So This Is the New Year: Reflections & Intentions 2013

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been in non-stop travel mode for two weeks. It’s been kind of nice to be away from the computer, but the workaholic in me is glad to be back to being productive. There’s no Friday Five this week, but I thought I’d share some of what I wrote on New Year’s Day. I’ll be back to more frequent posting next week!

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In many ways, 2012 was a year of great loss. Just months after it began, I was confronted with death, one after another. My partner lost a best friend and mentor, who died very young, and completely unexpectedly, leaving behind a wife and two young children. A month later, I lost my grandfather. A couple months after that, my partner lost his mom. We spent the summer learning how to live with grief. The fall and winter brought more devastating news, both personally—(a peer’s suicide, a family member’s cancer diagnosis, among others)—and world wide—(Syria, Pakistan, Palestine…to name a few).

The ubiquity of loss was an unfriendly companion to my everyday. The reality of life’s precarity caused me to waver between clinging to worry and trying frantically to savor the present. I developed several physical symptoms of anxiety and mild depression, mitigated most through my simultaneous foray into an earnest engagement with the practice of yoga. Spending my summer in yoga teacher training probably saved me from what could have been an even more detrimental reaction to the pain through which I was working.

The fact that I managed—with the help of my supportive partner, friends, and family—to persevere alongside the sadness tells me that, in other ways, 2012 was a year of great strength and hope and promise. One that illustrated that I could indeed survive the tough times. A year that harshly reminded me that life is short, to enjoy the little things, to choose love over fear, (and other clichés). And one that forced me to truly comprehend this passage from one of my favorite books:

“…one mourns when one accepts the fact that the loss one undergoes will be one that changes you, changes you possibly forever, and that mourning has to do with agreeing to undergo a transformation, the full result of which you cannot know in advance.” -Judith Butler, Undoing Gender, 18

I didn’t always succeed in hearing or living those lessons. Some days, my only moments of positivity existed in my 60 minutes of yoga class. Other days, I remembered. I remembered to surround myself with the people I love, to listen to the music that makes my heart light, to breathe deeply and intentionally, to laugh uninhibitedly.

And, most importantly, on the good days, I remembered to “live the questions.” To work through my moments of discomfort and uncertainty that seemed to grow larger with each loss. Bearing witness to the abrupt end of life inspires a sense of great urgency to live a life you are deeply sure of. And this past year, I had my doubts that I had been making the right choices.

I wish I could say that I woke up January 1, 2013 resolved of all of my uncertainty, but that wouldn’t be true. What is true is that I have re-committed to living the questions. To live everything. To make choices, big or small, that lead me to feel happiness in the present, regardless of the “big picture.” To remember that it is actually the little picture that matters now. To remember that regardless of job stuff, family stuff, body stuff, that I can choose happiness. (A choice that I acknowledge is made much easier by my relative level of privilege, and the fact that I am free from most material forms of disenfranchisement).

“Choosing happiness” is a mantra touted a lot by the postive-thought/yoga/hippie-dippie world (a world ya’ll know I have some issues with), but aside from the fact that it’s often abstracted from the reality of racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism (etc.), it’s also really vague. So in an effort to concretize what exactly choosing happiness in 2013 will mean to me, here’s a list of resolutions of sorts. Ones that I know will fill my heart with the kind of content and joy that was lacking for far too much of 2012:

