Dear Lily June,
Last Year’s Background
I couldn’t help it. I looked back to the beginning of 2016 and found myself, as in a hall of mirrors, looking at myself looking at myself. What I saw is that I had similar goals and aspirations then, a similar sudden drive to get myself back into fighting shape, to get healthy for you. I set myself three strong mantras/goals (to “love myself through it,” “struggle more,” and to “do something new”), and in evaluating where I ended the year (emotionally more depressed than ever, and, consequently, physically larger than ever, too) it would be easy to declare myself a failure, another dupe of the “hope springs eternal” mentality.
But I say with all due respect, daughter mine, eff that pessimistic noise. What did I achieve in 2016? I quit smoking for the last time (which is to say I nailed it, and I will never let myself become a slave to nicotine’s stained and skeletal beckoning again). I embraced the idea of the bucket list in a jar, and, as a result, got myself out into the world again. Your dad and I gave food to a food bank, clothes to Goodwill, time to each other, and kindness to strangers, dragging you all along for the ride(s) to find the best pie in Indiana, or at least the best Americana.
In fact, the project was so successful, this year, our venture has tripled: I made you and I a “Mommy-Daughter Adventure Jar,” and Ryan and I made an “OT (Original TeaMo) Jar” to reignite the ways we take care of one another. And to our Family Jar, we added the category of World Care to do even more to take care of our planet and the others who live upon it.
This year? I’ve already pulled from the family jar getting a tattoo (which will be, not unintentionally, of a mason jar of lightning bugs), from the OT jar making Ryan something new (oh, hello, sampler made, literally and figuratively, for your father), and from our adventure jar taking you for a ride on every quarter kiddie machine we can find at every grocery store across our small mid-western town (and they are, believe it or not, a-plenty).
So, looking back, did I win 2016? Hell, no. I ended the year on a hard foot only because I let myself revert back to old bad habits, habits that create self-perpetuating cycles. (I eat because I’m depressed; I’m depressed because of what–and how much–I eat. Rinse. Repeat.)
But what I did do was convince myself that I can believe in myself again, and that change IS possible. To that end, I’ve gone off the deep-end for 2017, biting off more than I should probably figuratively chew, making daily, monthly AND yearly goals in the hopes that, if I toss enough spaghetti at enough walls, eventually, something will stick, and the good habits will become cooked into my brain like, incidentally, the pasta I’m not allowing myself to eat. (Oh, carbs. How I will miss thee.)
2017’s Mantras & Daily Goals
As with last year, I’m taking my inspiration from three other sources, and embracing three new mindsets to get me through the year:
From Janey Does Blogging, I’m stealing the idea that There are no resolutions. Only goals. If you fail at a resolution, it’s like you’ve failed at having willpower altogether. If you miss the mark of your goal, at least you aimed at something. Is the difference real or only semantics? Time will tell, but I’ve heaped on myself a crap-ton of flexible Goals, not set-in-stone Resolutions. Thank you, JDB.
From Penny For Your Thots Blog, I’m stealing the idea that I’m trying to bloom. I’ve spent a lot of time of my life thinking that I were only x, I’d be y. (If I were skinnier, I’d be more attractive. If I published more, I’d be a better writer. If I were richer, I’d be happier.) Maybe those formulas are true, or maybe they were just sticks I used to poke myself for not being more conventionally beautiful/successful. Regardless, I’m dropping them. I had to remind myself, for example, while walking yesterday that exercise isn’t a punishment for what bad I’ve done to my body; it’s an opportunity to do something good good for my body.
I might never be a skinny, wealthy, famous writer. But if I try, I could have more moments of joy, inspiration, and beauty, all flowers this old cactus is capable of sprouting right now, as I am.
From Mark Twain via Brian Tracy, I’m stealing the idea that Each day, I can eat one frog. Only, I’m doing it entirely wrong. The point of Twain’s argument was that you should begin your day by accomplishing the thing you’d rather not do, but that needs be done, anyway.
Instead, because my depression has a tendency to steal from me the things that I love, I’m starting each day off with a frog I actually want to eat (i.e. by doing something I actually want to do.) On the weekdays, I’ll wake at 4:00AM each morning (or thereabouts) to give myself time to enjoy these acts in solitude (so that, once I’m home from work, I can devote my time to your dad & you, as none of these are really social/toddler-friendly activities):
- Sundays–Go to a local church/religious service.
- Mondays–Relax with Netflix and computer games.
- Tuesdays–Straighten my hair, which I never have time to do! (Between the shower and styling, it takes me almost two hours to accomplish. You try taking a tumbleweed and turning it into a river in less time.)
- Fridays–Write poetry/blog.
- Saturdays–Bucket List in a Jar with Family.
It might sound stupid, but as excited as I am to take back some of my hobbies/set these daily goals, they’re also scary to me. I have no idea, for instance, what to expect by going to a church. (I’ve never regularly done it.) And I used to read voraciously and write prolifically, but grad school poked holes in some of my passion/enthusiasm, and I’m worried that my unused mental muscles–with reading and writing–will be flabby. And when you’re prone to depression, the more you have, the more you stand to lose. But that’s life, Lily June.
That’s loving you, too; the more precious you become to me (each day, my darling), the more terrified I am of the hole you’d rip through my life if I ever lost you. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. And I need to work towards being able to love myself, too.
2017’s Monthly Goals (January)
I figure I’ll set a dozen goals a month. Whatever works, I’ll carry with me into the next month. Whatever doesn’t, I’ll either let go of (making a new plan in its place) or redouble my efforts towards. This month’s goals are as follows for me (in no particular order):
1. Sign up for a library card (already done on the 2nd) in order to book a room at the local library for a social justice group you’re starting called Actions Speak. If possible, meet on the third Saturday of every month.
2. Try out the local Unitarian church.
3. Have at least one date with Ryan. Cook a meal for his mother in exchange for babysitting.
4. Finish at least one book this month (on the docket, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man).
5. Every day, engage in the self-care and hygiene others take for granted: Take your antidepressant, and brush your teeth/hair daily. Every other day (at least), shower/wash face/bathe. Every work week day, walk during your hour lunch break. Every weekend, clean the apartment.
6. Write down one thing you’re grateful for daily.
7. Put aside a small amount of money every month for a family vacation.
8. Avoid (if not eliminate entirely) obvious starches/carbs/sugars (No: cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, bread, soda, juice, chips, pretzels, crackers, potatoes, corn).
9. Track weight daily, along with diet. The hope (not goal) is to lose a pound a week.
10. Have at least one Mommy/Daughter adventure a month.
11. Do something that scares you. (This month, it’s meet for a consultation about the tattoo.)
12. Reflect on your progress on the 20th (of every month).
Ultimately, I just want to stick to as much of this as I can. My dream, with all the exercising and eating healthy, is to lose 50 pounds in a year (about 1 pound a week), but I’m not holding my breath for that to happen. Instead, I’m working towards making my ideal priorities– Social Justice, Mental & Physical Health, Art & Crafts and Love & Family–more integrated with my daily and monthly realities.
I can’t keep looking back, Lily June, at the person I used to be (when I was younger or thinner or more mentally healthy). I have to bloom into the person I’m meant to become, by setting my goals and eating my frogs daily. And I have to remind myself that I’m doing all of this as much for you as I am for me. You have to believe, LJ, no matter your age or circumstance, you can reinvent yourself and become who you want to be. My secret wish for 2017? That by 2018, I can show you how true this has been for me.
- By http://www.Pixel.la Free Stock Photos – pixella15327, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51439745