Around this time last year, I wrote about forsaking New Year’s resolutions in favour of a theme for the year.
I first heard the idea discussed in Episode 26 of Happier with Gretchen Rubin – one of my favourite podcasts. It appealed because a word or short phrase to sum up my focus or aims for the year would be easy to remember and have wide application. It seemed a little more forgiving and flexible than a resolution, and I believed the opportunity to reference it in so many different ways and situations, to practise and reinforce it, augured well for lasting change and growth.
Why Before No
My initial motivation for choosing this theme was far from altruistic. I was simply looking for a way to shrug off the cloak of negativity and pessimism in which I was apparently shrouded. I didn’t like being perceived as ‘Negative Nancy’. It wasn’t how I saw myself.
But as I thought more about it, I recognised an opportunity to become more responsive and less reactive; to tap into both my conscious and unconscious mind; to be more deliberate and consider longer-term effects before doing or saying a thing.
In evaluating the success of my implementation and adherence to the theme, I sought feedback from Chief Prosecutor, Ty Webb*. His comments were disappointing, to say the least – lukewarm in their encouragement, sadly lacking in perception and specificity. Between you and me, I think it suits him at times to view me as a killjoy or pessimist. Claiming the moral high ground gives him justification (in his mind, anyway) for quickly disregarding my opinions when they differ from his, quashing resistance and, let’s be honest, getting his own way 🙄
By my reckoning though, I deserve an honourable mention for effort, if not a gold star ⭐️ I began the year hyperaware of saying ‘no’ without thinking. Then over time, the practice of pausing to take a breath before reacting became more instinctive. Notwithstanding the occasional relapse, I now pay far more attention to gut feelings, noticing whether actions or ideas sit comfortably or make me uneasy. And as a consequence, my responses and decisions are more in line with my core values, leading to fewer regrets. And I can’t ask for more than that.
19 for 2019
This was my ‘jug list’ of goals to accomplish in 2019 – ways to make my life a little happier.
1. ✅ Reframe and hang the original artwork/prints I already have – Mixed results, but I’ll claim the tick. First up, I’ve done nothing with the prints (cross). I did frame one original painting (tick), although the frames of others still need updating to better suit the décor of our home (cross). All paintings are now hung (tick).
2. ✅ Buy some more original artwork/prints and hang them – I purchased a new original at the Affordable Art Fair in Melbourne and it now hangs proudly in our family room.
3. ❌ Print, frame and hang some special family photos – 🙅♀️ Epic fail. No excuses.
4. ❌ Complete a travel writing course – Nyet! Nada! Any delusions I had about sitting in front of a laptop, drawing inspiration from exotic landscapes and views outside my window, while in a state of literary flow, were destroyed by the realities of travel. My laptop accompanied me on each of our trips last year, but after a full day of activities, curation of the day’s photos and communication with family and friends back home via social media, I was spent. And I’ve decided, for now, that I prefer to be in the moment, simply enjoying the tourist experience, writing vignettes for Instagram or Facebook, rather than taking copious notes and labouring over longer, more detailed pieces just to evoke an experience for someone else.
5. ❌ Publish a weekly blog post – Ba-BAAAMMM!!! I was posting weekly … until late March when everything went pear-shaped. See previous post.
6. ❌ Write daily – Next! 🤦♀️
7. ✅ Try a new recipe each week – Actually, I bought myself a cheap tick with this one because it’s something I’ve been doing for years … much to my family’s chagrin. I love to cook and I enjoy variety in my food, so this really was a ‘no brainer’.
8. ❌ Plant an herb garden – Pass! 🙅♀️
9. ✅ Sell or otherwise deal with our reproduction bookcase and old leather lounge suite – Half a tick for this one, but I’m rounding up. I did put the word out to family and friends about a bookcase going free to a good home, but alas! It’s still gathering dust in our hallway. On the other hand, the reupholstered lounge suite has a new home in the upstairs living area recently requisitioned and repurposed as an office/man cave by the Chief Prosecutor.
10. ✅ Exercise daily – Walking the dog qualifies as exercise, doesn’t it?
11. ✅ Try a water aerobics class – I did try this … twice, in fact. At different locations. Once with my mother and her friends at their retirement village – yes, I was the youngest participant by quite a long way; once with my bestie. I enjoyed both classes and hope to do it more regularly in future.
12. ❌ Join a gym and attend a strength/resistance training class twice a week – Another fail, although I’ll claim extenuating circumstances. There wasn’t much point in joining a gym or signing up for a series of training sessions when (a) I could barely move my right arm thanks to a frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) and (b) Ty and I had several trips planned, meaning I’d be unable to attend for weeks at a time. These circumstances were clear at the start of 2019, so this really shouldn’t have made my list at all, but I just can’t seem to let go of that fanciful notion of me as a fit, healthy, exercise-y, gym-frequenting person. 🏋️♀️🤣🤷♀️
13. ✅ Share a meal with my parents and/or siblings once a month – A strict interpretation of this would probably net me a fail based on frequency, but I did initiate more contact with my parents and siblings – more text messages, phone calls, coffee dates and meals throughout the year. And I hosted them all on Christmas Day. 😇
14. ✅ Read 12 books for pleasure – In truth, I only managed nine books – three of which I reviewed last year (Educated, Tara Westover; Any Ordinary Day, Leigh Sales; The Bridge, Enza Gandolfo) and another six which I’ll feature in upcoming posts. That’s more than I’ve read in a very long time and I now feel like I’ve reconnected with a long-lost love.
15. ✅ Watch one movie each week – I do love a small, arthouse cinema experience and Ty and I frequent the cinema most weeks.
16. ✅ Share a meal (lunch or dinner) with my school friends once a quarter – I see my beautiful school friends semi-regularly – never often enough, but as often as we can manage between work and family commitments.
17. ✅ Enjoy an overnight getaway with Ty* once a month – Two-thirds of a tick warranted for this one – close enough to a whole. We managed to get away during nine of the twelve months in 2019, despite the challenges of illness, bereavement and general day-to-day drama. See #vfab_19for2019 for some photographic evidence and travel vignettes.
18. ❌ Volunteer some time to a charitable/community-based organization – Nope! 🙅♀️ Didn’t get past the research stage.
19. ✅ Enjoy a one-on-one date with both Lizzie* and Will* once a month – I’m giving myself a tick here for encouragement. It didn’t happen every month, but I enjoyed several dates with each of them. One-on-one, free of distraction and the need to compete to be heard, they are more open, engaging and interesting; I’m a more present and active listener. And our relationship is all the better for it.
Overall, a 63% strike rate and I’m happy with that. Perhaps not 63% happier than I was at the start of 2019, but happier and enthusiastic enough to plan 20 for 2020.
Did you make a list of ’19 for 2019’? And if so, how many goals did you accomplish?
*names have been changed