Here we are, another year.
Do you feel differently? Fresher? Begun again?
2021 was a challenging year for me, and for a lot of people. I lost my dog, who was my heart, after a long and challenging illness that meant we didn’t sleep a lot. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, which means I don’t sleep a lot. There is still a pandemic. I had some chest pains (which, fortunately, turned out to be anxiety – see the part about not sleeping). Betty White DIED.
Yes, there were highlights too – I’m not into toxic positivity, but I am one to cherish the good times. I got to hug a LOT of the people that I love, which brings me so much joy (thank you vaccines!). We raised a lot of money for my best friend and SO many people showed up for her in innumerable ways that bring tears to my eyes every time I think about it. My friends have been my rocks in the hard and sad, as well as the funny and delightful moments. Which means that in the end, I am filled with gratitude.
So why am I starting out the year with a deeply personal post to you all? Because I think that we all need it. Here’s what I’ve learned (because why shouldn’t I throw my hat in the ring with everyone else’s lessons for a new year?). Surprisingly, these lessons aren’t going to be about work:
- Embrace vulnerability: The pandemic has been really hard. We all know it. Wherever you are in the world, whether you’ve had lockdowns or just a wild free-for-all, we’re worn out. That constant anxiety of what’s going to happen next is really hard, and so when life hands you literally ANYTHING else, it’s immediately overwhelming. So while I don’t suggest you word vomit on the next person to ask you “how are you?” it is okay to try a little honesty and share how you’re really doing. And if you’re struggling with anything, I cannot recommend therapy enough. Friends are amazing sources of energy and support, but therapists are paid professionals for a reason and they have been invaluable during the pandemic (and before!).
- Be kind: This advice went around a LOT during the holiday season, for good reason, and it needs to stick around. We’re all tired and I very much doubt that anyone took enough of a break during the last four weeks to be really refreshed. I’m finding myself really trying to pause as much as possible when responding because my nerves are still frayed. I’m still not getting enough quality sleep, rest, nutrition, water, etc. despite my best efforts and you probably aren’t either. So when the next email you get in your inbox pisses you off, take a deep breath, do something else, and then respond with a little more grace than you want to.
- Speaking of grace, give yourself some: I tell this to my friends all the time, but I think we’re short on grace with ourselves. The new year is a time for a long list of resolutions that we’re all going to achieve. We’re going to be better, smarter, kinder, thinner, more thoughtful, more well-read, funnier, insert whatever here. Not only is this really pressure-inducing, but who cares? We’re worthy RIGHT NOW and we’re (mostly) pretty great people as it is. Yes, I’ve suggested we be a little kinder (remember, we all want to be a little more like Betty White), but we don’t have to do it all perfectly, and we don’t have to do it all right now. One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got was that I could start my day over at any time. When I need to do that, I will walk away from my computer (or whatever I’m doing), get a cup of coffee or step outside for a deep breath or meditate or whatever floats my boat for setting a barrier between the crappy day I was having and the new day. You can do that as many times as you need to (although, maybe don’t have a cup of coffee each time). One of my favorite quotes is “we’re all just trying to walk each other home,” which to me, means that we’re all just doing the best we can. So let’s remember that and be a bit easier on ourselves.
- Play with legos: Or read a book, or watch a British procedural. (Those are just a few of my favorite things). Find what brings you joy that isn’t work and do more of that. We all need more of a break these days and to get back to some of the things we used to find fun. You may have forgotten what that looks like. So rediscover it. I’ve made it a goal to walk my dog more (I have one left). We’ve grieved a lot in the past 8 months and spent too much time at home – he’s also blind from glaucoma, so it makes walks a little adventurous, even if he does get around exceptionally well. But we both need more fresh air. Yes, I’m a runner, but it’s a different experience to take a sloooow walk with a basset hound, who sniffs everything and reminds you to take it all in (and is then much happier to snuggle on the couch later or sleep through a long lego build). Make a list of the things you love to do or used to love to do and bring something back into your life – maybe a short walk during your lunch break or hiking on the weekends. Pick up an art class (many places are offering them for free online!) or even try a coloring book while you’re watching tv. You’ll be amazed by what can bring you some relaxation and joy.
I signed up to get texts and also be part of the community by Luvvie Ajayi Jones and a line from the text she sent today struck me (and is part of the reason I wrote this post).
I am brave enough to chase my joy.”
We’ve been through a lot and what I’ve learned is that pandemic or not, that’s what life is. A lot. So I’m going to take Luvvie’s challenge to heart this year and I hope you all do too. In all of its messiness, bad days, anxiety, we don’t have to figure out how to start over in the new year, how to make this the year we create our perfect professional reputation or land the biggest client ever or work the most billable hours we’ve ever worked or earn the most we’ve ever made. What if we just showed up today and were brave enough to chase the things that bring each of us joy?
Happy New Year.