Cleo Wade

Tired

April 12, 2024

I feel you, Luna

Since it’s been full week, with the anniversary of my mom’s death, a solar eclipse, and multiple errands and appointments, today I’ll share with you this poem I love from Cleo Wade’s Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life

tired

I was tired of worrying

so I gave myself my peace back

I was tired of feeling intimidated by what I should do

so I pulled up my sleeves

and

got to work on what I could do

I was tired of not knowing

so I found out—about myself, my family, my

ancestors, my government, and the struggles of others

I was tired of seeing evil everywhere

so I found the heavenly spots and showed my

neighbors where they were

I was tired

of looking at the world as one big mess

so I decided to

start cleaning it up

and when people ask me if I am exhausted

I tell them no

because

more than anything

what I got the most tired of

was being tired

National Poetry Month

Returning to a Simple Pleasure: Celebrating Poetry During National Poetry Month

April 05, 2024

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When things go awry, as they did for me last year, it’s easy to let go of certain practices that bring you joy. I never stopped reading last year—in fact, I read more than usual during plane rides and hours spent alone at my mom’s house. But I did get away from reading poetry on a regular basis.

I always enjoy reading poetry when I do it, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. One of the beauties of poetry is that you can read just one poem and have something to think about. I mean, why don’t I have a book of poetry sitting where I can pick it up instead of picking up my phone to scroll mindlessly? How many funny cat videos does one woman need to watch?! Reading a poem does take a little more effort than scrolling on my phone, but arguably it’s a better use of my time.

One of the things I like best about reading poetry is that it forces me to slow down. Sure, I could skim over the words on the page, but if I want to get at the meaning of the poem, I have to slow my reading and think about the words. Slowing down has become a theme for 2024 for me, and I’m making an effort to live at a slower pace. Reading poetry on a regular basis sounds like a good way to practice slowing down. 

National Poetry Month to the rescue

Conveniently for me, April is National Poetry Month. There are plenty of resources for me, and anyone else, who wants to add a little poetry to their lives. I’m easing back into regularly reading poetry by starting with Knopf’s Poem-a-Day email. I’ve also recently enjoyed two short collections of poems, Maggie Smith’s Good Bones and Kate Baer’s I Hope This Finds You Well.  

If you’d like to join me in returning to the simple pleasure of poetry, here are a few ways to do so.

Celebrate National Poetry Month

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

To find virtual and in-person poetry events and resources near you, enter your state or an event title in the search field here

Another poem-a-day option, featuring new work by today’s poets.

Want to try your hand at writing poetry? See napowrimo.net for daily prompts in the month of April. 

American Life in Poetry discontinued its practice of sharing poems weekly with newspapers and subscribers at the end of 2022, but the poetry archive remains. Explore it here

Some of my previous posts about National Poetry Month can be found here, here, and here.

To get you started, here is poem from the American Life in Poetry archives (introduction by Kwame Dawes):

It seems clear enough that Quincy Troupe wants his poem, ​“Picking a Dandelion”, to achieve the coveted status of ​“timelessness” while being rooted in a historical moment. Here are Joe and Jill, two people with commonly available American names, enacting an ordinary gesture of affection. Yet this instructive love is heightened by the context: love, in other words, in a time of hate (borrowing from Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is the theme and the optimism lacing this poem.

Picking a Dandelion

walking along together

in the nation’s capital

Joe stopped, stooped, picked a flower—

a dandelion to be exact—

then he handed it to Jill—

who smiled in her white summer,

dress full of pretty flowers,

and someone snapped a picture

of this sweet, simple gesture,

it revealed something deeper,

profound, beautiful about

their love for each other here,

that taught all of us watching,

how to reach across time, space,

with a tender touch, a kiss

for one another here, now

in this moment of hatred

before time on earth runs out

Let me know in the comments below if you have any favorite poets or ways of enjoying poetry. 

