This time last year, I was coming down from the high (and exhaustion) of completing my 40/40 list. I looked at 41 as nine years from age 50 and had a mild (or not-so-mild) freak out. How in THE WORLD was I going to pass the time now?!? All that wide-open space on my calendar--day-by-day, month-by-month, and year-by-year--was intimidating and overwhelming.
At some point the freak out diminished. I rested, binge-watched shows that made me laugh out loud. I also did a fair bit of weeping. I gave myself permission for all of this. Over time I stopped thinking about filling my time and simply lived. Life got easier in the way it should, not because is is devoid of problems, but because I welcomed the difficulties and asked, "What have you to teach me in this moment?"
I also let my word of the year, Trust, guide me. I recognized that in order to live a meaningful life now and in the future, I was going to need to learn how to trust myself in new ways and also to trust that others were trustworthy too. These were not easy tasks in post-divorce life. When I was confronted or presented with something new or scary or uncertain, I conjured my guide word and bathed the situation with the image of what trusting myself and others would look like. This practice reminded me of the physical transformation my body underwent when I was doing four sun salutations a day for a year. These small movements added muscle definition in places that had not been defined before. I gained strength and confidence. The daily practice compounded the benefits. The same happened as I allowed myself to practice trusting myself and others. The more I trusted myself, the better my decision-making skills became and the better my life rolled along.
I spent the year re-reading and reliving the activities of my 40/40 list. I was reminded about all the fun I'd had in challenging myself, sometimes scaring myself, and always learning and growing as I celebrated being in the present. The two years of completing the list and then reflecting on the list have been good.
As I begin my 42nd year, I do so with far less anxiety. I have practiced seeing the unknowns of life as opportunities for adventure and reminders that the illusion of control is rarely helpful or productive.
On the plane to Charleston last week, I was certain I knew the word I would choose to guide me in 2017. I looked out the window at the frozen landscape of rural Illinois. My weary mind and spirit relaxed as I pondered events of recent days. How one fall for my 94-year-old grandfather could have such drastic ramifications for his ability to live independently, for his physical health, and for my life when he comes to the end of this earthly journey.
I projected into the future what my life would look like and how I would cope. The landscape below looked like works of art. I was soothed and in the relaxing, a new word materialized: Quiet.
Trusting that I would/will be able to handle each situation as it appears, quiet seemed the next right word. It felt like an extension of trust and something I would need to observe in order to get through the next days, weeks, months--given these recent events. And so, it is decided. I will be quiet in 2017. Metaphorically and sometimes literally, though it is no vow of silence for this writer. That would be a bridge too far!
It is, however, my reminder that I can trust myself to make the best next decision after a period of quietude.
I have fewer expectations of myself in this new year. I know I want to write and submit work. I will work on the project that moves me at the given moment, be it novel, short story, essay collection, whatever. I want to honor my day job for its ability to support my daughter, me, and my craft. I want to embrace more minimalism, so that I can eliminate debt and pursue yoga teacher training as soon as possible.
Beyond that, I want to breathe deeply, express gratitude, love my tribe, and keep an eye out for the next adventure. The past two years have prepared me for this journey. I am ready.