So I don’t really do new year’s resolutions. It’s partly because while 1st January is the first day of the new calendar year, I don’t generally get my super excited new year buzz then. I tend to get that buzz around Samhain (the end of October, for non-witchy types among you) but there’s still some buzziness left by the beginning of January for a bit of mainstream NYE tradition.
The other reason I don’t really do new year’s resolutions is that it just doesn’t resonate with me in any meaningful way. If I want to start a new thing in February or September, I start the thing then. Waiting for a specific date on a calendar feels kind of pointless, unless it’s a big collective event like NaNoWriMo. I’m not saying this should ring true for everyone. I know the whole having-a-date-to-do-a-thing is really helpful for some people, but it isn’t for me. Like when I quit smoking a few years ago, I decided one day to do it and I did it that day. That was the successful attempt after four unsuccessful attempts that involved date-setting, cutting down and other planning and preparation. A lot of people I know found it worked better for them to pick a date in the future, cut down gradually and then officially quit on that date. So different strokes. I know.
What I like to do instead of setting new year’s resolutions is to choose a focus word for the year. This is something that ties in with everything I’m doing and informs my approach to life in a positive and constructive way. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my focus word for 2019…
The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.– Oxford English Dictionary
Why presence? It started with something difficult. I had to defer my uni course. I’ve thought and talked about this so much that I can’t deal with thinking or talking about it anymore in a huge amount of detail, but what it came down to was that I went into it with a passion, giving it my all, but also not knowing for certain that I would definitely be able to physically manage the workload with my current health situation. It turns out I couldn’t.
Open University were so supportive and helpful, I can go back any time to pick up the module I left and I have until 2031 to complete the degree if I want to. I’m not even thinking about it like that right now though. It was a painful thing to deal with for a number of reasons and I’m grateful to my family, both biological and logical, for reminding me that it’s OK to prioritise my well-being. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason or any trite bullshit like that, but I do believe it’s worth seeking meaning in experiences. So yeah, sometimes things are crap, it’s necessary to make difficult choices, and I don’t have to spend my life skimming along rock bottom for my existence to be valid. Sometimes I get spun around and I can choose to be open to something amazing in whatever direction I find myself facing. So it goes. It’s still an adventure.
And if you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there– from Any Road by George Harrison, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
To be fair, I at least I know what vehicle I’m currently driving even if I’m not sure what road I’m on. I’m allowing myself to be creative in whatever form that takes. Something I realised recently is that I need to (finally, seriously) overcome the idea that anything less than prioritising achievement over everything else in my life isn’t enough. It’s probably going to take a while, but I’m trying to accept that approaching life from a place of practicality, not staggering from collapse to collapse and labelling the short spaces of gasping for breath in between as ‘fine’, is actually a pretty positive move.
That isn’t easy when you’ve spent your whole life internalising the message you’re always going to be OK because you’re so motivated and disciplined and you work so hard, which leaves no room for being anything other than motivated and disciplined and hard-working (and by hard-working I mean peak exertion as my default state of existence). Being acutely directed to the exclusion of everything else has always felt like a strange kind of security, like I should be able to draw a line from point A to point B and follow that line. I might be aware of the location of point A but point B keeps moving around and sometimes it’s point C or point D or point X. I feel compelled to create a tidy narrative so I can answer people’s well-meaning questions and so I can sleep at night because it’s OK, I’m on a path and I can see the whole thing stretching out ahead of me. But it’s not right, or it’s not right for me. That straight path with infinite visibility doesn’t exist and I can’t make it exist just because it would be easier if it did.
Again, I feel like I need to acknowledge that this isn’t the same for everyone. It isn’t even the same for me now as it has been before and perhaps will be again. Sometimes it’s good and sensible and necessary to set goals and draw maps and follow them. But sometimes, for some people, it isn’t. This is one of those times and I’m one of those people. I’ve taken great leaps over the last couple of years to get out of the mindset that if I’m not working myself into the ground constantly and being useful, I’m a failure, a waste of space, not trying hard enough working hard enough doing enough being enough. It’s a process.
All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost– from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
I’m not saying I’ll never make solid(ish, as solid as practical and possible) plans for the future or dive into hardcore tangible goal setting and thing-achieving ever again. But for now, for this year anyway, I want to focus on being present, on simply being. I want to write and take photos and make art in whatever way I feel pulled towards. I want to play the piano and play Mario Kart and drink tea in the garden at night with my bare feet in the grass and binge-watch shows on Netflix and drive to the beach and breathe the sea air and mindlessly scroll through Twitter sometimes without feeling guilty for not being productive enough. I want to spend time with my family and friends – I mean, I want to be physically able to spend time with my family and friends – and more than that I want to really be there with them, not half lost in my own head, thinking about tomorrow or next week or next year and how I’m somehow never going to be good enough, whatever that even means.
I want, need, to immerse myself in the now, in all the nows. So here’s to 2019 – my year of presence.