As I’ve mentioned, my big 3-0 is imminent. Though this birthday certainly brings with it some mixed emotions, I’ve decided give a polite “no” to whining, complaining, and pre-emptive nostalgia. My dad used to tell me, “You couldn’t pay me enough money to turn back the clock,” and while I’m sure I don’t have a full appreciation for what he’s saying, I do understand intuitively that with every experience, I gain a piece of wisdom about who I am, the things that are important to me, and the ways that I can contribute to a happier, brighter, better world. I know increasingly more intimately, for example, that synergistic wellness of mind, body, and heart is the best indicator of whether I’m living authentically, smartly, and wholeheartedly. In other words, when my mind is peaceful, my heart light, and my body happy, I know I’m on to something. Yes, this conclusion seems fairly obvious, and yet, sometimes – too often – ease, convenience, busy-ness, and old habits and patterns can get the better of me. So, in the next three months ( just about the amount of time it takes to build a new habit ), I’m vowing to honor this wisdom. I will cultivate the habits that reinforce a peaceful mind, a light heart, and a happy body. Cheers to entering my 30s wholeheartedly!
So what am I working on?*
I’m a person who hums and ticks, frets and angsts, ruminates and analyzes. Creative outlets – writing, acting, dancing – are essential to my having a peaceful, happily ticking mind. The best I’ve ever felt – creatively and mentally – has been during the several summers at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English, where I’m getting my M.A. in literature. There, I have achieved the balance between an active and peaceful mind through a combination of taking classes, writing daily, acting in plays, and generally investing myself in ideas and imagination. Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to this next summer at Bread Loaf. However, in the meantime, I’m aiming to channel my energy more regularly into creative outlets. I plan to:
1) Read daily: This is not a problem for me. In fact, it’s more likely that I’ll spend too much time reading to the detriment of other responsibilities (like cleaning my closet — ugh….).
2) Create a writing habit: Oofda, this is the doozy for me. My number one goal this year is to develop a daily writing habit. I’ve got some pretty lofty goals with my personal writing, and the first step is daily practice. If I’m posting on here regularly, that’s a good sign. Right now, I’m taking a great graduate course on Post Colonial Ecology, so I’ve been doing regular academic writing as well. That’s a step in the right direction too. However, the kind of writing I want to undertake daily is fiction writing and personal essays. In The Writing Habit, David Huddle (incidentally, he’s a Bread Loaf professor!) writes, “The major difficulty a writer must face has nothing to do with language: it is finding or making the circumstances that make writing possible. The first project for a writer is that of constructing a writing life.” My focus over the next three months is a commitment to undertaking the project of construction — more on this later, people!
3) Find space for creativity: While perhaps the more obvious outlets (dance, theatre) are not easily accessible right now, I must remember to indulge the space that I do have. Creating yoga sequences, for example, affords me the opportunity to think and move expressively.
This year, Jared and I moved to Hood River, OR to be closer to family and to explore and nurture our priorities (like family, for instance) and to spend our first year of marriage establishing a strong foundation for our relationship . I feel such gratitude for this opportunity. Being close to family and getting to spend time with my husband has been such a gift! At times, though, I find myself falling into old habits that detract from a light heart, and these habits usually fall into two categories: my relationship with stuff and my reaction to stress. So, I will mindfully decide to:
1) Cultivate the mantra “People not things”: This is my husband’s mantra and one that I’m working to embrace more readily. Intuitively, I know that it’s people and experiences that are the source of true joy, and yet, sometimes I find myself putting an emphasis on stuff. Blech. I plan on writing an entire post simply about my relationship to things, but for now I’ll say this: over the next few months, I’d like to spend more time with people and less money on things.
2) Say “yes” to opportunities to connect: When I feel overwhelmed by projects, the first thing I give up is time with family and friends. However, I’ve come to realize that time spent connecting with people I love isn’t an extra, and in fact, quality time with family and friends makes me happier, healthier, more resilient, and more (not less!) productive.
Balance is key here. I know I’ve struck a good balance when my body feels strong without feeling taxed, when I’ve found that tricky space between grit and grace. With that goal in mind, I am going to:
1) Embrace my running mojo: I’ve run nearly daily since I was thirteen years old. Running makes me feel strong in my body, clears my head, and grounds me in breath and movement. However, sometimes I find myself running out of habit more than enjoyment. For me, having a concrete goal to work towards ignites my running mojo. So, this spring, I’m going to tackle a half marathon. I’ve signed up for the Race for the Roses in Portland in April. Light feet = happy body!
2) Eat more vegetables. Nuff said.
3) Practice yoga: Nothing has done more for my body, heart, and soul than yoga. I am fortunate enough to practice in a truly inspiring yoga community. When I was in teacher training, I was practicing seven days a week. Now that I’m working and not in training, I generally can make it to a class about five days/week., and I teach two classes a week on top of that. I’d like to get back to a daily practice. I plan on taking every opportunity I can to practice yoga and to deepen my personal practice and my teaching.
Ultimately, I figure that a more mindful examination of my habits and their impact on my life is a good thing in and of itself. However, I suspect that this mindfulness will also lead to a happier, lighter, healthier heart, body, and mind — and ultimately to more wholehearted living. Cheers to 30!
* This is just an overview; I plan on devoting several posts to each of these goals.
**Wow, I could write an entire book about the impact of “stuff” in my life.