it's december and i'm exhausted. my thinking is fuzzy and foggy most of the time. i'm pretty sure i'm in a "grip" and it's........ 🙃 very unpleasant.
i do have moments where i can think clearly. i've used them to work, reflect on 2019, write this post, and ruin my christmas-morning hollandaise sauce. that's pretty much it. anyway, here's what i have come up with! it's quite a long post, which is why i've split it in two. part one is more about looking back and part two is more about looking forward!
before i start: this whole post is a companion post to the collective resource list we (the sprout club team) are currently working on. stay tuned for that! it's bound to be a lot more helpful than what i'm writing in this post.
looking back on 2019: 3 lessons
my most-listened-to song of 2019 is border song. i listened to it all the time last summer. i could not get it out of my head. it was pretty much all i could think about. and the fact that i had no idea why i was so obsessed with it only made me more obsessed with it. obviously.
but now that i'm looking back, my reason for being so obsessed with that song seems clearer. here's what i think: it's partly the way i was introduced to it, partly how deeply the lyrics of the second verse resonated with me.
i never paid much attention to border song before i watched rocketman (which i talked about in the june love list and later in a post) last june. border song holds a special place in the narrative of rocketman because it's the first thing elton john and bernie taupin connect on. again, in the movie — i have no idea how it happened in real life — bernie is embrassed when he realizes that elton has seen the lyrics of border song; he never meant for anyone to see them; but elton assures him he loves them. at the risk of sounding thoroughly sappy... that's what friendship is to me. and friendship, in 2019, has been one of the most important things in my life.
lesson 1: friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love
friendship is seeing beauty in the same things. friendship is wanting to see the world through each other's eyes and loving what you see. friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love. friendship is sharing. friendship is reciprocal. friendship is a dance.
in 2019, i've learned to deepen the intimacy of my friendships. for this, i have my two closest friends to thank. they have been patient, generous, honest, open, understanding and so much more. they have made me feel safe to be real and vulnerable with them, and that's such a wonderful, precious gift.
lesson 2: if you need to quit, then quit
now, for the second verse of border song:
[...] i have been deceived
i love those lyrics (by bernie taupin) so much. they are brilliant because they are so simple, yet so effective. to me, they are about turning your back on something that honestly, simply doesn't work for your authentic self. and there's nothing wrong with that.
i used to think that quitting would hinder my self-trust because it would amount to me breaking a promise i made to myself (e.g. "i promise to myself i will work on this until it is objectively finished."). but i realized that i made a more important promise to myself, something i have to honour and prioritize above all else: i promise i will be true to myself and always have my best interests at heart. therefore, if quitting means being true to myself, it won't hinder my self-trust; on the contrary, it will strengthen it.
lesson 3: treating myself like a precious object will make me strong
on the topic of self-trust, here's my best practice: self-nurturing. in her book the artist's way, julia cameron recommends using this affirmation: "treating myself like a precious object will make me strong." the idea is that the more you care for and nurture yourself (like a child), the more "adult" you can behave.
an integral part of self-nurturing is the morning pages practice. morning pages have been inordinately helpful to me, and because of this and so much more, i cannot recommend the artist's way (by julia cameron) enough. it doesn't matter if you are an artist or not, if you would like to be an artist or not: deepening your connection to yourself is good for everyone.
looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points
i think it's worth reiterating that i haven't been able to think clearly lately, and, because of this, it's been so difficult for me to find direction for 2020. the feeling of aimlessness only worsened my mental fogginess. if you recall, my inner compass was already broken a long time ago; i dedicated november to some "experiments in compass restoration," which yielded precious few results. but i've been able to find my 4 top values and, because there are 4 of them and i already started using the compass metaphor, i'm calling them my 4 cardinal points.
so, i was lost and aimless. but then, rowena tsai came in and saved the day. i watched her video where she talks about her favourite habits out of those she implemented or tried implementing in 2019 and her video where she clarifies her purpose for 2020. these videos got me thinking. the last one i mentioned, especially, inspired the following process:
(1) i started by asking myself: what are the things i did "right" in 2019? what are my 2019 "wins"? i made a list of these, as complete as possible. i included achievements as small as "putting oat milk in my tea" and as big as "landing the jobs i applied for"; achievements as specific as "doing the dishes every day for nearly 3 months" and as general as "slowing down"; every single achievement i could think of.