Blooming

Broken, Blooming

March 22, 2024


Recently we had some small dead trees cut down, leaving open space we’ve never had before in our naturally-landscaped backyard. The fall of those trees crushed the ferns growing beneath them, and that whole area of the yard wears a shocked look, like it doesn’t know what happened to it. Nearby, a tall pine, uprooted and left leaning by Hurricane Irma, continues its slow decay, occasionally dropping branches onto the ground. Even though we have mild winters in Florida, there’s a lot of dead stuff. While it’s never pristine, our yard currently looks, shall we say, disheveled.

Yet at the same time, new growth is everywhere. Pale green oak leaves burst out beneath their canopies of Spanish moss and some of my favorite flowers are blooming. Simultaneously beautiful and a mess.

That’s kind of how I feel.

As time does its healing work, the internal walls I put in place to keep going when I had to, even though it was unbearably hard, are collapsing and the emotions and questions I have about that surreal period when both my mother-in-law and mom were dying (it’s a blur) are bubbling to the surface.

I find myself with questions and regrets about how my adult relationship with my mom played out. In particular, how far away we lived from each other. I missed out on frequent, “ordinary” things, like going shopping together, and I worry that I neglected her in ways I didn’t understand because I wasn’t there to see her struggles. My mom was my bedrock person, the one who loved me best. Though we had differences of opinion and viewpoint, I never doubted her love, and I did not have to do anything to earn it. I’m coming to terms with what it means to lose that.

At the same time, I’m deeply enjoying creative projects; delighting in beautiful spring weather; feeling love for my family, friends, and animals; savoring simple pleasures and everyday adventures whenever I experience them.

Even while I was going through my mom’s decline and death, sitting by her bedside daily, watching her slip away, even as I felt such great sorrow and grief, I noticed that I could still find comfort and even joy in certain things…many of them small. It was like the dial of my emotional sensitivity was turned up high—even though I was excruciatingly sad, I could take deep pleasure in a walk in nature, eating a favorite meal, or using an app to identify bird songs. I could be both sad and happy—broken and blooming. 

As I wrote in the October 2023 edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, “This year has brought home to me the truth that even though we often perceive the world in extremes of either/or, life is really more a case of both/and. 

“We can feel multiple emotions at the same time: sorrow over losing a loved one and relief that they’re no longer suffering.

“I’m working on making my thinking more flexible. Allowing myself to feel joy and grief, without judging either one. Allowing life to unfold as both wonderful and challenging...because, frankly, that's what it is, and what it's always been.”

Even though I’ve outwardly held it together and “been strong” for what feels like forever, inside I have broken and tender places. But there are also blooms pushing their way upward, little tendrils of joy reaching for the light.

There is no question that this world holds unfathomable heartache. We see it on our screens, and in the eyes of those we love, and sometimes in our own faces in the mirror. But don’t forget that this world also holds joy, love, pleasure, and beauty, too.

I came across these perfect quotes from @motherwortandrose on Instagram this week:

“You get to experience enchantment even if you are deeply heartbroken by the world.”

“You are allowed to experience beauty and pleasure even when you are heartbroken.”

My mission on Catching Happiness has always been to focus on the simple pleasures and adventures of a happy life, rather than the heartbreak. Over the past year, I’ve found that increasingly more difficult, but I’m still committed to that goal. I hope today holds more enchantment, beauty, and pleasure than heartbreak for all of us. If you’d like to share something that lifted your spirits recently, we’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments below. 

Angie Kim

Why We Should Remember to Want What We Have

March 15, 2024


“Of course you will and can want more. You should want more. But you should also spend time trying to want what you already have. It’s slightly different from ‘practicing gratitude’ or appreciating or thanking a higher force or God for what you have…. It means: Don’t let what you already have be the baseline. Think of yourself before you gained what you have, and remind yourself how much you want that, what you already have—your spouse/partner, your family, your house, your job. Imagine you in an alternate universe where you don’t have your family, can’t have your kids or your partner, how desperate that alternate-you would be to get what you have. Or if you don’t believe in the multiverse, the you from five years ago.”

