free

The Words Guiding Me This Year

January 31, 2020

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Regular readers of Catching Happiness know that I usually choose a Word of the Year to guide me. This year is no different—in fact, I have two words that I will be keeping in the forefront of my mind as I navigate 2020.

This year, I’ve chosen the words free and soften as my words of the year.

Free

Initially, I chose free because I’m going to do something this year that will make me feel more free—I’ve decided to stop coloring my hair.* I got my first gray hair at age 21, and though it took many years for more grays to appear, I’ve been coloring my hair for a good long time now, and I’m tired of the process. After I read about a possible link between breast cancer and permanent hair dye, that was it for me. I’m done. I have an aunt who had breast cancer, and I don’t need any more risk factors.

Thinking about no longer coloring my hair led me to thinking about what else I’d like to be free of. Things like expectations, caring what other people think about how I look and what I do, stories I tell myself that hold me back from having the happy life I want. I want to feel free to explore, expand, give, express my creativity, enjoy my simple pleasures and everyday adventures. 

When I looked up the definitions of free, I found some additional food for thought. The online definitions, from Merriam-Webster, included: enjoying civil and political liberty; enjoying personal freedom; choosing or capable of choosing for oneself; made, done or given voluntarily or spontaneously; relieved from or lacking something, especially something painful or burdensome; not bound or contained by force; having no obligations or commitments; not impeded or obstructed or restricted; capable of moving in any direction; frank/open; overly familiar or forward in action or attitude. As a verb, free means to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts or embarrasses.

Soften

Soften came to me one day when I was struggling to make something work. When life doesn’t immediately cooperate, my tendency is to tense up, struggle, and use force when I should soften and ease up. Maybe even let go. I’m often reminded of this in yoga class when I have a muscle cramp and must soften my pose or come out of it altogether. Softening—my attitude and my actions—causes me to slow down, and often averts an impending accident

Words working together

I believe that the combination of free and soften indicates to me that I want to explore being more flexible and relaxed. How this plays out in real life, with its work and responsibilities, remains to be seen. How can I have self-discipline but not too much, also remains to be seen.

Did you choose a word of the year this year? What do you think it means for you?

*Apparently, “going gray” is currently A Thing, with books and blogs devoted to the process. While I’m not planning to share much of my own transition publicly, I’ve heard that the process brings up a lot of emotions and beliefs about femininity, aging, etc., so it’s possible that I will eventually write about it. (And, of course, when my hair is fully transformed, I’ll have to post a new profile pic!)

Link love

New Year, New Link Love Volume II

January 10, 2020

Photo by Vika Fleisher on Unsplash

Is it too far into the year to tell you Happy New Year? It feels like 2020 has gotten off to a sleepy start for me, personally. I had one writing assignment to wrap up from the end of 2019, and now that it’s done, I can catch my breath and do some reflecting and planning. I went through my calendar/planner from 2019 and jotted down notable events and thought about the accompanying emotions. It was a full year.

I’d still like to set some new goals, and do some additional fun visualizing stuff—and hopefully, I’ll get to that soon. I’ve been jotting down possibilities, and will fill out my “20 for 2020” list to hang on my bulletin board. (Make your own, or download a free printable, like this one—no affiliation.)

If you’re still in a contemplative mood, here are a few recent Internet discoveries I’ve found thought-provoking or otherwise worthwhile:

While the New Year is already here, you can always decide to get rid of one (or more) of these “8 Things to Get Rid of Before the New Year."

One very simple way to review the old year and approach the new year, from Sandra Pawula’s (Always Well Within) Wild Arisings newsletter:

“I began the 2019 review process informally a few weeks ago by jotting down a heading in my journal called ‘Good Things 2019.’  I placed things on the list as they came to me day-by-day day. I also put in a second heading around the same time called ‘Let Go Of 2019,’ which I approached in a similar fashion.”

I love this quote, from Rainbow Rowell

When you make your list of things to do in the new week/month/year, do you plan for joy, not just work or accomplishment? According to, Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful, we should! In “Planfor Joy, Not Just Goals,” she writes,

“When we’re children, joy seems effortless because someone has planned it for us. As we get older, we can either believe that life has gotten less joyful, or we can take charge of planning it for ourselves.”

She continues later in the post,
Scheduling in joy is making a promise to yourself that it will actually happen. Productivity experts suggest putting everything that matters to you on your calendar. If you schedule business meetings and exercise, you are calling these out as important. So why not also give your joy this same weight by putting game nights or reading before bed into your calendar too?” 

I’ve already started participating in the Unread Shelf Project. Things have Gotten Out of Hand in the purchased-but-not-yet-read yet book department. 

It wouldn’t be Link Love without a post from Raptitude. Check out “How to Go Deeper in 2020.” Deeper was my word of the year in 2017 and I’m tempted to revisit it.  

Just discovered the delightful NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. I hadn’t heard of 99 percent of the musicians represented here, but I’ve enjoyed every tiny concert I’ve listened to.

What are some of your plans for 2020? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


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