Usually I choose a trio of words to guide me into the new year. This year, I pared it down to one. I am craving simplicity.
For 2023 my word is:
Just saying the word is soothing.
What my word of the year does is act as a filter. Each decision I make or action I take must now pass this question: Does this nourish me?
Is this food nourishing? This drink?
Is this relationship nourishing? This conversation?
Is this thought or belief nourishing?
If yes, I can proceed. If it is draining, I can make another choice.
Already today I have made several nourishing choices:
~ Made a crockpot of vegan split pea soup which smells delicious.
~ I went to Hatha which was lovely. I have gotten out of my own practice this last year. Sure, I do some yoga most days, but I got out of the habit of going to a class, immersing myself for a full hour in my practice as student rather than a teacher. I need that.
~ I bought a new pair of shoes for walking, hiking and working out.
~ Went for a hike with my lovely friends.
~ Came home and soaked in the hot tub for an hour.
~ In my jammies now, in my cozy little nook where I can write and read and watch my current binge-worthy show, “Being Erica.”
Choosing a word as a guidepost for a new year is an act of self-love and self-care. Do you choose a word or words to guide you? Feel free to share in the comments or link to your own post. I’d love to hear them.
“Belonging—Remembering Ourselves Home” by Toko-paTurner
To this world you belong. To this moment, in this place where you already stand, something greater has ushered you.
I don’t even know where to begin. First, I chose this book for my book club because it had been on my shelf for awhile and I wanted a timeline to read it. Second, I underlined so much. Third, it is a book I will return to.
It reminds me of the same wildness of “Women Who Run with the Wolves.” But it has its own energy and a unique lens into how we yearn for belonging.
In a world that feels so disconnected despite technology that is meant to connect us, Turner explores how we need to connect to inner selves, to our dreams, to our desires, to our feelings, to who we truly are.
Just a few of the many sentences I underlined:
It is in these fallow times, when our efforts feel forced and there’s no momentum with our progress, that we must aspire to love ourselves more generously.
Grief is the expression of healing in motion.
…the ache to belong in our own bodies.
“When Women Were Dragons” a novel by Kelly Barnhill
I do not have much time. This change (this wondrous, wondrous change) is at this very moment upon me. I could not stop it if I tried. And I have no interest in trying.
I have read two of my most favorite books ever in these last two months of 2022.
This one was recommended by my therapist after we began exploring anger. When I looked for it at the bookstore, the bookseller said it is her favorite book of the year.
I can see why.
It is magical realism that feels completely attuned to our current times. Barnhill writes that the rage sparked by watching Christine Blasey Ford beg the Senate to choose someone other than Kavanaugh led her to write this book.
It’s a story about women and rage.
It’s a story about being other and different and judged and shunned for being those things.
It’s about women and desire—suppressing it and claiming it.
It’s about society treating women as less than and women finally saying enough.
It’s about choosing your own life path instead of blindly following the path expected of you.
It is a powerful story that is seared into my heart and the writing is beautiful. The scene at the prom left me breathless.
Some sentences I underlined:
I was never allowed to be angry, was I? My ability to discover and understand the power of my own raging was a thing denied to me. Until, at last, I learned to stop denying myself.
And she walked away in the snow, her touch lingering on my body, like a ghost.
Every day, I am lighter, weaker, more fragile, my skin like rice paper crinkled over a skeleton made of grass.
“The Kitchen Healer—the journey to becoming you” by Jules Blaine Davis
The door is open, and you are right on time.
This book was gifted to me by a dear friend who has worked and healed with Jules. After reading this, I can see how she has absorbed her teachings into her life, weaving it into her days, sharing it with everyone around her.
The whole book feels like a warm invitation into Jules’ kitchen and heart as a way to move more deeply into my own kitchen and heart. It’s a book about nourishing on all levels, about connection, on all levels, about healing, on all levels.
Yes, there are delicious recipes but not your usual recipes. She invites us to prepare our food with intention and love.
Mostly, she invites us to slow way down so that can truly inhabit our lives so that we may become who we were always meant to be.
Some sentences I underlined:
We will discover your values and leave behind the stories that are in the way to you claiming the life you long to love.
Whatever invites you closer to your truth is also calling you to wake up to this deeper place inside of you.
Your body is a holy world of magnificence.
“Our Missing Hearts” a novel by Celeste Ng
The letter arrives on a Friday.
As Ng writes in her Author’s Note: “Bird and Margret’s world isn’t exactly our world, but it isn’t not ours, either.”
Just as with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there is a truth of human behavior that runs deep in this novel. And much of that behavior is evident in our world today. The need to blame others. to other others. The gradual collapse of society as we know it. Politicians using their power to instill fear and clamp down on beliefs that don’t align with their world view.
Because of the Crisis, laws are passed to supposedly preserve American culture. People are so happy to be returning to some semblance of normalcy that they agree to it. They turn away from the ugliness of tearing children away from families that are thought to be influencing their children in un-American ways.