—“Adam Parkson” in Happiness Falls, by Angie Kim

 

Adversity

Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?

March 08, 2024


Over the past couple of years, we’ve been supported by two different chapters of Hospice, first with Carol and then with my mom. I can’t say enough good things about Hospice—I couldn’t have managed without their help. Both Hospice chapters have sent me materials to help with grief and other pertinent topics for the families of people who are sick or dying. I’d like to share one of them with you today—it’s a story I hadn’t heard before, and I still think about it often.

A Carrot, an Egg, and a Cup of Coffee

(Anonymous)

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

After 20 minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out, placed the eggs in a bowl out and then ladled the coffee into a cup.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the young woman replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to break an egg. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she inhaled its rich aroma. The daughter asked what it meant.

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water. But each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile, its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Which are you? Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, or maybe a financial hardship become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? When the water gets hot, the coffee bean releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, do you get better and change the situation around you and make it better? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

We all know people who have been embittered by trouble and grief—and we all know people who have grown through their suffering and become something beautiful to behold. I do not judge those who have been hardened by adversity or broken by it, but I don’t want to be one of them. I’m trying my best to “be the coffee.” 

Everyday adventures

Happy Little Lists

March 01, 2024

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

It’s no secret that I love a good list. In addition to ordinary to-do lists, I make seasonal fun lists, list of books I want to read, and more. I even have a “Do Not Do” list

(Maybe I love lists a little too much?) 

“Attack of the Killer Lists” notwithstanding, I think lists can be a good way to corral things you want to remember, provide you with alternatives to less healthy activities, even be a source of happiness and uplift in and of themselves. These lists are fun to make!

Here are 15 Happy Little Lists you could make:

  1. Happy Little Things—keep a running list of all the little things that make you happy. It might be only one each day, week, or month, but over time, that list will grow. (An alternative to the Happiness jar.
  2. Favorite calming and soothing activities for when you start to feel stressed out. Having this ready ahead of time can keep you from crashing and burning.
  3. Places you want to travel. I’ve started a five-year travel wish list because I’m not getting younger or fitter, and time is not slowing down.
  4. Possible little adventures and big adventures you could schedule each week (from Laura Vanderkam’s book Tranquility by Tuesday.)
  5. 100 dreams, also a Laura Vanderkam idea. 
  6. Short, fun activities you can do when you have a few free minutes and you don’t want to scroll your phone.
  7. Books/movies/music you want to consume this year. What new artists are you interested in, and what movies or books are you looking forward to this year?
  8. Places you want to explore, or restaurants you want to try in your hometown. A good way to support local small businesses as well as have some fun!
  9. Quintessential [insert your home state] experiences—beyond your hometown. In Florida, these might include visiting Disney, eating key lime pie, hitting the beach, wearing shorts in February, seeing an alligator in the wild, visiting the Everglades. What makes your state unique? If you moved out of your state, is there anything you’d regret not seeing or doing?
  10. Best dining experiences you’ve ever had. What made them so special? I’m thinking of a dinner at The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA. Savoring happy memories, whether of a meal or some other experience, increases enjoyment of life.
  11. Favorite books/movies/music. Maybe it’s time to revisit them?
  12. People who inspire you to be the best and happiest version of yourself. Who do you care about who you don’t want to disappoint? Who would you like to emulate?
  13. Things you’re looking forward to. Maybe it’s a summer vacation, a visit with family, or even an afternoon spent doing only what you want to do.
  14. Things you want to learn. Maybe you want to try a new hobby, learn a new language, or figure out how to do a simple home repair. Learning new things is sooo good for our brains and our mood
  15. Tiny ways to treat yo-self.

 What would you add to this list of lists?

