I’ve been sitting on my year-end post for days because I feel like I haven’t quite collected all of my thoughts for the new year yet. But it is January 8th already, so I figure a year-end post in February probably won’t go over too well. So here goes…
What I learned in 2016
Write stuff down. One of the better things I did this year was force myself to post these “what I’m learning and loving” posts at the end of each month.” Knowing that I would have to come up with content each month forced me to pay more attention throughout the month, sort of like when you start the practice of a gratitude journal, you find more things to be grateful for (for which to be grateful the English teacher in me really wants write).
Along similar lines, the bullet journal taught me this. Our lives sometimes feel so scattered and harried, but since I started carrying around this notebook with me everywhere that I gave myself the freedom to use however I like, I’ve been writing down stuff more. It helps me to slow down the days somehow, even if it’s just slower in looking back on it. It also helps me remember that funny thing Jasper said that I most certainly would have forgotten or that quote from that podcast that I loved or that movie on Netflix that a friend recommended. Somehow, just the practice of actually writing things down creates more meaning, even (especially?) in the seemingly mundane parts of life like laundry and emails.
Body-mind-soul connection. I said this in the book wrap-up too, but I think one of the biggest things I’ll take away from 2016 is the reminder that body, mind, and soul are intricately connected and important. I think I have always thought of them as separate, hierarchical entities. I feel like I’m just at the beginning of fleshing out what this actually means, but I do realize that I was previously missing the boat. My biggest teachers in this department were Love Warrior and yoga (also the Woman episode on The Liturgist deserves an honorable mention).
Home. At Thanksgiving time, we go around the table and say our highs, lows, and surprises from the year. My high and surprise for the year were the same: how much we’ve fallen in love with our place. I always loved Wendell Berry for his emphasis on the importance of place and roots, but I don’t think I truly experienced it for myself until moving to Funky Farms. Our first garden season here was just so much fun, even in the mistakes. The list goes on: the chickens, the sunsets, the epic frisbee games, the parties, the deck dates, the tree I hang my hammock on, the dogwood in spring. I could keep going, and for that, I’m so grateful and excited for what is to come as we build it more into our own.
Because we’ve grown to love this place so much, we just really like being here. We have tried to put up more boundaries around our time, so that we have plenty of time and margin to just hang out here together. I feel like I’m finally starting to learn to better manage our family calendar to leave space for us to thrive. It would be nice if I would have started learning this when Jasper was a baby instead of nearly eight.
Be Sara is a process, not a destination. Last year, I picked “be Sara” as my phrase for the year, and in looking back, I can see I’ve made some progress in getting to know myself better so that I can live out of that authenticity. But. I have such a long way to go. One of my favorite quotes (so much so that it is hanging on a wall in our living room) from my favorite novel, Jayber Crow, is
“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.”
This “being Sara” business will likely never be done. I’ll change and grow and things I’m confident about right now, I’ll be unsure of later. I think I’ve realized that the important thing is to keep growing, keep asking hard questions, keep pursuing authenticity and vulnerability. So I’m not picking a word or phrase for 2017 because it feels like I need some more intentional time focusing on the one from last year.
Weed the garden. This is my version of the popular writing mantra to just get your “butt in the chair.” One should-have-been obvious thing I learned in 2016 was that I can read all of the productivity articles, use all of the apps, try the latest lifehack, but none of it really matters if I don’t DO. THE. WORK. As a matter of fact, all of that so-called research is really just me procrastinating from doing the damn thing. The garden is my happy place, so I picked a gardening analogy instead. It doesn’t matter if we do some crazy new permaculture experiment in the garden if I don’t do the seemingly boring work of pulling weeds so the plants can grow. It doesn’t matter if I buy from local farmers and research seasonal recipes if I don’t just get down to actually cooking in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter if I have some new workout app if I don’t actually work out. And the list goes on…
Basically, I learned that we can get better at anything by doing the boring stuff of discipline, attention, and practice. It isn’t all that sexy, but it works.
Career. In The Joy Diet, Beck points out that Webster’s definition of career is, “the course of action a person takes over a lifetime.” I loved that, and I’ve been thinking about what I want my career to be, whether or not I get paid for it. I know it has lots to do with the table and food, but I plan on digging more deeply into this in 2017.
What I loved in 2016
A lofty reading goal. I set out a lofty (for me) reading goal last year, and it made me read more books (shocking, I know). Here’s what I loved about that big-for-me goal:
- It made me pick up a book when I might otherwise have wasted time scrolling Facebook or watching a movie.
- I learned A LOT from these various books and, because of them, I had some really great conversations. Books open up conversations unlike any other form of media (although I think documentaries are a close second).
- Books are self-care for me, and I realized how true that was this year. So to spend most of the year being sucked into a book or two at a time made me more content.
Walks (preferably hikes). In light of that body-mind-soul connection thing up above, I spent more time outside walking this year. In the past, if I had time to myself for a walk, I would rather spend it doing some high-intensity interval stuff or kettle bells, but I did that to check it off the list mostly, because that kind of workout gives me results and quick ones. But this year, I tried to do what I wanted to do and just go on more walks. Walks certainly aren’t going to get me in the best shape of my life or anything, but I just love being outside and moving. I’m much clearer-headed, more patient, and have better ideas after a good walk or hike. So I decided to try to let myself off the hook in terms of “fitness efficiency” and just move how I wanted to move.
Yoga. I fell hard for yoga this year, preferably at Shine, our neighborhood studio. It might be just the season I’m in, but along with walks, I just love the multi-faceted benefits I get from a regular yoga practice, unlike anything I get from a more normal workout routine. Grant and I joke that it’s cheap therapy, but we aren’t really joking because it is true.
My bullet journal. I’m a broken record on this one I know, but just try it already. When I finally let go of anything that a bullet journal “had to be” is when I got sucked in. I love having a one-stop shop to dump my brain into, and, like I said above, the biggest benefit for me has been just to feel like life isn’t moving so fast. Just find a notebook (I bet you have a spare one laying around) and try it for a few months. If you love it, then get some fancier gear, but just try it first. I’m going to try to write a post on how I use it because mine is super messy and not at all pretty, but totally works for me.
Farmersmarket.com. This is only for central Indiana peeps, but I am loving having an off-season way to support local farmers. I keep telling everybody about it, and it is hands-down one of my favorite things about 2016. Check out this Instagram for deets.
Community. We changed churches this year, after being at our previous church for nearly ten years. It was a really hard decision and a difficult time for us, but we came out on the other end with a new understanding and appreciation of community. This year has been a big season of growth and change for us, and we learned what our existing community really meant to us, as well as the difficult and rewarding work of building new friendships. At the end of 2016, our community looks a bit more piecemealed together, but it’s much more beautiful for it.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, for your support throughout the year, and for letting me share so freely in this teeny corner of the interwebs. I am grateful for you!
Ok, now YOUR turn…