidst all of the horrendous things that have happened relating to COVID-19 in 2020, I am grateful for what we have.
Yet, I’d be disingenuous if I said I have been enjoying life every day. There are big, daily challenges we face as a family. It’s stuff I talk about face-to-face, but I don’t blog about it. These challenges aren’t things that are going to change in a year’s time. The challenging stuff will be demanding for years to come. So when Sam, the main character in What You Wish For said this, I knew I found my word for 2021:
Consciously choosing to be joyful is what I realized I need to do, even when it’s hard. JOY. That’s the word that will guide me in 2021. Joy is something I will look for daily in 2021. I will aspire to find joy every day in 2021.
I don’t have a plan for exactly how I’m going to be joyful on a daily basis this year. So, it’s good that I’m the kind of person who reads the author’s note in books since Center recommendedJoyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. I have a feeling this book will be a roadmap for helping me find joy authentically, even when it’s hard. In the meantime, I will take walks when there’s no snow and ice on the ground, try (more) new recipes, and use face masks once a week since those are things that delight me. But before I read Joyful, I’ve got to finish A Promised Land. (I made it to page 486 of 752 last night!)
My One Little Word of 2019 was reset. When I selected it as my word, I thought it would be the perfect word to help me face any bumps in the road. Little did I know just how off-the-rails the second half of 2019 would be. While there were hassles with both moves and little illnesses for the kids, there were some big things too. Three months ago, three missed steps changed the trajectory of my year when I injured my ankle. Then a family member received some terrible medical news. Those two things were enough to wish away 2019. Then, every time things seemed to look up, there were setbacks or bad news. You know the expression when it rains it pours? Well, it has felt as though it’s been pouring over us for a little over three months. And just because it’s a new year — today — doesn’t mean that life is going to get better magically. I wish a new year and decade would make everything better, but life doesn’t work like that. And perhaps that’s what made it so hard to select a word to live by this year. At first, I thought “MEH” should be my word since getting to meh would be better than where we’ve been for the past few months. But “MEH” isn’t inspirational. I aspire for more than meh. After a lot of thinking, I realized 2020 needs to be a year of restoration. While there’s no going back in time, there is a need to restore my ankle. The health of the family member I mentioned above needs to be restored. Truthfully, there’s a need to restore my role as a daughter, wife, and mother — as I get stronger — so I can return to doing all of the things I used to do since I’ve been dependent on others for many things since late September. Once I am able to restore myself to my previous condition, it’s my sincere hope things will start to feel “normal” again. There will always be mishaps, injuries, illnesses, and upsets. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for less drama so every day doesn’t feel like it’s just waiting for bad news to be heaped upon it. I’m looking to restore some sense of normalcy my family’s life in 2020.
Things began to look up as the Winter Solstice approached. It felt like our family slowly climbing out of the chasm we had been stuck in once summer transitioned into fall. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed an exhausted woman peering back at me. Even though I’ve been going gray for several years, I felt as though the number of grays had increased in recent months. I can do something about this, I told myself. Moments later, I called the salon and requested an appointment for a semi-permanent gloss to be applied to my hair before the end of 2018.
Typically, autumn is the busiest time of year in our family. This season includes back-to-school transitions, birthdays, the Jewish High Holidays, and speaking engagements at conferences. In order for the final season of the year not to feel too hectic, we rely on everyone being healthy, the assistance of grandparents, etc. Without going into too much detail, the wheels fell off the wagon!
Like I said up front, things have gotten better. We are nearly at a point of equilibrium, which feels good. However, as I reflected on the autumn that was, I came to realize there will still be setbacks and frustrations in our lives. The best way to cope is to do a hard reset anytime — not just at the end of a day a week, a month, or a year — life gives us lemons. After coming to that realization, I found one little word to guide me through 2019: RESET.
I brainstormed a list of things I can do anytime I feel like I need to start over. My list included:
Taking a walk.
Listening to jazz or classical music.
Going out for a meal with a family member.
Planning a date night with my husband.
(Feel free to suggest other items I can add to my list by leaving a comment.)
Last weekend, I went to the salon and had the gloss applied to my hair. I left the salon with shiny brown hair completely devoid of grays. Even though the color will fade and the grays will come back in a few weeks, this was the reset I needed to put the autumn of 2018 behind me.
[D]estroy any unpleasant, embarrassing and downright forgettable memories from 2015 and pave the way for new memories in 2016.
Unfortunately, I left Manhattan 18 hours before the event began. Quite frankly, there were a few things I would’ve liked to say “good riddance” to if I had been able to attend yesterday’s event. (Click here and here for two examples.)
On Sunday afternoon, I pulled a muscle while getting onto a rather high horse on the Central Park Carousel. The searing pain that ensued felt like the cherry on top of 2015. And while I was able to walk away (in pain) ten minutes later, I was annoyed. Later that afternoon, while Isabelle and I were washing our hands in a restroom, I was shocked by my reflection in the mirror. I’ve aged this year, I thought. My skin isn’t radiant like it was back in March. just a few weeks after I started a gluten-free diet. Then I noticed my hair. It is grayer — so much grayer — than it was when 2015 began. I didn’t dare look down at my waistline. I didn’t even want to go there. Instead, I turned away from the mirror.