Change

Keep This in Mind When Setting Goals

February 23, 2024

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

“The way we think about growth often has us laser-focused on the end goal. Yes, we might be aware of the steps that it takes to get what we want, but we think about grinding our way through them in lieu of a process we actually enjoy. When you think about your goals, take into consideration not only the objective itself but the journey of reaching it. Ask yourself: Will I like the ways that I’ll change along this path? Do I like the process of learning, of supporting others, of working with new people? Reflection can help you get clear on why you’re prioritizing certain goals and if they’re really representative of the life you want for yourself.”

—Isabelle Eyman, “We Can’t Be Productive Every Day—So Why Do We Continue to Glorify It?”

Carol

The Blessing of Memory

February 16, 2024


Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death. This week I’ve been mulling over what I might write about her to mark this milestone. I had no time to process her passing and write about it because I was immediately thrust into the trauma and chaos of my own mom’s last illness and death, but Carol was an important person to me. She was always loving and welcoming, and I can count only a few times when we disagreed or were at odds.

I’ve thought a lot about grief this year, trying to feel it without being undone by it. Trying to understand the process and work with it to heal. I like this passage about mourning, from George E. Vaillant’s book Aging Well: “Counselors sometimes forget that the psychodynamic work of mourning is often more to remember lost loves than to say good-bye. The primate brain is constructed to retain, not relinquish, love…. No one whom we have ever loved is totally lost. That is the blessing, as well as the curse, of memory. Grief hurts, but does not—in the absence of conflict—make us ill. What is more, just as rivers expose buried geologic strata, so may the erosion of living uncover life-saving memories of love, formerly obscured by pain, resentment, or immaturity.”   

In my experience, once I’m past the initial searing pain of loss, remembering loved ones does bring comfort and joy.

Our family all has favorite memories and stories about Carol. She loved to share “life lessons,” and every one of us has been on the receiving end of these. I especially enjoyed her quirky humor, her eagerness to help others, as well as her spirit of curiosity and adventure. She loved to travel, and it was at her suggestion that she, my husband, son, and I rented an apartment in Manhattan in 2007 for a quick Christmastime getaway, one of our happiest family memories. My husband traveled to China with her in 2006, and she and I took a two-week trip to Greece, also in 2007.

Carol in Greece

She also taught me to value and respect things of the home, to remain a lifelong learner (one of the last gifts I gave her was a book about physics for the layperson—she was fascinated by the subject), and being around her so much for the last years of her life made me realize how little we understand and respect our elders here in the U.S. She made me kinder.

Last night I came across the following on Instagram. It made me think of her—she absolutely would talk to anyone and she had a spirit that embraced life fully, the good and the bad. I think she would fully agree with these sentiments:

        Darling, go ahead and just love your life.

        Take pictures of everything. Capture the

        moments, big and small, that make you feel

        alive. Tell people you love them. And mean

        it- truly mean it. Talk to random strangers.

        Learn their stories. Do all the things that

        you're afraid of and stop playing small.

 

        Stop being worried about all that

        can go wrong when the only thing that

        matters is all the magic that could go right.

        There is so much life to be lived. So much

        love to receive. Open yourself up. Bloom.

        ~ Alysha Waghorn

This post is for Larry, Mary Lynn, James, Sarah, Richard, and Sam. I love you all, and I wish you comfort and healing today and every day. We miss you, Carol.

Simple pleasures

Treat Yo'Self, Updated 2024 Edition

February 09, 2024

Photo by Harper Sunday on Unsplash

Seven years ago, I wrote a post called “Treat YoSelf: 25 Simple Pleasures to Brighten Your Day.” It’s time to update that list, and since my “support” words for 2024 are restore and gentle, this post will emphasize gentle, restorative ideas—with a few active ideas thrown in for the days when you’re feeling more energetic!

I still highly recommend taking naps, buying fresh flowers, sipping hot drinks, and lounging in fresh sheets, but here are 10 more simple pleasures to brighten your day. (I have no affiliation with any brands mentioned—I just like them.) 

