I had lots of ideas about new year resolutions running through my mind towards the end of last year. 2018 was a sticky year – nothing really seemed to happen but it never seemed to stop either, and honestly I got to the Christmas and New Year break feeling exhausted. Getting my inner hermit on over the break helped a bit, but it was also a really tough time. I know Christmas is for many people and in some ways that’s good; it’s actually quite reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone. But it was also a strange mix of quiet, calm, restorative, and a white knuckle ride of sadness, anger and fear. So in the end I decided to say sod it to new year resolutions and think about just not being stuck anymore. When I say stuck, it was a discombobulating feeling of not moving but also being completely untethered. One of my favourite bloggesr, Jessica Rose Williams, described herself as “unearthed” and this struck such a chord (side note: I took JRW’s Build a Capsule Wardrobe e-course last year and it was brilliant; my wardrobe and, more importantly, my attitude, has shifted seismically and I will definitely do a post on the experience and the outcome at some point). Anyway, being untethered belonged to last year and while we are always of course in the present but still imprinted with the past, there is something symbolic about clearing away the detritus of an old year.
This year, though, instead of trying to reconstitute myself into something “better”, and what the hell is that anyway, I’ve decided to just be more me: flaws, quirks, awkwardness, hangups and, and this is important, all the other good things about me too. At the same time, I have so many ideas for how I want to work, live, be etc and I just need to figure out how to start pulling them into a cohesive shape. I’ve had a phrase in my head for years – perfection is in the imperfection – like Kintsugi, or gold joinery, where broken pottery is fixed with gold so that the flaw becomes an innate and perfect part of the whole. We can never be fully ourselves as one solid, rigid piece. Instead we need to be flexible enough to withstand life’s adventures, but not so strong that we can’t yield so end up breaking. When we allow parts of ourselves to crack open or break, and to be healed, that’s when we become more fully ourselves. So in a non-narcissistic way, being more myself is my focus for 2019. I guess if it was a word it would be “Integrity” with all the implications of honesty, integration, wholeness that implies. Here’s what I hope that it will look like (because another part of this is trying not to hold onto an outcome too tightly, which is a cheeky habit of mine that makes life quite challenging at times: perfectionism, I’m looking at you!):
This article from David at Raptitude was a game changer as I agonised over making resolutions and wondered why I couldn’t settle on anything. All the usual diet/exercise/whatevers sounded so prosaic, even when I framed them in the Instagram friendly language of “eat more greens, move more” blah blah. Not excited. The Depth Year proposition is that, for a year, instead of starting a new hobby, buying something new, or doing something different, we do what we know and love, but more and better. And better because we allow ourselves to go deep on our learning, to fail and try again. Pattabhi Jois said “Practice and all is coming.” So simple but also mind-bogglingly profound for a not-so-closet perfectionist (I like to call myself a reformed perfectionist but I listened to this podcast recently and found myself squirming in my chair. A lot). When we keep on taking on new projects and hobbies, trying to learn new languages, starting new relationships even, we never really get passed the beginners stage with anything. There’s loads of exciting things about the beginner stage, right, we all know that. And the idea of the intermediate to advanced stage is daunting especially when it comes to relationships. It can be frightening because we’re programmed not to stay still if we can; where’s the adventure, what will we learn, where’s the spark? But if all we’re ever looking for is the spark, how will we know when the engine is running so we can really get motoring.* It’s so easy to try something and decide we’re not good enough yet without ever asking ourselves the question: well how can we be good enough yet? Moving on feels safer and more dynamic, but I think we’re missing out. In fact, I know I have been. So this year my focus is going to be narrow but deep. I’m in such a privileged position to be studying something that drives me, doing work that I love, with wonderful friends. I’ve got a couple of creative interests that I’ve had since childhood and they still excite me so for this year, no being distracted by new shiny things. My focus is on those areas: strengthening my relationships, working on the business (and I hope a new part of that business that is more focused on creativity) and at college, and being creative (arghh, massive trigger for me because this is one of my fears – this year, instead of saying I can’t write or design etc because I’m not good enough, I’m just going to put words on the page, and stitches on the needles, and see what happens. I don’t actually have to be good enough because who’ll even know?). A plan without a plan at the moment …
Speaking from the Heart
This video. Just watch it. So I openly recognise that my relationship with my dog is completely co-dependent and he is definitely a child substitute. But I’ve always been an animal lover and believe completely that we are also animals and am pretty uncomfortable with the idea of animals as consumables or fast moving consumer goods. There is a clear conflict that I’m also trying to work out in my own daily life – leather shoes and bags etc – I recognise that and part of this year is figuring out how I can come into alignment with my values. There’s no use just talking about them.