  • More music in my life. This is huge, and I know it will satiate a serious emptiness. More music will mean a few things: Listening to more of it. Specifically posi folk/pop-punk. (Bands like this and this and this). This music makes me feel young in all the right ways and reminds me of some of the best moments of my past. I don’t want to believe that those moments have to be over. Also: picking up my guitar again and writing music. I miss it terribly. And/or getting a band together. (Any Minneapolis musicians out there want to make music with me?). And of course: going to more shows. Preferably ones that get me dancing and/or fist-pumping.
  • Choosing to eat foods that make me feel healthy, happy, and nourished while also not letting my diet control me. This means allowing myself to maintain a clean-eating lifestyle, but not letting those things ever get in the way of social experiences. I am at my worst when I go too long without sharing time with friends, and so if I’m in the middle of a cleanse and my pal’s want to go out for pizza, I won’t say no. I’ll just order the salad. No biggie. Friendz before cleanz. (Or something.) Admittedly, this will be a very challenging thing to accomplish.
  • Reading more yoga books. Becoming a more learned yoga teacher and practitioner.
  • Continue to develop the yoga program at the jail. Work on implementing meditation and other holistic health education to the prisoners.
  • Say “yes” more. Yes if a friend calls at the last minute and wants to go to dinner, even if I’m already in my pjs. Yes when I get a text asking me to come support a protest or action. Yes to attending academic talks that will likely inspire me. Yes, yes, yes.
  • Working to make my self-care one that is rooted in community care.
  • Getting gussied-up more often. I do a decent job at going ‘all out’ for special occasions, but I had more fun with life when I had more fun with my closet on a daily basis.
  •  Go outside more. Truth be told, I’m kind of an ‘indoor kid.’ Obviously, this doesn’t mean I’m not active, but most of my workday and workouts do not take place in the open air. I’d like to take more walks, find more outdoor yoga spaces, and enjoy what are possibly my last months of back porch ownership.
  • Practicing gratitude, deliberately and intentionally. Perhaps starting a gratitude journal. Working to always remember how beautiful the world can be, and realizing all the ways my own life is complicit in creating that. Maybe playing this song a lot to help me affirm how I love to be in the arms of all I’m keeping here with me….

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As for the blog, 2012 should provide mostly more of the same. I continue to look to the blog as a source of relief from stress, rather than a producer of it, which sometimes means I only mange one or two posts a week. I trust no one is losing sleep at night if I miss a usual day of posting. As I’ve mentioned previously, the next month will showcase some of my experiences on the 80/10/10-inspired raw food challenge. I hope you’ll stay tuned!

What about you? What lessons did you learn in 2012? What intentions do you have for 2013?

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17 thoughts on “So This Is the New Year: Reflections & Intentions 2013

  1. dboothsummers says:

    Slogging through the tough shit is just part of life. Once we view it that way instead of as something that interrupts life, we do better. We live the questions, as you said. Love from NC.

  2. frugalveganmom says:

    Raechel, wow, you put into words perfectly what I have been thinking and dealing with also. The whole post, but especially this: ” The reality of life’s precarity caused me to waver between clinging to worry and trying frantically to savor the present.”
    My seemingly very healthy dad died unexpectedly from a heart attack in May. He was 59. I feel so vulnerable now, like wow bad shit can happen to me… I’ve been doing many of the same things as you to try to keep my head in a good place, including the yoga, but it is hard still. Maybe we can talk more about it sometime – p.s. this is Kelly who arranges the cooking classes with CAA.

    • raechel @the rebel grrrl kitchen says:

      So glad it spoke to you, Kelly. I’m sorry for your loss…Death is such a difficult thing to come to terms with.

      I’d love to talk more sometime. I look forward to meeting with you at the cooking class! Thanks for visiting the blog–your blog is great too!

  3. Jess says:

    Love that you referenced Death Cab in your title. It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of good things to take care of yourself. 2011 was a year of mourning and challenges for me, and having a few go-to practices/friends/places/etc was so important in remaining grounded but not stuck. I love your intentions for 2013 and am sending you good New Year vibes : )

  4. Lou says:

    This is a really beautifully written, insightful post…. it has SUBSTANCE – not like a lot of the fluffy “New Year – New YOU” posts flying around. 2012 has definitely been a test of your strength…. but it has probably set you up with the appropriate skills to navigate this new year and find all the joy in it :)

    I’ve been dabbling in the 80/10/10 thing myself (!) I looked into it after you mentioned it…. and I feel GREAT!

  5. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts says:

    What an amazing post Raechel – it sounds like 2012 was a tough year for you in many ways, and I am impressed that you have taken inspiration and motivation from it into 2013. I am looking forward to seeing how the year unfolds for you and hope it brings lots of the things you are after. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about the 80/10/10 approach!

  6. Arv says:

    I loved reading this. Definitely inspires me in all my 2013 pursuits. And agree 1000% on the music thing…would love to find the time to play guitar again. It’s so therapeutic!

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