  1. Soak in hot water—in a bath, shower, or if you’re lucky, a spa or hot spring. Let all the knots in your muscles unwind.
  2. Give your hands and feet some TLC. Rich lotion, self-massage (try rolling a tennis ball under your foot), a manicure, a pedicure. My fingernails almost always look ragged and uneven, so I’m setting aside time on Sunday evenings to take care of them, even if that only means pulling out a nail file.
  3. Burn a seasonal scented candle. Changing up scented candles with the seasons has been surprisingly fun. I’m currently alternating a fir-scented candle and Yankee Candle’s Jack Frost.
  4. Make a seasonal fun list. I got this idea from Laura Vanderkam, and I love how it forces me to think ahead about what fun things I can do each season. I haven’t made my winter fun list yet, and winter is fast slipping away! 
  5. Go to the county or state fair. I’ve always had a soft spot for state fairs, and Florida’s state fair just started. I haven’t attended for a few years, so maybe this weekend… 
  6. Spend some time in a room lit only by candles. Combine with number 1 on this list, or sit in the glow of the flame and just be.
  7. Find some really good pens to write with. These are my current favorites. 
  8. Make yourself a special breakfast. One of my favorites is toasted sourdough bread topped with melted smoked cheese, mashed avocado, and an over-easy egg.
  9. Tell someone you love them. I’ve really been missing my mom this week and wish I could tell her I love her one more time.
  10. Lean in to your favorite hobby. Allow yourself to daydream about it, set aside time to do it, and if appropriate, buy yourself something that will help you do it better/easier/with more enjoyment.

Go forth and treat yo’self!

What would you add to this list?

 

 

 



Goals

February Already? 2024 Goals: Check-in Number One

February 02, 2024

My decluttered office bookshelves

After a year in which I had little control over my time and even less over my emotions, I’m planning to make 2024 a year for restoring and building. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d like to see happen in 2024, personally and professionally. Today’s post is a check-in to see how things are going.

I thought it might be useful to talk about my goals on Catching Happiness throughout the year—it’ll keep me accountable, and maybe it will be helpful to you to see how I (try to) break larger goals down into smaller steps. I’ll share progress, missteps, and sources of inspiration. If there’s something you’d like to me to write more about, please feel free to comment below, or contact me directly at kathyjohn335 [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Goals and happiness

In January’s edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, I revealed three of my major goals for 2024 and wrote the following paragraph:

What do goals have to do with happiness? Having goals to work toward, something to look forward to, contributes to hope, optimism, and, yes, happiness. According to Action for Happiness, ‘Direction’ is one of the 10 Keys to Happier Living.  Goals which are good for happiness are those we choose for ourselves, rather than things we think we ‘should’ do; they’re things we want to move towards rather than things we want to stop doing; they’re personally meaningful for us and reflect our interests and values; and we have control over how we work towards them.” 

(If you don’t get the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter but would like to, click here. Happy Little Thoughts comes out on the last Wednesday of each month, and I don’t share or sell your email address.) 

While I have additional goals that I may discuss later, the three I shared in the newsletter are:

  • Write a draft of a book I’ve been thinking about for years.
  • Declutter (to some extent) my whole house.
  • Complete an online dog training course and train my dog, Luna (hopefully won’t take the entire year to do this one).

How did I do in January?

Welllll, results were mixed. January was a FULL month: we hosted guests from out of town twice (family last weekend, my friend Kerri for the first week of the month) and I dealt with a few miscellaneous life maintenance things like dental appointments and household repairs. Tank was seriously sick and between worry, hospital visits, and trips to the barn to shoot medicine down his throat (you can guess how happy that made him) I didn’t have much bandwidth for anything except getting through the day. Here’s how things went:

Goal 1: In January, I wanted to go over what I already had written and organize my materials, as well as start regular writing sessions three times each week. I knew it would be a busy month, so I wasn’t ambitious. I did collect my materials, briefly look them over, and I managed one writing session total. Not a great start, but considering my stress and busy-ness levels in January, I’m not too surprised or disappointed.  

