All aboard! I’m on the 19 for 2019 Train!

In the past, I have been a New Years Resolutions Maker. My resolutions tend to be some version of the same thing year after year: Lose weight. Save money. Write.

Since I have rarely been a a New Years Resolutions Keeper, this process is a little frustrating and disheartening. After decades of failed resolutions, I finally decided to give them up. I do see the value in the idea of a January reboot, though. In fact, today is the last day of my third-or-fourth annual January Whole30–woo! Resolutions or not, I still want to capture that rush of clean-slate motivation that comes with the new year.

Thanks to Gretchen Rubin and her Happier podcast, I’ve got a new way to take advantage of my January good intentions: the 19 for 2019 list.

Gretchen Rubin first talked about this exercise in 2018, based on a listener suggestion. Instead of goals for the year, you make a list of things to do that will (hopefully) make you happier. Rubin and her sister/co host, Elizabeth Craft, shared their 18 for 2018 lists and listeners all over the world chimed in with their own lists. Follow the hashtag #19for2019 on any social media platform and you’ll see some inspiring and fun ideas.

So, I’ve made my list. It was hard to narrow it down to 19 things, but I did. Then I made a pretty print of it and hung it on my bulletin board over my desk. It feels weird and personal to share it, but without further ado, here are my BIG NINETEEN:

19for2019

Why these particular things? Who knows, really. Plenty of things I want to do are not on this list, and some of the things on this list are things I would have done regardless. Some things, like #15, are easy-peasy and I can cross them off in a day for an instant feeling of accomplishment. Some things are challenging in a fun way (#10), some things are challenging in a not-so-fun way but they’ll be worth it for the payoff of completing them (#4 and #17.) Some sound suspiciously like my old resolutions (#7 and #8), but they’re on this super fun list now so I’m hoping that my stubborn brain won’t notice the trick. Some are things I’ve been meaning to do forever (#1, #9, and #12), but now they’re on the list, so this is the year!

Looking at it today, this list seems pretty manageable, like I may have set the bar a little low. But I know myself. If I look back in December and half of these are checked off, I’ll feel like at least I was intentional and accomplished some things that are important to me.

In fact, already this list has influenced my actions–I committed to an online writing class yesterday that will help me accomplish #12 and #13. I was fretting about the expense and struggling with insecurity about my writing ability, and I almost declined…but then I remembered my list. Gotta check those suckers off! Sign me up!

Since #8 requires me to blog monthly, I’ll update my progress here from time to time.

Have you done a 19 for 2019 list? What’s on it?

 

New Year Optimism: Happy 2018!

I love New Year’s Day. I wish that I could boil this feeling down into concentrated drops and place one under my tongue every morning, so that each day starts with this page-turning feeling full of possibility and hope and freshness. There’s no reason it shouldn’t. My intention for 2018 is to make that a practice.

2017 was a very difficult year for me, as it was for many people. Beyond the state of the nation and the daily onslaught of horrible news, I went through some personal crap that really hurt me. I became obsessed with those events and the feelings they triggered, my brain repeating and magnifying the pain on a non-stop loop that would literally wake me up at night. That negativity became a sort of involuntary, wordless mantra that crept into all aspects of my life.

The good news is that I’m old enough and self-aware enough to realize that this is not okay and furthermore, this is not ME. I have learned, after years of managing depression, to separate the part of my brain that beats me up from the part that is worth protecting, and I can intervene. (Worth noting: if you cannot see that separation or you can’t muster the will to intervene, that’s when you need professional help.) So I fought it, but it’s been a tough battle that I’ve been fighting for the better part of a year.

Apparently, as every podcast, self-help book and spiritual tradition in the world will tell you, the solution to this swamp of negativity is gratitude. Over the last month, I’ve received that message in a hundred different ways: notice the good. Be grateful. Celebrate what’s right, what’s working, what you have. Direct your focus to the positive things.

So, that’s the plan for 2018: to be more deliberate about noticing the good, being grateful and celebrating. This applies to everything: my job, my home, and especially myself. I want to keep a gratitude journal but I also want to pause several times a day to quickly inventory what’s good in the moment. I want to develop a new pattern in my brain.

In that spirit, I sat down this morning and made a list of good things that happened in the generally craptastic year of 2017.

GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN 2017

The Women’s March: I walked in the Women’s March in Orange County last January and it was incredibly uplifting. Throughout all the ugly political news of the year, I could close my eyes and remember what 20,000 people marching in solidarity looks like, and know they are just tiny sliver of people in this world who will stand up for good.

Murphy’s Surgery:  In 2016 I found and fell in love with an injured stray dog who needed an expensive knee surgery. In February 2017 I was able to get him that surgery, thanks to donations from friends and a charitable grant. A couple weeks ago, we watched this little guy running on the beach in blissful abandon: four solid knees and one huge pit bull smile.

Our garden:  My daughter and I removed some ugly old shrubs in our tiny back yard and replaced them with a bed of interesting plants and a raised vegetable garden. Some of our plants were more successful than others, but the process was a pleasure, and we ate food that we grew ourselves, so we’ll call that a win.

Reconnecting with an old friend: This was a twofer. My dear friend from high school, Christina, is also a writing coach and all-around wise woman. We went for years without talking, then years when we’d talk once or twice. In 2017 we began regularly scheduled calls where we’d have a long talk, then do a writing prompt together. From those calls, I got writing practice, some desperately needed human connection and a reminder of who I am from someone who knows me better than almost anyone. (A threefer, I guess.)

New Job: I started a new job in 2017 that pays much better than my old one and offers better opportunity for professional growth. It also brought new friends, a new area of SoCal to explore and an hour-long commute, which seemed like a minus until I started thinking of it like this: each day, my commute affords me a couple hours of solitude in which to listen to audiobooks, music and podcasts…which brings me to…

Podcasts: I found some podcasts that I love. Thank Oprah for Super Soul Conversations which has featured some of my heroes including Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, and my new guy, Shawn Achor, whose book The Happiness Advantage is first on my reading list for 2018.

The Story Intensive: Christina recommended an online writing course called The Story Intensive that I completed in the fall. It was difficult and uncomfortable, and I learned a lot about my writing and myself. I also wound up with new writing friends around the world, a draft of a short story of which I’m fairly proud, and a renewed relationship with writing.

Morro Bay Girls: Out of the blue, I got an invitation to spend the weekend at a beach house in Morro Bay (on the Central California coast) with three cool women, none of whom I knew well (outside of Facebook) before that weekend. Just hanging around those girls in that sleepy, beautiful place was a balm to my heart. We’re having a replay this weekend and I can’t wait.

Last night, I was ranting about what a terrible year it was; how glad I was to see it go…and this morning, after making this list, I realized that there was a lot to be grateful for. I want to notice the good things in real time and not let the pain of life cancel out all the joy. So, more lists, I say! Lists every day! Notice the good things, document them, celebrate them. Train my brain to be constantly on the lookout for what’s positive.

Happy New Year—regardless of what kind of year it turns out to be—let’s be happy in 2018.