In years past I have ushered in the new year with gusto. With great big plans, ideas, intentions. Not so much this year.
That said, I do remain an optimist. I don’t foresee that ever changing. However, after 2020, I’m a little wiser. More cautious. More realistic. More measured in how I approach things.
So I’m not going to tell you all about the 4 things I intendam determined to do wish to have the time to master in 2021. I’m keeping that to myself for the moment.
I’m going into this year with my head on straight. As if I’m walking into a dark room I am unfamiliar with. Keeping my wits about me. Taking careful, slow, steps. Lowering my expectations to prevent disappointment. Using all of my senses to navigate this new year.
The one thing I am going to be intentionally focusing on now that the new year is upon us: doing my best each and every day (from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which I wrote about here but not about this particular agreement, but whatever).
I think it’s worthwhile, as one who is taking the agreement of “doing your best” seriously, to ponder what that looks like. What does it mean for me personally?
One of my most inexcusable faults is that I am rarely on time for anything. I consistently fall into this weird mind trap, when I’m getting ready to go somewhere, of believing that I have time to do just one more thing before I hit the road. And I’m wrong about that 99% of the time. So I’m ‘fessing up. I know it pisses some people off when I waltz in 5 (or more) minutes late. It calls negative attention to myself and I need to Cut.It.Out. I’ve started focusing on getting places on time for real in the last couple of weeks. I think thus far I’ve made it on time about 25% more frequently than before. Give or take.
There are other areas in my life, well really all areas in my life, where I must do my best each day. Like putting in my best effort at work. Not putting any tasks off until “tomorrow” that I have the time and energy to do today. Listening to others when they speak and not hesitating to ask for clarification to ensure I understood what they meant.
Thing is, doing my best each day is within my control. And if I can look back on my day and agree with myself that I did my best, regardless of my mood, if I felt rested, or if I was tested-well, then I won’t have any regrets. And peace will reign within me.
Remarkable. That is the word I would use to describe my 2018.
In 2018, my Dad passed away. My brother in law did as well. My mom’s health declined. Our oldest spawn went through a hellish year with her possibly soon to be ex and we did our best to provide her the support she needed. Our grandson celebrated his 4th birthday here with us in Colorado, and started Pre-K in September.
He gifted us with this original creation, which Hubs and I found in our half-bath upon coming home from driving them to the airport to fly back to Wisconsin after our wonderful visit.
Our youngest spawn continued on their quest for self-improvement. Continued using their artistic gifts. Deeply contemplated their spirituality and became more emotionally intelligent and mature. I’m very proud of both our spawn. As 2018 comes to a close, I am cautiously optimistic about their futures.
In 2018, Hubs and I had lots of company and did a good bit of travel ourselves. We continued to engage in our church life and participated in community activities. In 2018, Colorado began to truly feel like home to us, and not just an extended pit stop on our journey as married empty-nesters.
While Hubs continued to practice regularly on his yukelele, his one and only New Year’s resolution (Yay for Hubs!), I continued to blog. Some experiences I wrote about on my blog, and some I didn’t (see note above about the spawn). For better or worse.
2018 was my first full calendar year as a blogger. I published 49 posts in that 12 month span of time. During this magic week between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve had the time and energy to read and contemplate every single one of them. I thought it’d be a worthwhile exercise for me; a way to gather some insight into how things went on the whole for my blog this year. To start plotting my blogging path for 2019, make some decisions about topics I should continue writing about and topics that may not need to be covered going forward.
This blogging thing continues to be a work in progress, just like me.
Below, in no particular order whatsoever, is my subjective reflection on the top 10 published posts on Pollyanna’s Path in 2018. Meaning this isn’t entirely based on the number of likes, views, or comments each post had. It’s also based on 1) if I thought it was brave, 2) if I thought it was cohesive, and 3) if it revealed my heart.
This post was me essentially whining about my struggles as a blogger. Surprisingly, it got the most likes of all the posts I penned in 2018. I think perhaps I struck a chord with my fellow bloggers with this one. I also made mention of the new Facebook blogger’s group I had just joined and got gutsy and asked for comments, for which I was (gratefully) rewarded. I think the take-away here is that I need to do a better job of compelling readers to comment in 2019. I am open to suggestions on how to do that, fellow bloggers!
I think that this wacky post was the one I enjoyed writing the very most this year. I had such an interesting experience that day at the “Metaphysical Fair” and I wanted to take a shot at telling a true-to-life humorous story. And now that I’ve reviewed this post, I know that in 2019 I simply must have a session with a medium (not necessarily involving Tarot cards this time).
My most emotionally vulnerable post this year was written by my heart. I was so raw and struggling to make sense of my feelings and what our family had just gone through as I wrote that. However, the process of sharing tidbits about my Dad, the things that made him who he was to me, was cathartic.