(2) when i finished, i looked back on my list. i asked myself: of all my achievements, which do i feel the most proud of? which bring me the most satisfaction? which do i value the most?
(3) i put the chosen achievements in categories with overarching themes based on why i felt proud of what i had achieved. i realized that these themes could be further boiled down to values.
(4) once i had my list of most cherished values, i wrote my personal definition of each. this step is important because a value like "wisdom" is abstract and can mean vastly different things to different people.
(5) for each value, i asked myself: what do i need in my life to apply this core value successfully? this list was mostly general and abstract; i came up with things like mental health, loving relationships, time to think, closeness to nature, etc.
(6) i looked at my list of needs and asked myself: concretely, how do these needs manifest in my daily life? i translated them to habits and activities; i assigned each a finite daily amount of time. someone else with different needs or a different lifestyle may choose to focus on energy or money instead of time. i tried to be as realistic as possible considering health demands, financial obligations, etc.
(7) i looked at my ideal daily life and i compared it with the present. i tried to figure out: why is that not my life now? what are the hurdles in my way? more specifically, i tried to identify decisions and habits that encourage or discourage the attainment of my ideal. those that encourage me to live by my values are deemed "good"; those that discourage this are deemed "bad."
(8) finally, it was time to make a concrete plan for 2020! how can i promote making "good" decisions? how can i bring in and maintain "good" habits? how can i cut back on "bad" habits? muchelleb's youtube channel is full of advice to help answer these questions. this video is especially helpful and actionable; if you need more examples as a complement, i recommend watching this video as well.
i'll share the result of this reflection with you. this won't necessarily be helpful, but i want to share. the nerd in me was very pleased to see that the 4 core values i chose to call "cardinal points" actually corresponded to the 4 real cardinal points and their associated symbolism! so, for symbolism's sake, i am associating my values to the real cardinal points. just please let me have my fun, thank you.
east (air): wisdom
i think that the number one thing i seek in life (something i don't currently have, but wish to have in a few decades) is wisdom, or understanding myself, others, life and the world as fully, as kindly, and as honestly as possible. using my reflection time to seek this understanding comes naturally to me, but i need reflection time. this means i shouldn't be too busy, because if i am constantly rushing through life, i am less likely to stop to reflect.
i made a list of helpful habits that encourage me to seek wisdom. taking an hour to myself as soon as i awake in the morning (for my morning pages), and another hour right before sleep at night, is the best way to help me feel balanced enough to pursue the far, long-term goal of wisdom.
south (fire): joy
a lot of the achievements i felt proud of in 2019 didn't really "look" like achievements... "catching joy and delight when they fly by"? "savouring time spent with my loved ones"? "allowing myself to see how good life can be"? and yet they're some of the most fulfilling things i did all year. i brought them together under the umbrella value of joy, or savouring whatever beauty and loveliness the world has to offer.
i know that it is hard for me to feel joyful when i don't have a good mental health, or when i don't spend quality time with loved ones, or when i don't have time to connect with nature. what habits or decisions encourage this? helpful habits include keeping in touch with loved ones, cooking/eating healthy, taking walks (especially in nature), etc. to enable this, it is important to make decisions that promote my wellbeing (that make space for down time, for example).
west (water): creativity
i've always known that i valued creativity, both artistic and scientific. this value, or cardinal point, refers to artistic creativity, or expressing myself through writing, songwriting and playlist-curating. these are my favourite channels for self-expression.
for me, this is a very simple value, because as long as i make time for it, i'm good. i have quantified this time as at least 2 hours a day, and a helpful habit that enables this is getting up early (because i am most prolific in the mornings).
north (earth): excellence
this value is the missing link. i identified it as excellence, or completing meaningful, purposeful, positive projects that enlist my skills and work ethic, and that achieve results i feel proud of.
excellence is less about habits (i don't think i could drop my work ethic if i tried) and more about good decisions. am i saying yes to projects that i find meaningful, purposeful and positive? am i saying yes to projects that enlist my skills and work ethic? am i saying yes to projects that produce results i feel proud of?
and that's it!
i think this post is long enough. i now leave you to your own reflections. may your 2020 teach you the lessons you are ready to learn and bring you the joy and love you are ready to accept. and may it teach you that you deserve more.
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.