Margaret, a poet with one volume of poetry published becomes a beacon of resistance based on one poem she wrote years ago. In order to keep their son from being taken away, she leaves them behind. She goes a journey to look directly at all she has turned away from. She learns the stories of families whose children have been removed by the government. She collects these stories and eventually creates a plan to share them. A dangerous plan.
While it feels too close to our current world, there is much hope in this story. Hope in the power of one person to make a difference.
Some sentences I underlined:
It isn’t fear that spiderwebs across his skin. (I love the use of a noun a a verb.)
The stacks are incredibly silent—an absorbent, watchful, almost predatory quiet.
I recently completed another 12-week journey through “The Artist’s Way.” I did it with a friend who was doing it for the first time. We both got so much out of it.
Here are my main lessons:
Once I got past the unrealistic expectation that I would do it “perfectly” this time around and it would solve all of my problems, I was able to give myself the space and grace to just do what i could do. The lesson: no shame, no judgment.
I found little nuggets of ideas emerging from my morning pages. I would jot a note in the margins that something might make a good blog post or would work into one my several works-in-progress. The lesson: showing up generates ideas.
I like the structure it offered which is leading me to try and create some kind of container for my days beyond working with this program. I am definitely looking forward to her new book, “Write for Life” which is a 6-week program. I also have “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” which I might dip into. The lesson: I need to create some kind of structure for myself.
For reasons I cannot quite pinpoint, I resist the Artist’s Dates. I meant to be incredibly intentional about them this time around. Instead, it often became the thing I didn’t even do or I just said, oh that counts as my artist’s date this week. The lesson: I deserve joy and fun even when I resist it.
Creativity is not just about writing, painting, dancing. It is about living. The lesson: Creativity is at the center of my life and once I tend to it, it spills into all other areas bringing me more clarity, flow and focus.
When I lived in Arizona for 10 years, one of the things I missed was the change of seasons. I used to think it had to do with the fall foliage. But now I understand it is deeper than that.
What I truly missed was allowing my energy to reflect the change of seasons. Allowing myself to go inward during the darker, colder months of winter.
We live in a culture that doesn’t generally prioritize rest. We are encouraged to push through, dig deep, move forward. Even now, as we wind down another year we are pelted with messages to finish the year strong. Then, in the depths of winter we are encouraged to set resolutions and goals. January is a time of year for going inward. Instead we are pushed to make big changes, join gyms—things that require a lot of energy. Energy that we do not naturally have at that time of year.
What I love about fall and winter is watching how nature begins to slow down, release and go dormant. It is what I am naturally drawn to do. It’s why I practice hygge and make my home cozy because I plan on being inside a lot. I keep twinkle light strung across the mantel after the Christmas decor is taken down. I have lots of candles and blankets around to stay warm and cozy.
Slowing down in the midst of the holidays takes commitment. It may mean saying no to all the invitations. It may mean rethinking some of your traditions. Last year I chose to not make another big feast on Christmas Day after already making one a month earlier for Thanksgiving. Instead, we had a nacho bar. It was fun and easy.
I no longer make resolutions of January 1. Instead, I create a collage of how I want to feel in the coming year. I choose a set of words to use as my north star. It feels softer, more doable. Then, once spring begins to roll around, I feel drawn to create more concrete plans and goals. Once nature begins to awaken, so do other parts of me.
Slowing down is vastly underrated. Slowing down allows us to be more present, It allows us to truly enjoy what we are doing.
Slowing down creates space for more being instead of always doing.
Thank you for not allowing yourself to be tossed away by rejection and doubt.
Thank you for finding a way to keep me tethered to your daily life. For making me a priority.
Thank you for finding ways to share me with others. You understand that it is all about connection.
Thank you for having fun. For exploring and seeing where I may lead you, not needing to force me down a particular path.
Thank you for all the years of dedicated practice. You have given me the space I need to grow, evolve and thrive.
Thank you for following through and finishing our projects. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or what happens afterward. You learn by doing, by finishing a project. Then you carry that knowledge to our next project.
Thank you for all the time and money you have invested in me. It matters. It lets me know that I matter to you.
Mostly, thank you for being on this journey with me. I wouldn’t exist without you.
Here’s to the many blank pages that are waiting for us to fill.
Thank you for giving me a space to figure out what I m thinking and feeling at any given moment.
Thank you for being a light in the midst of the darkness of grief. Writing daily was one of the few things that really helped me in those early days of grief when my world felt turned upside down and inside out after the loss of my BFF of 40 years.
Thank you for showing me that I am not lazy. That I do follow through on promises I make to myself. That I am devoted and committed to something I love, even when it is hard.
Thank you for being a safe space to practice being who I want to be, what I want say, how I want act.
Thank you for helping to untangle the knots in both my mind and heart that hold me back and keep me small..
Thank you for accepting every word I write without judgment. Each word builds my confidence. The words that fill my notebooks spill into the words I write in my novels. Words beget words beget words. They are all connected.
Thank you for being a conduit of connection. Connection to my heart and mind. To my shadow and light. To my deepest Self and the world around me.