Goal 2: For my whole-house declutter, I’m working on two rooms each month, pairing a simple one with a more challenging one. In January, I worked on my home office and our guest bathroom. I’m basically finished with both—though my office (the challenging room) still has a couple of minor things that need to be taken care of. It looks so much better and is now a place where I want to spend time working again.

Goal 3: I’ve purchased an online dog training course (SpiritDog, no affiliation) after trying out some of their free offerings, but all I managed to do in January was read a couple of emails and watch a couple of short videos. 

What’s next in February and beyond?

I don’t think February will be as busy a month, but it is a shorter month so I’m still being conservative with my expectations. I want to build consistency and momentum.

These are my plans for February:

Goal 1: I’m considering investing in a couple of online book writing courses, and I’ll decide whether or not either of them is appropriate. I’ve blocked out time for writing and research sessions. I’m planning to experiment with writing in different locations, both to reduce distractions (Laundry! Dishes! Luna wants attention!) and to make writing more fun.

Goal 2: I’ve got my next two rooms picked out: my kitchen and dining room. In January, my habit was to set a timer and declutter for at least 15 minutes a day. That worked well, so I’m going to repeat that process.

Goal 3: I’ll schedule time for reading/watching the dog training course, and short sessions of training with Luna several days a week.

I’m still kind of feeling my way. Each month, I want to review my progress and make any necessary adjustments, but I probably won’t do an update like this on the blog every month. Maybe quarterly? The idea of having to publicly report my progress or lack thereof is pretty motivating! (And a little scary!)

I want to be a person with a mannerly dog, in a decluttered house, who has written a book. These goals will all take time, consistency, and the building of habits. It’s only February, and I’m still filled with optimism. We shall see what the rest of the year has in store.

If you’d like to share your own goals in comments below, I’d love to hear them!

Link love

New Year, New Link Love (Vol. IV)

January 26, 2024

Tank on left enjoying his first day home

First off, I’m happy to say that Tank is doing well at home, and I’m much relieved that he seems to be continuing to recover (and he’s enjoying the extra feed as we try to put some of the weight he lost back on him).

This is 2024’s addition to my tradition of “New Year, New Link Love,” even though it’s almost the end of the month. January has gotten away from me in a number of ways, but hey, here we are. Grab a cup of something warm to drink and enjoy these links:

In “How to Cheer Yourself Up on a Hard Day,” Ingrid Fetell Lee shows us how we can create and embrace small moments of joy even in the midst of frustration and struggle.  (Check out the “Joy Break Generator” at the bottom of the post.)

I’m not the only one who was happy to leave 2023 behind. But it’s not enough just to leave the year itself behind if we continue to carry things that weigh us down into 2024. In “7 Heavy Things to Leave Behind In 2023,” Courtney Carver gently urges us to leave those heavy things in the past and walk forward feeling lighter, and with room in our lives to allow in more good things. 

In “Can little actions bring big joy? Researchers find ‘micro-acts’can boost well-being,” NPR reported that scientists behind the BIG JOY Project found that those who commit daily “micro acts” of joy—such as making a gratitude list or doing something nice for someone else—“experience about a 25% increase in emotional well-being over the course of a week.” These acts “led to increased feelings of hope, optimism, as well as moments of fun or silliness.” These findings don’t surprise me, but it’s always nice to be reminded that in a world where so much is beyond our control, small positive acts can make a difference.

How good are you at loving yourself? If you could be better, here are “99 Ways to Love Yourself A Little Better.” 

Click here to see a baby wolf learning to howl! 

