Life and stuff

5 Take Aways From Last Year

I always dread New Year. Everyone seems to be having an amazing time whilst I am full of melancholy. It’s the realization that another year has gone by, without the ones we love. The reminder of the things we didn’t do, the plans that were canceled, the missed opportunities.

Worse than that, there is the seemingly obligatory resolution setting. I don’t know what the point of that is – we all start gung-ho in January and by February 3rd we can’t even remember what they were. That’s not to say I don’t love goal setting. I love goals. And lists. But I think they should involve in a more organic way, not just because of a date on the calendar.

So this year I am instead reflecting on the lessons and experiences that I hope to carry forward into the new year.

1. This Too Shall Pass

Actually I try to tell me this all the time, and rarely succeed in remembering it. The terrible-I-can’t-get-out-of-bed-things-are-so-bad issue that you are dealing with right now won’t be there in a year. In just one year you will have a hard time recalling the name of the brother of the child in your class who caused you so much angst. In two years you won’t remember the child’s last name. In five years you will have to really think to remember her first name. Unbelievable, but true. Our brains are great at spring cleaning that nonsense out.

So I am going to try to not let the bad stuff take up so much of my life. And to do that I am going to…

2. Practice Mindfulness

Learning and cultivating skills of mindfulness—the ability to stay focused on one’s present experience with nonjudgmental awareness—can help us in our work and personal lives. Taking a few moments to focus only on your own breathing and state of well-being reteaches your brain that you have control of yourself, and that the chaos around you is just that, around you. You do not need to be part of it. Read more about mindfulness and apps that can help you to integrate skills into your daily schedule here.

3. It’s Not As Good As I Thought

I have improved upon this. Latest iphones, ipads, tv gadgets, screencasts, cooking tools: I want them all. If someone has something, I want it too. What’s that all about?

This year I took a long hard look at the things I thought I wanted and what impact they would really have on my life. For instance, for three years I thought I wanted an apple watch. A friend had one. I don’t really like how they look. I turn all notifications off on my phone because I never want anyone to bother me. I hate it when I am in a restaurant and someone is looking at their phone. I am proud to say I did not get one. And guess what? After initially gushing over it, just three months later my friend told me that she wasn’t wowed that much by her watch. I knew I would be that way too.

I guess it comes down the needs vs. wants common sense we are all meant to use, and also about being total honest with myself. Gadgets get old. They gather dust in the drawer with cords from long lost appliances.

I have too much ‘stuff’. But what really makes me happy is spending time with my husband and friends and family. I have had lots of fabulous memories from last year – meals with friends, vineyard visits, llama petting, times at the beach and the lake and in the mountains. Not one of them involved gadgetry.

4. Make Time for Yourself

This one is such a problem for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I am working my fingers to the bone, barely having time to sit down. Nope. I am extremely lucky – I have lots of spare time, and now that I am self-employed I can pretty much choose my working hours.

The issue is how I spend that down time. Too often it is related to gadgets (see number 3), that suck time out of my day and the soul from within me. I have good intentions of trying a new recipe, reading the seven new books I have, going on a walk around the park. But then I think, just five more minutes, and I am sucked back in to a world of people I am not really interested in, seeing them lead lives that mean nothing to me.

Also, making time for yourself isn’t just about making time for spa days and manicures. For me it means looking after myself by eating well and exercising – neither of which I find easy! Making myself go out running last year is actually something I pat myself on the back for. Going the first time was the worst, after that it became part of my routine. Even when I didn’t love it, I did it because I told myself my body needed me to do it.

But I also remember days I thought I would do something productive, and then ended up spending the evening scrolling. I remember what I was going to do – I wanted to begin a new painting project. I used to love painting. I cannot remember what I was so engrossed in on my screen. And I still haven’t started that new painting project…

Will do better.

5. Appreciate What You Have

I think my friends and family must be tired of hearing me say this, but I don’t care. Not everything in life is always easy. There will be sad times and problematic times. And there will be times that are so hard that it will be difficult to find a way forward.

For every day that is not hard, for every day that I am healthy and happy with my family and friends, I am so thankful. Dealing with onerous times, as we all have and we all will, has been a lesson in itself in making sure that I am grateful for every day where nothing happens.

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