Reflecting in 2017

 

I started last year by completing “Unravel your 2016.” While I didn’t stick to everything, I found the exercise useful, so over the  winter break I completed the “Unravel your Year 2017″ workbook from Susannah Conway. I even managed to complete it before the end of 2016.

Center word Reflect, surrounded by believe/trust/faith, (re)create, release and connect -seen on a daily random generator of simple tasks

I created the word cloud out of index cards to help keep the word(s) fresh in my mind. The Daily Random Generator are small things I can do that help fulfill my goals.

Along with reflecting on the previous year, the workbook takes you through exercises to consider the year ahead along several different axes, as well as finding a word to act as a guide for your upcoming year. As I sat by the koi pond at my in-laws house, I contemplated what word would be meaningful. I was having difficulty selecting, having narrowed it down to reflect and (re)create. I ultimately chose reflect, because for the challenges I’ve faced, and the self-improvements I hope to make, this word means different things.

I was surprised that the next page had me select 4 extra words to support my word of the year. I was skeptical, but tossed (re)create in the first spot. I added a second word, and all of a sudden something clicked, and my heart felt a bit lighter. I considered a bit before adding my third and forth words, and had a sense of contentment I was missing from selecting a single word to encompass the year.

There are many areas encompassed by this collection of words that where I am seeking self-improvement. As a way to not feel overwhelmed by everything that was crowding my mind that I wanted to accomplish, I decided to make a “The Least I Could Do Daily Random Generator.” The list is made of small tasks (I aimed for things that could be completed in 15-30 minutes) that contributed to my goals, and to the values that the words encompassed for me. My current list is 25 items. I roll 2 d10 each morning, and take my number from there. So far I have completed my tasks for just over half the days, but because they are so small, and because they change everyday, I’m happy with how it is working.

1 Blog Post
2 Read a Short Story
3  Meditate
4  Color Something
5  Connect with someone via electronic means
6  Write a letter or card
7  Call political office (senator, representative)
8  Stretch session
9  Write fiction
10 Phone a friend
11 Plan a meal
12 Go through files / things
13 Read from to-read online list
14 Put things away
15 Walk somewhere new
16 Exercise set (20 min)
17 Take photos
18 Tai Chi
19 Puzzle/ word puzzle/ logic/ sudoku – etc
20 Romantic act
21 Random act of kindness
22 10 ideas in 10 minutes
23  1 letter of address book (or 10 entries), whichever is less
24 Watch a TED talk
25 Listen to writing podcast

There are a few other things I’ve done in prep for the new year. One is small tasks I’m trying to complete everyday (with an understanding that doing all of them is probably unsustainable, but I’ll see what sticks) – 15 minutes of cleaning / tidying before bed; adding one moment of happiness into my mason jar; keeping track of spending on a daily budget.

I could go on with my plans, because even 2 weeks in I am still feeling hopeful and motivated about the year. Instead I will end with a visual -another piece of the Unravel Your Year workbook – a visual map of my upcoming year.  I hope you are making the most of your new year.

Image of small icons, including a boat, a giraffe, red hair, the number 40, the word "reflect", multi-sided gaming dice, a stack of games, a notepad and pen, and a book and glasses

A visual representation of things I anticipate happening in 2017.

 

Habits as a Safety Net

For as long as I can remember, I have been on the path to establish good habits in my life. The habits on my list have shifted over time, but among ones I have tried to establish are:

  • floss daily
  • go to bed and rise the same time each day
  • write something every day
  • complete “Morning Pages” everyday before work
  • drink a cup of tea in the morning
  • drink a cup of green tea in the afternoon
  • pack my bag, my lunch, and pick out clothes for work the night before
  • cook dinner at home at least 3 times a week
  • dedicate one evening a week to hanging out with friends
  • reach out to distant friends once a week
  • walk on my breaks at work
  • go to the gym 3 times a week
  • set 3 goals at the beginning of the work day that take priority

And so on, and so on.

I have always looked at these goals, these habits I was trying to establish, as a way to improve my life. Yes, I took some of them straight of of magazine articles. And Yes, I realize that simply having a routine, that establishing good habits, does not automatically mean that my life will be better.

I understand that there is no perfect combination of actions that will unlock happiness for a given day. Yet still, I wanted to set myself up for success as much as possible, and these habits seemed the way to go.

The Points System is simply a new iteration of this same idea. A way to reward myself for achieving something I hope to establish as a habit.

It was the routine, those habits, that got me to work today. Wake up after 3 snoozes. Take my medications. Sit and watch the day’s weather. Stretch. Set the kettle on. While the kettle warms, medicate and feed the cats. Make tea, and put it in a travel mug. It’s Monday, so take out the trash and recycling. Grab my bag (which is sitting in the newly designated spot by the door), and go to work.

I did not want to go to work today. I wanted to curl up in bed. I wanted to sit on the couch, with a cat in my lap, and just sit, feeling the warmth on my legs, and revel in the purring. I wanted to drop everything and cry.

I didn’t. I followed my routine, my habits. And by mid-morning, things weren’t so bad. My anti-depressant had kicked in, and while I’m still not terribly motivated to do work, it is easier. And the routines and habits I’ve put in place at work are also catching me from just staring at the screen, feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

I was diagnosed with depression earlier this year. Before this, I attributed my lack of motivation and my moods to stress. To my own inability to handle life. It wasn’t until I talked with friends and family who were also being treated for depression that I realized that I may not be failing at life – that something may be chemically wrong in my brain.

With their support, and the support I felt from other public figures I respect talking openly and honestly with their own experiences with depression*, that I talked to my doctor. I am still in the phase where we are trying to get the medication right. Some days are harder than others, but I find that the habits and routine that I’ve been trying to build over the years are really a safety net of sorts.

For the days when I don’t feel like doing anything, if I can do the habits I’ve set, I will have accomplished something. It will be the minimum, sure, but I will have accomplished something. And looking back at myself over the years, over all my attempts to set these good habits, I wonder how long I have been in the grips of depression, and have been fighting it in the only way I could see, without knowing what I was fighting.


 

*Mur Lafferty talks honestly about depression on her blog and in her podcast; Howard Taylor does likewise on his Facebook page (like February of this year), and his wife, Sandra Taylor did a wonderful post on being married to someone with depression.