Once in a while, because I am truly a “foodie”, I am compelled to share a recipe along with personal anecdotes about my relationship with the food I love, as I did here. Going into this process of evaluating my posts from 2018, I thought it likely that one of the topics I would cease to write about on this blog going forward into the new year, would be food. However, I have changed my mind. Cooking, eating, and sharing recipes is part of who I am in my real life, and having a platform to write about all things food (when the mood strikes of course) is just too hard to say no to.
A few times in 2018 I got brave, like I did here. I have yet to see this movie, truth be told. Now that it’s available on Netflix (or is it Amazon Prime?), I will surely see it before long. I like the creativity of this post but more importantly, I like that it was both a bit ballsy and 100% honest.
Speaking of being honest, I did not follow through on any of the activities mentioned in this post. I am such a slacker. Nevertheless, it garnered a decent amount of likes and it felt good (not in a comfy way by any stretch, mind you) to actually for the first time, make mention of fictional characters I intend to write about some day in 2019. I’m crossing my fingers that this blogging community will hold me accountable on this one!
My sweet, loving, hard-working, honest-to-the-core, and greatly missed Dad inspired this post. My intention when publishing this one was to inspire my readers to quit being so darn hard on themselves. And this funky retro sign with this simple but so important sentiment hangs on the wall in our office, right underneath my vision board (note to self: update this thing in 2019).
This post is one of my personal favorites. I was thrilled when I realized that it actually was well-received enough that another blogger included it in one of their posts! That is something I get a kick out of with this blogging thing-putting out a message, in a humorous way, that encourages people to do something positive! Like donating good, non-or-not-too-expired-and certainly unopened food to those in need.
I don’t think I realized until now, as I’m winding down my “Top 10” blog posts for 2018, just how much my Dad meant to me, how much he inspired me. This post is another tribute to him, and one of the favorite posts I have ever penned.
It’s important to me as a blogger, and an almost 52 year old woman, to have a good attitude about aging. To be real about it and embrace it. To not let your age put limits on life’s pursuits, whether it be re: your career, your hobbies, your sex life, the way you dress, whatever it is. That’s why I wrote this post about the women I know who inspire me on the daily.
My personal hope for 2019 is that I will grow my blog, make new blogging friends, and surprise myself (and the world?!) with my ability to tell a good story.
I don’t know the origin story for this sign. I can only imagine that it was something someone made back in the early 70’s and gave to my parents. I just remember it hanging on the fiberboard walls of my dad’s beloved garage while I was growing up. I can only assume that my mom couldn’t find quite the right place to display it in our house. Or she found it tacky.
But my dad had an appreciation for this sign. It meant something to him. It was hung on those fiberboard walls next to scribblings from family and friends from near and far who were visiting our house for one celebration or another. Dad got a big kick out of having guests sign the wall in the garage to commemorate various celebrations. He was quite the sentimental guy.
I think first and foremost, this sentiment, these words, apply to the important concept of self-care. I think it’s easy to go through our days mentally haranguing ourselves about how we could have done “this” better, or how we shouldn’t have said “that” to whomever, or that we should have reacted differently in a particular situation. Something I’m trying to do lately is to put my self-defeating thoughts on pause for a moment and ask myself if the negative thoughts about myself would be something I would actually say out loud (or even under my breath) to a close friend. The answer is always, emphatically, “no”. I think this sign is an excellent reminder to be gentle (aka kind) to oneself.
I also believe if we have any hope of ushering in a kinder, less dysfunctional, society, not only for the benefit of those of us living in the here and now, but for the generations coming up behind us, we should endeavor to heed these words in our day to day interactions with others, whether they be strangers or friends.
What does this look like for me? I think it’s more what it sounds like, in my case. When I am frustrated with another person because they are jumping on my last nerve, if I’m being honest, these not-so-positive feelings are evident in my tone of voice. If I can be cognizant of this fact, in the moment, I can hit the pause button for a hot second and make the necessary adjustments. I think one simple tool is to slap a smile on my face. Then when I open my mouth to speak again, the words cannot help but come out in a kinder, gentler way.
Tell me, kind and gentle readers, do you think this sentiment has value as I do? If so, what does it look like in your life?
It feels to me as if the term “self-care” is being tossed around a lot these days. It’s “trending”, which I take to mean the concept will, before long, peter out. It will lose it’s meaning, it’s importance. People will tire of it, finding ways on social media to mock it and render it irrelevant. They’ll find another term to latch onto.
Ironically, I just googled “self-care” and on Merriam Webster, front and center, there is an icon of lightening next to the word “trending”. My point is thus proven.
Before this concept is indeed no longer trending, I’d like to add my two cents about self- care. I can only speak from my own perspective of course, recognizing that many people in the world are struggling mightily to survive another day, physically and/or mentally, so finding the time and energy to even ponder what self-care means let alone practicing it eludes them. Which really is a damn shame.
Bottom line: I am grateful that I have enough quiet time to myself, along with the mental energy to both identify what self-care looks like to me and the physical and intellectual ability to regularly engage in the activities that promote it. Especially during those times, like right now, when those people near and dear to me are experiencing life challenges that are weighing on my mind and heart, causing me to feel utterly helpless.
