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I’ve Got No Solutions

New year, new goals. I’m keeping it simple, for the most part. A couple of these things will entail active learning, but the others are more habits that I want to cultivate because I’ve found that doing them is beneficial for my mental health, whether it means being smarter about how I fuel my body or creating space to rest and relax and recharge. So much of my life of to this point has been about (unsuccessfully) managing anxiety, about getting things done, about stressing nonstop and worrying and not allowing myself to XYZ (fill in the blank). So for 2020, I want to be more intentional about doing things that bring me joy and comfort and rest, that don’t overstep boundaries constantly, that prioritize what I can really handle over some kind of pointless yardstick in my mind of what I should be doing. It’s definitely going to be a year for mental work and, hopefully, mental growth.

Read 55 books
I started participating in book challenges in 2014. That first year I read 50/50. In 2015, I read 63/50. In 2016, I read 52/52. In 2017, I read 75/75. In 2018, I read 55/50. And last year, in 2019, I read 100/100. This year I want to scale back a bit and focus less on hitting a specific number and more on reading more intentionally. While I’ll share more about that in another post, the overall goal is more women/trans/non-binary writers and more POC. This is the challenge I am least worried about, because I know it’ll happen, but I’m excited to explore more diverse books anyway.

Learn all the countries
Last year I discovered a new bookstore in Berlin: one that focuses on African literature. This new discovery has influenced my reading goals for 2020, in that I want to start on a journey of reading a book by an author from each African country (though I think this will extend beyond 2020). But along with this, I also thought that I’d really like to learn what and where every country on the African continent is. I’ve since decided that I will try to learn all the countries on the map. I’m going to use a site like this as my guide and maybe tackle a different continent every month.

Get better at the command line
I’m already comfortable with using the terminal in my everyday work, but I want to push myself to learn new things. These could be things that will help streamline my work, or they could just be things to learn for the sake of knowing them. I haven’t yet figured out how to tackle this one, so if anyone has any tips and tricks, please send them my way. Otherwise it will probably involve a lot of searching for short tutorials and trying things out.

Write more
I was at a dinner party last week, and the person seated next to me (also a writer) asked me what I’m currently working on. And my answer was, sadly, nothing. Because although I consider myself a writer, I don’t make time for it, because it’s not what pays the bills. The fact that writing is a luxury for me makes me really sad, and that’s something I really want to change this year, because I miss it, and I feel like I always had more mental clarity when I wrote regularly. I’m tackling this in three parts. The first step was to buy the six-minute journal, which I started filling out yesterday. It’s an easy and low-stakes way to write a little bit every day, and the bonus is that it also helps me with my gratitude practice. Second, I want to try and write more here, which maybe just means 500 words here and there, but that’s better than nothing. And third, after some advice from other mom writer friends on Twitter, I’m going to give myself space to do it regularly, which maybe means 30 minutes every morning, but that’s fine. I don’t feel like I have much to write about these days, but my hope is that eventually, with enough time, I will.

A few months back I decided to purchase a subscription to Headspace, and spending the money on it has motivated me to get serious about meditation. And you know what? It is helping, a lot. I’m exploring the different courses, and I do sleep meditations when it makes sense, and I love being able to type in a keyword for how I’m feeling (frustrated, anxious, overwhelmed, angry) and find something that will help me move my focus from that emotion and channel my energy into something else. I’ve noticed this has helped me stay grounded during heated moments with my kid, it has helped me when I feel overly anxious, and it even helped when I got my half-sleeve tattoo earlier this year (focusing on the breath instead of the pain). I’m currently on a 78-day streak, and I’d love to keep this going all year (and to not beat myself up if I end up missing a day).

Be mindful of alcohol
From October 13 through December 26, I took part in 75HARD. One part of that was no drinking for 75 days. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but I’ve gone a lot longer before, so I knew it would be OK. Even so, while not drinking, I read The Alcohol Experiment and I found it to be such an eyeopener. It breaks down a lot of science about alcohol, but it also forces readers to examine why they drink and what the effects are. And whenever I had a “craving” for a glass of wine, it made me come face-to-face with some uncomfortable truths about when and why I drink, and what my triggers are. In the end, I’ve made the decision that having alcohol occasionally outweighs not having it at all, but this book has opened my eyes and I plan to be a lot more intentional when I drink.

During the aforementioned 75HARD, I was working out two times a day, every day. This wasn’t intense stuff either. Just 45 minutes of walking and 45 minutes of riding an indoor bike. I plan to continue having some form of exercise five days a week — preferably something outdoors, but I’ll be happy with any kind of movement. I also have a bigger goal of getting a new bike this year and riding a lot more when it gets warmer. Now that the kid is riding a bike on his own and going relatively long distances, I’m looking forward to many more family bike rides.

Clean my office
This is a personal goal of something I want to complete before the end of the year. I’ve already made a lot of progress on this, with art being hung and things being cleaned out, but there are still things about my office that bother me (mostly that it’s the de facto junk room, so every time we need to move/hide/find space for something, it’s put in here)… and that really messes with my head. So this means hanging more things, organizing some things, streamlining the space, getting rid of some junk, and and and. I’ll be breaking this up into smaller tasks to be completed every month, with a deadline of end of year to have this taken care of.

So that’s a wrap! There are other things I want to focus on this year as well, like getting a therapist, and prioritizing sleep, and maybe starting running if I get stuff figured out with my foot pain. Overall, it’s less about crossing things off a list but more about building habits and practices that enable me to better go about my days and be happier and healthier.