Every year at the winter solstice I write down some intentions for the year ahead. I put them in an envelope and store them in the back pocket of my journal.
Last year, I set the following intentions:
Areas of my life to work on were ‘acceptance‘ and putting myself first.
Our main shared goal was to find a better place to live.
I’m still struggling with meaning, but I think that what I’ve learned from last year is to focus, at least for the time being, on finding a sense of meaning in small daily activities. Going for walks, bird watching, doing something nice for someone etc.
I have improved my relationship with my body and did a better job of looking after myself. I took up yoga and had a more healthy approach to exercise (I have a history of over-exercising).
As for boundaries, that’s still a challenge, but I am getting incrementally better at establishing and maintaining boundaries with people. At least I do now feel that I have a right to establish boundaries, which is progress.
‘Acceptance’ referred to the state of my mental health. I feel that I have got to the stage of being able to accept where I am, rather than constantly wishing I could go back to being the way I was before my ‘mini-breakdown’ in 2017. As the Buddhists teach, a lot of suffering is our reaction to the pain, rather than the pain itself.
My intentions for 2020 are:
By ‘creativity‘, I don’t mean anything ambitious! I just mean trying to make sure that I get to make something everyday, whether that’s a journal entry, taking some photographs, cooking a nice meal etc. It just makes my life feel more meaningful.
I have always struggled with friendship. I was raised by parents who had absolutely no idea how to have healthy friendships and couldn’t model it for their children. As an adult, I feel like I completely lack the skills to make and keep friends. So, this year I’ve decided to stop worrying about new friends and just focus on improving the quality of the handful of friendships that I have managed to maintain.
Autonomy is an intention that my partner and I have agreed to share. We are both people who have a tendency to shape our lives around the demands of other people and we would like to challenge that. What would our lives look like if we weren’t worrying about the demands/needs/wants of other people? An interesting question to explore.
My main practical goal for the year, is a better work/life balance. My work/life balance has been out of whack for a few years now. I’m letting work dominate my psychological space far too much. I think this is a problem for a lot of women mid-career and I want to reign it in before it makes my life a misery.
I do have a few more things to work on this year:
- Being clear with people
- Planning for the future
A lot of the problems I have in my life seem to stem from my difficulty in being clear with people. This year I will strive for clarity in my interactions, even using scripts where necessary, “Just to clarify, what you are saying is …”, “I feel I need to clear with you about this …”
Future-planning terrifies me, especially financial planning. I grew up in a family that didn’t plan long-term because we were too busy lurching from crisis-to-crisis and just reacted to whatever was happening. But I want to try and be more proactive and work towards the life that we want and that means planning.
Finally, but probably most importantly, I want to work on the role that shame plays in my life. I think that shame is an immensely powerful force in the lives of most people and is something that’s used against us relentlessly, to shut us up, to keep us small and scared and consuming stuff. This has really struck me reading Ask Polly columns recently where she talks a lot about shame. I know I have tremendous shame about the lack of markers of middle-class ‘adulthood’ in my life (I don’t own my own home, I can’t drive etc ). I’m also profoundly ashamed of my mental health issues. I feel I should be “better” than this, stronger than this; I shouldn’t be collapsed in a heap over something so “stupid”.
So, those are my intentions for 2020. We’ll see how I get on.