Thank you for being a stable, constant presence in my life. You keep me balanced and centered when I feel off balance and off center.
Thank you for being my true north. Because of you I know who i am and what I want. And when I don’t, I know I can turn to you and figure it out.
Thank you for being the thread that stitches my moments, days and years together, revealing the beauty of a life being deeply felt and lived.
Check back on Thursday for a Letter of Gratitude form my Writing to Me.
My daughters loved (and still love as adults) watching “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. One of the three stories told is “Stuck on Christmas” with Donal Duck and his three nephews who are thrilled when Christmas seems to be stuck on repeat. Each day they wake up and it is Christmas morning all over again.
At first, they love it. But soon, they don’t.
It’s a lesson in impermanence. Learning to enjoy something while we have because we know it won’t last whether it’s a holiday or a life.
In “Bittersweet,” Susan Cain writes:
“Our difficulty accepting impermanence is the heart of human suffering.”
We want things to last forever. Or, we think we do. Movies like “Stuck on Christmas” and books like “Tuck Everlasting” reveal that it is better in theory than actual practice.
The fact that things, events, people don’t last forever is what gives life its bittersweetness.
Connecting with impermanence can be either terrifying or extraordinarily liberating. If we resist it, it may make us feel safe but that safety is an illusion. That illusion may cause us to move through our life in a kind of daze, never really deeply connecting or appreciating the moments we have.
If we embrace it, or at the very least, accept impermanence as a natural part of our lives, it can free us up to fully experience all parts of our lives. We can handle the challenging parts because we understand they won’t last forever and we can savor the beautiful moments because we know they too will pass.
In yoga, if I am in a pose that is not my favorite (Camel, I’m looking at you) I am able to stay with the discomfort, breathe into it because I know it will only last a few breaths. I can stay present for a few breaths. If I am in a pose I love, like Child’s pose, I take the time to deeply enjoy the sensations it creates in my body because I know it will be over soon.
Impermanence surrounds us from the changing seasons, to children growing up to our thoughts and feelings that can shift and change moment to moment. Even our breath is a lesson in impermanence. This inhale and exhale is gone. Each breath comes and goes. What if we clung to a breath because we loved it so much and didn’t want it leave? We would die, right? We need to release each breath so that the next new breath has space to arrive.
Even in the darkest days of the early grief of losing my best friend, somewhere deep inside, I was aware that this feeling wouldn’t last forever. It’s how I got through it. The loss is permanent but my grief is fluid. It changes and evolves with me.
So, remember the next time you are having a bad day that it won’t last forever. And remember the next time you are experiencing joy to savor it because it also won’t last forever.
In the United States, we have an incredibly consequential mid-term election happening tomorrow.
Along with that, there is a full moon and lunar eclipse happening.
Then there is the general chaos and anxiety of the news: North Korea doing more missile tests, an early and intense season of RSV plus the flu and yes, we are still dealing with Covid.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered the vata season meaning it is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, and clear (or empty). The incredible wind storms we had over the weekend didn’t help. It may have left some of us feeling even more mentally scattered, anxious, unsettled. And by some of us, I mean me.
This is where grounding comes in. It is basically any practice that gets us out of our heads and into our bodies by connecting with our senses. What do I see, hear, touch, smell, taste in this moment?
Things I do for grounding:
Eat root vegetables and hearty soups and stews.
Try to keep to a consistent sleep schedule.
Get outside and walk in nature. Bundle up if necessary. Any weather is walking weather as long as we are dressed appropriately.
Self-massage with oil. I use sunflower oil but sesame is recommended this time of year. I just don’t like walking around smelling like a stir-fry.
Meditation. If my mind is really unsettled I will find a guided grounding meditation on Insight Timer.
Practice hygge, a quality of coziness and comfort that creates a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). For me this means wearing cozy, comfortable clothes, wrapping myself in blankets that I have all over the house, sitting by the fire, sipping tea, lighting candles, keeping twinkle lights on year-round.
There is only so much we can about outside circumstances. I focus on that first: I have a plan to vote tomorrow and hope you do as well if you haven’t already. I limit my intake of news. Then I focus on self-care. Finding ways that nurture and nourish my body, mind and spirit so I can stay grounded as the worlds swirls relentlessly around me.
I attended a Samhain Fire Ceremony today where we worked on releasing a pattern. Mine was people-pleasing. The first thing I saw on Instagram when it was over was this from the awesome Amie McNee (aka @inspiredtowrite).
The first thing that struck me was how incredibly on point the Universe is, setting this in front of my eyeballs immediately after I spent three hours delving into this exact issue.
The second thing is that while I have been aware of this people-pleasing tendency for years, decades even, I never considered it in relation to my writing. I only thought about it in relation to people. But actual people are (hopefully) going to read my writing so, of course, that people-pleasing part of me is going to insinuate itself into my art.
I’m not exactly sure how this will impact my writing or, more specifically, getting my writing out into the world. But just seeing the connection is the first step in addressing it. The first step in not letting it hold me back.
Here’s to ruffling some feathers and being okay with that!