This feels like a strange new year in some way. Like, it’s so much not a big deal that it feels like a huge deal. I feel true. Maybe that’s what makes me cry when I meditate. I don’t mean euphoric. I mean settled. Whole.
New Year's Day morning before climbing out of bed (at 8:00am! Holy cow!), the sheets tilted in just a particular way to resemble my cat Annie’s profile (she passed away October 31, 2019, she owned me for 15 years and was my constant writing buddy). I stared at it for a while, a long while, then reached out a finger to caress where the spot between her eyes would be. Cried. Hugged the sheet to my chest. So how to make sense of this simultaneous fullness? This contentedness?
I love New Years. The New Start. I’ve loved these last ten years in all the ways they’ve been spectacular and devastating. This year I feel Ready. Maybe that’s what this feeling is. Ready with the wisdom that the road is riddled with puddles and potholes of Not Ready, of doubt and darkness, but knowing that’s all part of it.
What is this New Year’s ‘no big deal’ feeling? It’s like a… “carry on” kind of feeling. Like a brief nod to the check in dictated by the new calendar. Perhaps the routine maintenance and overhauls in recent years makes this checkpoint feel effortless, no big deal, carry on. Certainly I’m not claiming perfection. I still get distracted by my phone during writing minutes. I still have weight to lose, sugar to detox off of, books to write, exercise to do. Of course. But I have some steady habits to build on this year.
This month I have three new habits to cultivate. Two should be smooth. First, while coffee is brewing and airborne dissolving (established habit) I’ll stretch there in the kitchen (new habit). Then into my writing room for my #continuouspractice daily pages (journaling has been an established habit for decades, and since 2017 I’ve been using the same twelve journals each year, one journal for each month. This year I’ll finally fill each one, and have designated an “overflow” journal if I don’t end up with enough blank pages for the month). Then I meditate (another established habit). Nothing fancy. Just recline and listen for 10 or 15 minutes. My hopes are that with this morning routine already established (coffee/airborne, writing, meditating), slipping in that stretch shouldn’t be too traumatic (but any more parenthetical comments in this paragraph just may be).
The second new habit is to walk outside each day. Won’t it be great to say, “yeah, in 2020 I walked outside every day." Even if it’s just around the tiny block we’re on, it’s setting the habit I'm after. If I time it right I can walk around the elementary school down the street during recess and breathe in the children's laughter and joy. If I time it wrong and walk while school is letting out, I'll walk through a clog of parents in cars cued up to pick up said children and breathe in their exhaust--of both cars and children.
The third habit this month is the Captain’s Log, the end-of-day recap. This may prove more challenging because I don’t know where or how that’s going to slide into my day, so I’m staying playful with it. I have handy what I think my tools may be, colored pens, a spiral notebook, a small calendar. So let’s ask the question, what do I intend to get out of such an activity? What value do I see it?
As I write THAT I am in LOVE with the mindfulness of such a question, and would love to ask myself that question all throughout the day. What value do I see in this activity?
But let’s start here. What do I intend to get out of a daily recap? I intend to give the Captain (me) the last word. Where she gathers information from the First Mate and crew, and sets a course for the next day. It provides leadership to myself. I see it happening in my writing room before I make my way to bed. I don’t see it as the touchy-feely check-in that my morning daily pages are. I see it as boots on the ground tracking. Captain knows what she wants and where she needs to go, Captain knows she has the tools and the time now to proceed. She is the one who looks to the stars for reassurance, she is the one who listens during meditation and hears the Universe whisper, carry on, come along. But she needs day by day involvement in the TO DO’s.
Because this is what has usually happens. Captain shows up in the morning, rested and happy, strong. Stronger now than ever (so much change in the past three years as I skim through the Januarys of the past). She sits and checks in, and hands off duties to First Mate and crew, who, to their credit, can at times absolutely KILL IT in the TO DO department.
But they still have nasty habits, destructive self-talk, as they make the minute-by-minute decisions that may or may not get the ship to its coordinates planned for that day. Sometimes they make poor decisions and switch the priorities around (eating all those cookies was reward for cleaning the house which needed to happen instead of working on the memoir). The Captain gives a cursory nod as she pads off to her quarters to sleep as the crew just provides a quick thumbs-up of how things went as they silently berate themselves for effing up the day. It is not an effective debriefing.
This can go on for months, and everyone is shocked and disappointed when they realize they’re way off course, not as far along as they had planned and hoped, as they deep-boned knew they could be. So the evening check-in is intended to resolve that.
This first month is kind of an inventory month for the check-ins. Captain will ask “What got done?” and document it. Then she will ask, “Anything else to report?” to assess the overall morale of the crew. Then the Captain will step up and claim what is intended to get done the next day before all bid goodnight. I had the idea to do this New Year’s Eve, and meant to make the first check in that night, but I ate ice cream and drank champagne instead (imperfect!).
So right now is the time. Happy New Year. Welcome, 2020, you shiny new year. Let’s get to work.
Meg Kinghorn is the big weirdo of the Ella/Meg Salty City Writing Workshop collaboration. She teaches Creative Non-fiction and Memoir at the University of Utah and gives herself and any other writer crossing her path unmitigated permission to write whatever the hell they want.