Chances are you've heard of the "one word" thing which has been making the rounds the past few years. The idea is that instead of making a list of New Year's resolutions (or perhaps in addition to those) you choose a word to inspire you for the coming year. For 2011 I chose focus. And then never really got around to choosing words for 2012 and 2013.
I've been thinking about a word for 2014 for the past few weeks. At first I was considering "simplicity". Sometimes I feel as though life is too much. Too much stuff, too much negativity, too many rules, too many "have-tos" and "shoulds". I do want to simplify my life in many ways. I want to go through my house room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet and get rid of the superfluous. I want to develop a simplified, yet efficient, housekeeping routine. I want to carefully evaluate all parts of my life and make conscious decisions about what to keep and what to let go.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I am craving is more than simplicity. I desire mindfulness. So much of the time I feel scattered, distracted, as though I'm living life with too many browsers open - literally and figuratively. I don't have ADD but I've lost my natural ability to focus.
As a child I could concentrate on a particular activity for hours at a time. Always a lover of solitude, I would retreat to my room and play by myself or read for hours in complete contentment. But something happened along the way. I think it started when I had children but truly got its foothold during an especially busy season of life. I was working full-time - plus on call - as a hospice nurse. The kids were elementary school age and all that entails. In addition to all the housework, laundry, cooking (I tried to put a decent meal on the table every night and even baked homemade bread quite often), and children's activities, I volunteered in the kids' classrooms, delivered Meals On Wheels, and sang in the church choir. I look back at that time and have no earthly idea how I did it all.
Multi-tasking was a necessity. While heating water for my morning cup of tea I'd set up the ironing board then iron our clothes between sips. As I'd braid Lisa's waist-length hair I'd quiz her on spelling words. I always seemed to be doing two things at once. It reached its zenith when I found myself signing Christmas cards while driving to patients' homes. Yes, I *do* realize how ridiculous that sounds. But such was my life at that point. And most people have busy times in their life when sheer survival depends upon multi-tasking.
My life has changed dramatically since then. I had nearly a decade of homeschooling which, while not as hectic as my work as a nurse, was still time consuming. Now my kids are both grown and I have the luxury of setting my own schedule. After Lisa married, David and I discussed it and we both decided our lives were more peaceful with me at home rather than returning to paid work. I still have plenty to do. I'm currently on the board for our local homeless services organization, serve on our city's multicultural committee, belong to the city's recycling coalition, serve on the worship committee at church, sing in the church choir, deliver Meals On Wheels, and occasionally help out at Abba's Table (an organization which provides an evening meal 6 nights a week) and Compassion Outreach (local organization which provides free medical care and a meal twice a month). I'm also taking piano lessons. Of course, all that is in addition to taking care of our home, family, pets, cooking, laundry, etc. I'm never bored!
There are so many things I'm interested in and want to do or learn. It seems as though my brain is going 90 to nothing at all times. I find it hard to go to sleep because I can't turn off my brain. No matter what I'm doing (well, there are a *couple* of exceptions) I'm thinking of something else. I even find it difficult to stay focused on reading for long periods of time like I used to.
I want to change this. I need to change this. Life is zipping by too quickly and I feel as though I'm missing a lot of it. I want to regain my innate ability to focus and live in the moment. I'm a deeply sensual person and I must take the time to indulge that need. If you've seen the movie, Amélie, that's what I'm talking about. She revels in simple pleasures such as dipping her fingers into a sack of grain, cracking the browned sugar on the top on her crème brulèe with a spoon and skipping stones. Children do this sort of thing by nature but too often adults forego these pleasures.
I want to blow bubbles on the front porch, color a picture, enjoy the feel of soapy water on my hands when I wash dishes, truly savor the taste and texture of chocolate melting on my tongue. I want to slow down enough to notice things. This past year or two I have made some efforts in this direction. David and I spent a lot of summer evenings stargazing. I've tried to pay attention to my surroundings while walking Shiloh. One of the last warm afternoons this fall I spent about 20 minutes lying back in a lounge chair in our front yard watching a couple of woodpeckers in the tree above me.
In the year ahead I will be practicing yoga and meditation on a daily basis. Both of these practices help me feel calmer and mindful of my body and breathing. I will also be making an effort to avoid skipping around from one activity to another, but staying with something until it is complete. I'm going to relearn how to lose myself in a book for more than half an hour at a time. I'm going to take bubble baths by candlelight. When it warms up I'm going to take Shiloh on long walks every day. I'm going to plant a garden and then spend time playing in the dirt every day instead of letting weeds overtake it. I'm getting chickens again this Spring and I'm looking forward to spending time with them.
I have lots of other plans for becoming more mindful but I think you get the idea. This will be an ongoing effort and I'm sure the path won't be smooth and regular. But that's okay. Mindfulness is a life-long pursuit, not something one accomplishes overnight.
What are your plans for the coming year? Do you make goals or resolutions? Do you select a word to define the year? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear what you'll be working on this year.