Choosing a word for the year has been a decade long staple in my New Years celebrations. But just now, I tried a new exercise…here’s how it went.
Last year, my word was Ritual- more inviting than Structure, Discipline, Routine- but focused on creating what was missing in my day to day life, a self-employed writer and activist who works from home. There was so much I craved, so many things that landed on my list year after year, but always slipped to last place- especially those that supported health and happiness. All year I worked on creating rituals that would serve as a foundation for realizing my intentions for the year. Morning green smoothies. Stretching and yoga. Meditating daily. Walking. Tracking hours on various projects. A backpacking trip.
Ritual was my guide and mantra for the year- whenever I had a problem, I always asked myself what ritual or routine could address it. As I reflect on 2015, Ritual played a catalytic role, but the year was so, so, so much more.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been in a 4 year funk. Yes, my friends joke that my burnout period included earning a MPA at Harvard, publishing a book, and launching my biggest service work to date. But I didn’t feel like myself. It started the first year with undiagnosed anemia, severe daily headaches, low energy, foggy head. I gained 55 pounds. Depression set in, and I finally had to admit, given darned near every branch of my family tree, that there is, in fact, a chemical issue with depression I need to address. Everyone close to me said I didn’t seem like myself…something’s been “off”.
2015 was a beautiful year in so many ways- Bhutan, Thailand, Iraq, Italy, Hawaii, Scotland, new and deepened friendships. But it was also a year of curveballs, twists, heartbreak, one where my routine and stability were shattered. I turned 40. I published a book I loved, Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen, that met with critical acclaim but few sales. I moved out of a home with a man I loved, back to the home I own across town, a grand 4600 square foot craftsman, in which I now occupy a 300 square foot corner with my three cats, shared with 6 roommates. In heartbreak’s wake, a last minute trip to Iraq. Then Italy. With major forward momentum with launching Everywoman Everywhere, my new nonprofit, six unexpected trips east this fall kept me running.
When I reflect on my goals for 2015- go nutritarian, exercise an hour every day, read 24 books, meditate 45 minutes every day, raise millions for Everywoman Everywhere, etc- I made it somewhere between 10%-75% of the way there on each of these intentions. None of them individually are a slam-dunk victory. A lot of them feel like a mountain of work without a lot to show for it. But the net effect has been life changing.
I lost 18 pounds, not 75. But I totally changed the way I eat (when I’m at home at least), exercised more.
I cancelled my Vipassana retreat this year due to a family scheduling conflict, and didn’t reschedule.
I just did the one Intro to Backpacking class- not 3 trips.
I didn’t pay off all my debt, but I did pay down about $12,000.
We didn’t raise millions for Everywoman Everywhere in our first official year, but we did raise hundreds of thousands.
I didn’t get engaged this year. But I did the work, and finally learned to love well- including letting go.
Yet, this year, sometime between the green smoothies, villa terraces on the Amalfi Coast, cozy corners of my home, over cups of tea, listening to Philip Glass, autumn walks…I started to feel happy again. Life, again, delights me. After the last 4 years, that’s a revolution!
So, what did the year turn out to really be about?
Was there a theme? Is there a word?
Turns out, yes.
And this is the exercise: In retrospect, what would you name 2015?
For me, it’s Threshold.
2015 was all about foundations for a new era. Many of these projects are so big, the arc is longer than in my 20’s or 30’s, so I may not have made it 100% of the way there in one year, but I got a running start.
And most importantly, as I entered my 40’s, I crossed a threshold, leaving behind so much that was holding me back not just this year, but for decades- from junk-food fueled bad moods, to crappola communication skills. After my 4-year slump, I’m not “my old self again”. I just may be becoming the best me so far….
And girl-oh-girl, am I ever ready for 2016. Game on.