On Monday afternoon, around the time people were shredding their forgettable memories from 2015, I made a phone call to my hair salon where Isabelle and I were scheduled for haircuts this morning. I asked if there was any way my stylist could find the time to put a gloss in my hair before or after my haircut. A few hours later I received a voicemail back from the owner. If I could come in a half-hour earlier, then my stylist could make it happen.
I hustled Isabelle out of the house this morning. I explained that Mommy was going to do something extra at the salon today. After I explained what hair color was, Isabelle had a question.
“Why?” she said simply.
Why? Hmmmm… What could I say that wouldn’t disparage myself while telling her the truth?
“You know how Mommy has had to have surgery twice this year?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“And you know how I still haven’t been feeling well?”
“Yes,” she said again.
“Well,” I paused. “It’s been a hard year. I want to have a fresh start for the new year. See all these gray hairs?” I pointed to my head. She inspected and nodded. “Well, I don’t want to see them for a few weeks.”
Once we arrived at the salon, I learned a gloss alone wouldn’t cover my grays. My stylist suggested a demi-permanent hair color, which doesn’t contain ammonia. It only lasts for 24 shampoos, but this kind of hair color blends away the gray while bringing out one’s natural color. Perfect.
My hair was cut, then colored. Isabelle’s hair was cut while my hair processed. Isabelle sat calmly under the hair dryer while the color was rinsed out of my hair. As soon as my hair was dry, I leaned towards the mirror. I couldn’t see a single gray hair! Not a single one! It felt as though the past eight months of my life had been erased from my head. Even though my skin wasn’t a glow and my body isn’t as svelte as it once was a year ago, I felt so much better when I looked in the mirror. And right now, that is enough.
My stylist walked over to me while I checked out. She reminded me to book extra time for coloring my hair in March. I thanked her for the reminder but assured her this would be a one-time thing. (NOTE: After a horrendous experience with a Sun-In type of product in 1992, I endured a double-process and highlights once my roots became unsightly. I haven’t touched my hair with dye ever since I went back to my natural color in early 1993.) My grays are a part of me I typically don’t mind. Sometimes I even lovingly refer to them as my wisdom streaks. However for the next month, I’m forgetting about those grays and all of the heartache they represent.
However for the next month, I don’t see those “wisdom streaks.” Covering up my gray is part of my plan to pave the way for a better year in 2016. I’ll reveal the other part of my plan, which I began working on earlier this month, over at Two Writing Teachers next Thursday when I share my One Little Word for 2016.
I was feeling a bit sluggish when 2012 came to a close. I gained a few pounds in December since we went to New York and celebrated our anniversary. Even though I had been going to bed at 10:00 p.m. nearly every night and was exercising, I wanted to be healthier and more vital in 2013. In an effort to keep my wellness top of mind, I picked “vitality” to be the one little word to guide me through 2013.
About a week into January I got sick with a sinus infection that was so bad it affected my asthma and required two courses of antibiotics. I barely exercised that month, which means that when I got back on the elliptical rider and the reformer, it felt as if I were a newbie working out for the very first time. If I had made a resolution to workout more, then perhaps I would’ve given up. However, one little word is like a marathon. I couldn’t give up since that was my word of the year. hit the reset button on February 1st, once I was completely better, and renewed my quest for vitality.
I began meditating in late March as a way of trying to achieve a greater sense of overall vitality. I started out by listening to a 10 minute podcast from a program called Headspace, on my iPhone. Initially, it was challenging to carve out 10 minutes in my day for this purpose so I was meditating before bedtime, which meant I’d often fall asleep during the meditation. I rescheduled my meditation for earlier in the day and began to have more energy and found a greater sense of calm.
Every day I listen to a 20 minute podcast, which helps me reset my body and my mind. As a mother of a toddler, I have found I have more energy for keeping up with my daughter since I started meditating. Furthermore, I have more patience for dealing with the inevitable mood swings and the constant testing that go along with having a toddler too. My meditation time is something I closely guard and value as part of my daily life.
My husband reminds me (often) that I need to make myself a priority. He plays with Isabelle or takes her out on the weekends so I can make time for exercising and meditating while Isabelle is awake. (That enables me to use her nap times to do work.) In fact, if he comes home from work and finds out I was unable to carve out the time to do either one of those during the day, he takes over so I can take care of myself. Having his support certainly makes it easier to achieve greater well-being.
If I’m lucky (and I mean really lucky), Isabelle will nap for three hours in the afternoon. That means I have three hours to meditate (25 minutes), workout (60 minutes), and get work done (95 minutes). That doesn’t leave a lot of time for work, which means I often spend the evenings, after she goes to bed, writing and working on presentations. Since I’m still in bed by 10:00 p.m. (and up by 6:00 a.m.), I often have to have someone watch Isabelle so I can get work done before presentations and consulting engagements. While hiring an occasional babysitter isn’t ideal, I have to balance my day times in order to stay true to myself on my quest towards vitality. However, I know I’m a better mother, wife, daughter, and friend when I am well-rested, take care of my brain, and treat my body well. Therefore, this is the path I’m sticking with for the remainder of this calendar year.
As for the rest of 2013, I’m going to try to drink more water and reduce the amount of chocolate I eat. (NOTE: Reduce, not eliminate!) Also, I’ve been in the process of cutting back on the amount of caffeine I consume. I’m still going to work on that for the remainder of the year.
What one little word are you living by this year? How is your word helping you stay on track with your goals or do you need to reset and give yourself another chance to live by your word this year?