However, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Sorta Awesome Show, I discovered that some people establish words or phrases to guide their year instead of more traditional new year's resolutions (seriously, I'm so behind on the times). I'm a word person, so something like this really appeals to me. I thought I'd try it out for 2017 since 2016 just makes my stomach turn a bit.
I know it may be a cliche, but 2016 was fraught with hard times. We helped friends and family through some tough stuff this year including marital turmoil, career disappointments, miscarriage, death, illness, dreams deferred (shout out to my man, Langston Hughes for that phrase). It seems like every month we were walking a friend or family member through something tough. Add to this our own dose of difficulties, a toxic election cycle, and contentious current events. My highly empathetic self is just depleted. I feel like I've been holding my breath for an entire year. My shoulders and back ache, and I find myself having to deliberately unclench my body. So, my phrase for 2017 is Keep breathing.
It seems silly that a person would need to remind herself to breathe, but I'm finding that it's not instinctual for me. What is instinctual for me is to panic, react, flip into "fixer" mode, make lists, prioritize. Admittedly, I'm a bit ashamed by the simplicity of this phrase. I want something more bold, more catchy, more share worthy--something like: Choose adventure, Pursue joy, or Kick fear in the face. Keep breathing seems too ordinary and boring, like it should be wearing a pilling wool cardigan in an earth tone, a black t-shirt, a pair of gray trousers, and simple black flats....so, basically, what I wear everyday.
The more I've thought on the phrase, though, the more I realize how risky this intention is for me. I think I hold my breathe out of fear of coming face to face with my own flaws and insecurities. I hold my breath in fear of disappointing others. But when I hold my my breath, all my flaws and insecurities are magnified; I end up with a tired mind, a sore body, and unhealthy relationships with the people in my house as I become a tightly wound ball of thread with no end in sight to unravel.
I want to be able to breathe and relax my shoulders once in awhile. This means that I'll have to be intentional about what gets my time and energy. I'll be choosing the things that allow me to breathe in God's grace, like volunteering and engaging in relationships with others. I'll choose the activities that give me time to breathe and settle my soul--like running and reading and writing and traveling.
Here's a list of the things I want to do in 2017 that will still allow me to breathe (have I mentioned that I'm a list-lover?!):
- Run a 50k: I love the discipline of training, but I need a new distance to challenge me and keep me interested. I've always been intrigued by ultramarathoners. They're a different kind of people who seem less worried about paces and more focused on the experience.
- Invite people over for dinner more often: I'd love to have people over once a month because I think the best conversations happen when people can commune together.
- Continue engaging with the marginalized in my community: I'll continue serving as a citizenship preparation tutor for the Multicultural Coalition, feeding folks at Messiah Lutheran's Saturday Suppers once a month with my family, and in 2017 our family will start helping resettle refugee families through Lutheran Family Services. If there's anything I've ever been so convicted of, it's to love people on the fringes just like Jesus did. It's not always easy or comfortable, but it's humbling kingdom work.
- Travel: I don't need anything extravagant, but I want to take my kids to new parts of the state and country. We've looked at renting out those cute little cabooses at Two Rivers SRA in eastern Nebraska, visiting the Niobrara river, and hiking in some mountain range in Colorado or Wyoming.
I'd love to hear your intentions for 2017. What word or phrase will guide you this year? What do you hope to accomplish? Leave a comment below!
Happy New Year!