I think that in order to practice self-care in any sort of meaningful way, it’s necessary to define for yourself what it specifically looks like to you. However, taking the time to recognize why practicing self-care is beneficial for you should be your first task. My personal theory is that if I choose to not practice self-care, my ability to be emotionally present for my loved ones will be dwarfed. I will feel put-upon, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. By not practicing self-care, I will lessen my ability to find the silver linings in things as well as hindering my ability to be the best version of myself. By regularly practicing self-care, my chances of being effective at providing emotional support to those I love greatly increase.
Now, while I am admittedly an over-thinker, I cling firmly to the K.I.S.S. mantra (the Keep it Simple, Sister version) when it comes to what self-care looks like for me. I don’t believe any self-improvement endeavor is worth much if there are too many steps.
Let me share some of the self-care tactics that work for me. I urge you to consider what yours are and then share them with me and our blogging friends here in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so.
I keep a regular sleep schedule and make it a priority to get enough sleep (8.5 hours per night has proven to be ideal for me).
I listen to my Soul Song and other playlists daily as they bring me joy. I find that listening to my music each morning puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead.
Regular grooming of fingernails/hands and toenails/feet. As in, at home manicures and pedicures. Taking care of my physical appearance in this way boosts my confidence as I am out and about in my day to day life. And it’s a very relaxing activity for me, especially when I’ve got my favorite tunes playing in the background.
I regularly make to do lists, which gives me a sense of order and purpose. This tactic calms my anxious brain and is a valuable tool that boosts my focus on my priorities for the day, or week. I also get a little kick every time I check something off on my to-do lists.
I lay out my yoga mat and stretch my body and do a few strengthening and toning exercises every single morning. I follow that up with some prayer time. Expressing gratitude and connecting with the Spirit helps me clear my head and gives me good mental energy for the day ahead of me.
I ignore people that only have negative things to say as much as I possibly can. You know who they are in your own life. We all do.
I strive to remain mindful as I go through my days. For instance, really listening to people instead of thinking up responses to what I think they are going to say. Also, limiting the amount of times I check my cell phone throughout the day allows me opportunities to see and experience what is going on in my environment. I think it’s healthy to keep FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay.
I mentally pull out a phrase or mantra that speaks to me if I’m feeling stressed, such as “This too shall pass”, or “Let it Be” of course in song version because that is how my brain works.
In honor of it being Wednesday, and on account of having a head full of snot (I hab a heb code at the bobent) along with a shit-ton of half baked blog post ideas in there as well, I write this post today. True focus is eluding me.
There. I have successfully lowered your expectations. Now things have nowhere to go but up, right?
Like all of us, I am a work in progress. I am also subject to change. Call me flaky. Whatever. In my 50 years on planet earth, I have nonetheless developed some amount of wisdom.
I always enjoyed Oprah’s column “What I know for sure”, which was planted at the end of each monthly magazine her empire churned out. It may still be a feature, but for whatever reason, I no longer subscribe. Anyhoo, here’s my own personal take on it:
What I think I know for sure:
That we all need something to look forward to. It helps motivate you to get out of bed every morning, put one foot in front of the other, and navigate the ups and downs of daily existence. Even if that “something” is just a cupcake you’re going to enjoy on your afternoon break at work. Or a dinner out with friends. Or a family barbeque. Or a church picnic. Okay, secrets out. Food is indeed my biggest personal motivator.
That not all my blog posts are as good as I think they are as I hit that “Publish” button. Which sucks. But it also pushes me to pen a better post tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.
That regular exercise, even my moderately paced 25 minute walks around my neighborhood, makes me feel better and more capable, both mentally and physically.
That children in preschool and elementary school should be taught compassion in schools. As an actual part of the curriculum. We need more of that wonderful shit if we are going to have the good future we all want for this world.
That it is of extreme importance to me as a creative writer and human being on planet Earth to maintain my sense of curiosity about all things, big and little. My feeling is that if I lose this essential part of myself, I will cease to exist. Because I would die of boredom, of course.
That I will never regret starting this blog. I figure at the very least, it will be considered a legacy for my spawn and any spawn that have spawned or will spawn from my spawn. And if I made anyone laugh, that’s just the frosting on the brownie.
That the most depressing phrase that seems to be trending is the following: “It is what it is”. The only upside, according to me, is if you allow it to turn into this one: “Let it Be”. Because sometimes that is the best and most simple thing you can do in a situation in which you feel you have little to no control.
That the concept of a “Gap Year” for 50 year olds, of course should most certainly become a thing. I speak from experience. Nothing could have been better for me, upon moving to Colorado one year ago, than pressing the pause button on my career. I’ve had time to work on improving myself through reading, volunteering, and creative writing via this blog. I can see much more clearly now.
Okay, my song brain has kicked in, so I will just leave you lovely folks with this…and you can sing along because the lyrics are attached!