Anyway, the problematics aside, I am a guardian to my hound, and, well, my hound is the expression of my beating heart.
This video, and all the beautiful advice from Courtney Carver about taking time in to tune in to your heart’s intention, it makes perfect sense. Last year I decided that it would be my year of Radical Honesty. That didn’t really work, but this year I am 100% committed to making space for my heart to speak, and for me to listen to it. That might mean I need some time to respond to people or to questions but when I do respond, it will be the truth as I see it. There will obviously be times when someone else has information that makes my truth redundant and the only way to be really honest is to listen to that and change and grow. I just finished reading How To Keep People from Pushing your Buttons and it’s set me thinking a lot about ownership of our language and interactions with others (not least in light of the important conversations that are being had on social media at the moment in worlds that I’m connected to and interested in – ethical fashion, knitting and textile arts etc). So radical honesty is what I’m committing to – the courage to be truthful, the humility to be wrong, and the willingness to be alone if it means holding on to the integrity of a situation.
Listen Connect Learn
This final one really draws the two above together. This year I just commit to having (metaphorical) big ears, an open heart and a willing mind.
How to make it happen
There are some practical ways to make these things a reality because otherwise I’ll just be sitting at home (yes, with the dog) pontificating about what all these things look like and it gets pretty easy to think one’s got there like that.
- Meditation – I meditate for twenty minutes twice a day, every day. I went on a TM retreat a couple of years ago and it was brilliant. However, I lack the discipline and now instead have had the beautiful voice of Andy Puddicombe guiding my meditations for the last 397 days. I started out doing three minute meditations. Now I do one of a longer course in the mornings and the Everyday Headspace every evening. It’s just part of my day now. I don’t know if it makes me calmer or creates more space but I believe it does. It’s a bit like body-brushing; I don’t want to stop doing it in case the reality without it is worse! Anyway, as Russell Brand would say “meditate you maniacs.”
- Interrogate why I want stuff – really. Another handbag? Honestly (I will post about the Great Handbag Audit Shame of January 2019 soon; I’m just still coming to terms with the volume of things first). Anyone else mainline the Marie Kondo Netflix series in the New Year? Moderation is clearly not a strength of mine … I first read her book in 2014 and loved it. As you can probably tell from the comment above about the hound, I have a tendency to anthropomorphise. Her approach normalises imbuing one’s things with an essence, and that gives my decluttering a real vitality – because I have a responsibility to care for those things. So much that I decluttered the entire loft and most of the house. Including her book, which I regretted and later repurchased. It sits on a shelf with the other minimalism books I have bought, devoured and loved (the ones that didn’t do much for me have been donated). Sadly, it didn’t stick and I’m still decluttering. Or there was just so much stuff that it has taken this long to make progress. I have made progress – clearing up between Christmas and New Year took moments, and there was suddenly space. There’s just still too much stuff. There was an Instagram post on the Beyond Wear thread about emotional shopping. Why a bad day made the blogger want to buy a pair of boots. I get it, and that’s what needs to stop happening. And first, I need to notice that it’s happening, and then figure out what’s driving it (also, the Headspace 30 day Stress meditation series is really helping me get close to this stuff).
- Interrogate why I’m letting stuff go – some things are really easy (the Napipijri jacket the STBEH bought me while he was on a ski trip with one of his mistresses? That can definitely go. Let it keep someone warm and do its job instead of functioning here as a signifier of disappointment. The lovely Luella bag I bought with my first ever bonus that sits in a trunk and never sees the light? That has to go to a good home where it gets to do its job and see the light). You get the idea.
So that was a very long New Year post essentially to say that I’m planning on just being me, but that the process of “just being me” may actually be a tricky one, an excavation into some fairly confronting truths, and hopefully some reassuring ones too. Anyway, I’ve got Heinrich the Hound to help. His noisy snoring can be heard from anywhere in the house and it’s one of my favourite sounds; I can orientate myself to anywhere if he’s nearby.**
*Another thing to try this year might be to stop stretching a metaphor but I’m not making an promises on that.
** Displacement you say? Why yes. Maybe a resolution to address that in 2020! This year I’m just going to enjoy hanging out with the hound as much as possible. He’s an excellent helpmate with decluttering.