Words can be powerful. They can mean one thing and many things all at once.
It’s resolution making time. Best foots are being put forward for a bright new year. Promises are being made. Maybe some have already been broken. I’ve not made a New Year’s resolution for a long time. We abandoned them several years ago, as restrictive and often unrealistic added pressure in what was already the gloomiest month of the year. Even switching them around so they sound more positive still fails to hide the truth, you’ve made a list of things you’re going to feel bad about if you do them. Not how I want to start my new year.
For a while, we wrote bucket lists of all the things, big and small, that we wanted to do or achieve that year. From feeding the ducks to learning to snowboard, it was an awesome list of days out and experiences. It was fun to think up all of the things we wanted to do, and satisfying to tick each of them off. But some things just kept moving to the following year. Mainly the big things. Or the expensive things. Until all we had on left our list were big and expensive things. It had become a New Year list of everything we had failed to already achieve. I still haven’t learnt to snowboard.
So, last year I decided to scrap the new year resolutions and scrap the bucket list. I wanted to live more in the present. Not by some arbitrary set of rules I’d given myself, or by ticking off tasks on a list.
Instead, I chose two words.
I thought long and hard about them, they were to be my focus for that year.
I chose words that I wanted to be in my life more. Words that would remind me how to improve my life every day.
Being Present in my life had become very important to me. After the birth of Bee in the summer of 2015, I’d checked out emotionally for a while. Post-natal anxiety meant that I hadn’t really felt completely present for Bee’s first few months. My anxiety also often led me to live way out in the future, worrying and fretting about a life (or death) that may never come. So, for 2016 I wanted to be Present. I wanted to live in the moment, to look around me and recognise what was good, to be thankful, and to give 100% of my attention to my little family right as they were.
Knowing that it wouldn’t be easy, my second word was Brave. I called on that word more times than I thought I would throughout 2016. Even seemingly small things can take a whole chestful of bravery to begin. It’s not a word we use often as adults. Brave is a word reserved for children having their scrapes patched up, and firefighters in blazing buildings. But it’s a strong word, and we should use it more. It certainly helped me push my boundaries and take leaps that I never thought I would.
This year I’m adding two more words.
Slowing things down fits in with being present. It feels like the logical next step. Everything in the world is so fast. Technology, people, growing-up. Sometimes I need reminding to stop. To slow down because it’s not a race. And actually, going slow is pretty beautiful. Last autumn Bee and I took a slow walk to the post box. I noticed so much that I just wouldn’t have seen normally. In 2017, I want to go slow more. To take moments to stop and look around me. To breathe everything in. To breathe Bee in whilst I’m still all she needs.
I’m not an incredibly physical person. I probably take after my dad in that respect. Whilst I am physically affectionate with my little family, even then I sometimes forget. I’m quite happy in my own skin, and I really value my personal space. I never quite understood how much until I had Bee.
In those first few months of post-natal anxiety and continuous breastfeeding I struggled with the intensity of Bee being constantly in my personal space. I hadn’t realised how much I keep that invisible barrier around me, nor had I anticipated how difficult it would be to let it down, or even that I would need to. Over time Bee became a part of my personal space, she kind of existed within it (she still does) and it stopped being a problem. But it did open my eyes. What am I missing out on.
Touch releases the neurohormone oxytocin which makes us feel happy and reduces stress, fear and pain. – Meik Wiking
I definitely need more of that in my life. And who knows, maybe my practice subjects will fell the benefit too.
This year I challenge you to ditch the new year resolutions and bucket lists. Choose a word, choose two. And live by them.