Hey guys, sorry for the radio silence. It was not intentional … mostly. The last 6 months have been really intense, and the accumulated stress has left me feeling burnt out. After finally wrapping up my book, I decided to give myself permission to slack for a while. Well, outside of work, anyway. To be honest, it’s been challenging. I am so used to a go-go-go pace (which, as exhausting as it is, seems to suit my personality) that slowing down is proving hard to do in any kind of measured way. [I’m sure there’s an analogy to a duck or a swan or whatever water fowl paddling madly, without seeming to break a sweat. Or something.] Anyway, the long and short of it is: I just dropped everything. Talk about all or nothing.
Even as I’ve enjoyed my newly rediscovered “down time” (re-reading P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh novels, messing around with adult coloring books, and going to bed at a more reasonable hour), I’ve been feeling guilty about not accomplishing more. I have such a long list of projects I would like to do (Learning to use a sewing machine! Beading! Drawing! Writing interesting blog collaborations! Writing a follow-up book!) that I perpetually feel like I’m falling behind and wasting my life. Of course, that’s silly, and the rational part of my brain realizes it … but it’s still a difficult notion to shake. Every now and then, I’ll remember that I’m 35 and that the days of “plenty more time for that later” are, well, not as numerous as a decade ago. And the emotional tailspin begins anew.
I’ve been using some of my free time to think about the new year, which is approaching with alarming speed. In February, the Year of the (Fire) Monkey begins. I was born in August 1980, which makes me a Metal Monkey. My husband was also born in 1980. All of this is all around no bueno for me, come 2016. I’m not superstitious … except that I totally am, sometimes. As far as I can tell, the advice for someone in my position is to keep one’s head down and not make any waves. Needless to say, that’s like telling a Monkey not to breathe – we’re just not built that way – but I’m going to try.
My theme for 2015 was “soar”, and it proved to be an inspired choice. Looking back, I think I was able to do just that: soar above my fears, in both my personal and professional lives. Heading into 2016, I really wanted to have “reap” as my new theme, because the egomaniac inside is all about measurable success … and what else could follow a year of soaring except success? But as the clock keeps ticking down on this twelfth month, “reap” doesn’t feel right. It feels presumptuous, even now, which scares me a little – that uncertainty is either the voice of my fears, or the voice of reason, and neither answer is reassuring – but I’m trying not to dwell on it. Instead, I’ve been feeling my way towards a different new theme, and coming back to the same one. Or, rather, two. Two words: accept and change.
Probably the two hardest words in the dictionary for me, which is a sign that they are the right choice – right?
Let’s tackle “accept” first. To me, it implies acquiescence and passivity – the polar opposite of my personality. It’s a negative thing, because good things don’t just happen in my world – you work for them. You accept bad luck, misfortune, unpleasant but unavoidable events. As for “change”, that’s also bad. I hate change, even though I get bored easily and, in one way or another, I am always looking for the excitement of change. I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.
My perspective on both of these words is just that: a personal perspective. Neither word carries solely negative connotations – in fact, both can easily be positive. And it’s the positive that I’m aiming to discover in 2016. I want to embrace (not merely acquiesce) in growth (not merely change). I want to shift the way I think about myself and my space in the world. I want to be an optimist. I want to believe that, when you open your arms, what comes is good and true, and not something to be feared. I want to stop being afraid of change; I want to stop trying to control its parameters.
It will be hard.
But there’s no reason why I can’t make it. I’m fully aware of my privilege in having this as one of my biggest challenges. It’s easy peasy in the scheme of things. Practically nothing. And I will try to remember that, even when I give myself permission to wallow in (inevitable, let’s face it) self-pity.
OK, your turn: have you picked your “theme” for 2016? What is it? And if there any other Monkeys out there – let’s commiserate!