I found this discussion of “How to Think About Politics Without Going Insane,” interesting. I really do think most issues are more nuanced than we realize. David writes: “If you can achieve a multi-viewpoint understanding of the debates over gun ownership, law enforcement, socialism, capitalism, transgenderism, housing policy — even if you still adamantly favor one position afterward — the conflict no longer needs to be attributed to malice or stupidity on the part of half the population. There’s a better explanation, which is that contentious issues tend to be multi-faceted and morally complex, and people fixate on the first facet of an issue that makes them feel something. To make it worse, our culture incentivizes the denial of moral complexity. Simply put, it’s easy to motivate people with simple moral stories (those guys are bad) and hard to motivate them otherwise.” 

I enjoyed Maira Kalman’s TED talk, “How to find humor in life’s absurdity.”  (I am down for her “murder and mint chip portion of the day”!)

This weekend we will host out-of-town family as well as continue to monitor Tank’s progress and give him his medication and extra calories. How about you? Any fun plans for the weekend and beyond? How is 2024 going for you so far?

build

Some Assembly Required

January 19, 2024

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash


Happy belated New Year! I’m mostly back from my extended break after a productive, in-depth review of 2023.

As I wrote in December’s Happy Little Thoughts, I did not accomplish many personal or professional goals in 2023. I spent most of the year navigating grief and the practical and administrative matters related to two deaths, and it was all I could do to keep my own life somewhat functional. When I wasn’t doing those things, I was mentally and emotionally recovering from doing them.

But now things are starting to settle down*. Starting a new year feels like starting fresh.

Choosing a word of the year

As usual, I have been pondering the choice of a word of the year. I would like 2024 to be, as professional sports teams call it, “a rebuilding year.” Now that I’m no longer responsible for caring for my mother-in-law, I can begin to think again of what I want to accomplish.

I toyed with the idea of rebuild as a word of the year, but it didn’t feel quite right. My circumstances have changed. My dreams have changed. My tolerance levels for some things have changed. I’m staring down a milestone birthday. Instead of rebuilding what I had before, as great as it was, I want to build a life I love, one that makes me happy to wake up in the morning, on the foundation of my old life. If that makes sense.

Here’s the quote, from Jamie Varon, that inspired me to choose build as my word of the year:

“Imagine the woman you want to be. Think of what her daily life, her habits, and routines would be. Start showing up to those habits and routines, start building them, step by step, and day by day. You don’t become her like magic. You build her. Start building.”

Words of support

Knowing that I am still somewhat shaky emotionally (especially considering what’s been going on with Tank—see * below), I’m choosing a couple of “background” words to support build: restore, gentle. At least right now, I’m not up for any major disruptive changes. I am up for building small habits, little by little, gently, while allowing time for restoration.  

After I wrote down some big goals I want to achieve in 2024, I broke them down into smaller goals, sometimes into something I can achieve in a month. Some of these subgoals are process goals, like “work on [insert project here] 15 minutes 3 times a week.” January has been kind of a trial run, as I figure out how to build the habits I want.

Some fun supportive practices

Thinking about choosing your own word of the year? That’s only the first step. While you can leave it to chance, if you want to make the most of the practice of choosing a word of the year, it helps to keep that word uppermost in your mind. Here are a few supportive practices I’ve heard about and might try this year: 

  • Keep a notebook to record ways your word of the year has shown up in your life
  • Create a Pinterest board for your word of the year
  • Create a vision board focusing on your word of the year
  • Put your word of the year on sticky notes and post them in strategic places.

What feels different?

I feel a certain determination I haven’t felt before. A few of my goals have migrated from year to year without my making any real headway on them and I want that to stop. I feel more likely to look for solutions and work arounds when I hit a roadblock, rather than giving up at the first significant obstacle. One lesson I learned from losing my mom and mother-in-law is that you don’t have all the time in the world. If you want to do it, do it. Do not keep putting off things that are important to you. Build the life you want now.

Do you choose a word of the year? If you’d like to share, please do in the comments below!

Read about past words of the year here, here, and here.

*Last week, my horse, Tank, developed some kind of serious mystery ailment and for the past week I’ve been alternating between hope and despair. As I write this post, he is doing better and I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll pull through. He’s due to come home from the vet hospital tomorrow.