Well that was quite a year, wasn’t it?
Not that the rollercoaster shows much sign of letting up: most days, when I open my shutters to the wider world, it feels like we’re in freefall. There are glimpses of hope amidst it all, but their vulnerability does little to lessen the pervading sense of dis-ease.
And yet we keep on keeping on. Finding the magic in the day to day, making choices we hope will ripple out and strengthen the foundations of our collective future, seizing opportunities for connection with those who share our vision of the way the world could be.
2020 is not an anomaly after all – just the latest phase in the unravelling of a society which is long overdue a reboot. I’ve given up wondering quite what the next chapter will look like, and am refocusing my energies instead close to home where I can at least have some semblance of control.
An important part of that for me this month has been setting my intentions for the year ahead. I made the shift last year from specific goals or resolutions to more open ended frameworks for my life and relationships, and boy am I glad I did! The intentions I decided on at the start of 2020 provided a surprising amount of ballast as the year progressed – touchstones when things started to spiral, and reminders of what was truly important to me on days it became hard to see through the fog.
They looked back at me from my pinboard whenever my eyes flicked up from the computer, and helped me find my way through some tricky situations. They might not mean much to you, might seem simplistic or oblique, but that’s the beauty of intentions: the only person they need to mean anything to is the person who wrote them. It’s not about accountability or competition, but rather a way of (re)calibrating your internal compass and tuning in to what it is that will truly make you happy.
As a parent, and particularly now as I am trying to carve out a new career alongside home educating my children, I find that honing in on what I need is key to keeping all the plates spinning. Days run so much more smoothly and everyone is more fulfilled when I don’t push my own wellbeing to the bottom of the pile. It’s counter-intuitive I think for many mums – society still spins the line of self-sacrifice being the ultimate display of maternal love, and so much of the guilt we carry is around not being enough for our children.
But we are enough. You are enough. And the more you look after yourself the more you will have to give – in every aspect of this one wild and precious life. Only you will know what that self care looks like, and that is why setting intentions is so important.
I am carrying last year’s with me as I ease in to 2021, and some fresh ones have bubbled up to join them. Already they are helping me stay on track as we navigate this dark and lonely third lockdown, and I can’t help but feel excited about where they may lead.
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to share them, but under the power of January’s New Moon I am feeling the urge to stamp them somewhere.
So in 2021, to create the life I want to live, I will:
Lean in to nature’s rhythms
I felt this pull as last year’s enforced isolation unfolded – emotionally and physically. For all we have put her through, the earth is still there to hold us – and I am convinced that by inching closer to the messages she sends we can work together to heal the harm we have done.
Two things have materialised over the past couple of weeks which will make this intention a joy for our family this year. First, I finally remembered to sign up for the awesome Nicolette Sowder’s Kids Moon Club – a beautiful collection of invitations and activities inspired by the cycles of the moon. And second my dear friend Holly launched a subscription box, Warble and Wonder, which honours the Celtic seasonal festivals through nature connected craft and song.
Be kind to my body
I am getting better at this. But after many years of insecurity and poor self worth I still have a long way to go. So I will be nourishing myself with delicious and nutritious food, moving my body in all the different ways it wants to move, diving into wild waters whenever the opportunity arises and savouring rest whenever I feel the need.
Put my phone down
Of all the intentions I set as January began this is the one that has circled around my head most often. Despite knowing all of the science of addiction and all the ill effects of staring at that tiny screen I am horribly prone to falling down rabbit holes of doom and trying to make myself feel better through shallow interactions on social media.
I’m not about to ditch it completely – there’s way too much positivity in my online community for that – but just reminding myself of those four little words is helping me pull myself out of the vortex before I disappear for hours.
(And Arthur is very happy to remind me if I forget, for which I am truly grateful).
Create time to read and write
Above all, these are the things that make me happy. They make me feel satisfied, invigorated and alive. And as well as that, they are the foundations of the new career I am striving for.
But all too often – especially when things get tough – they are the first things to slip. I know there will be time in the future when my children are not so small, when my three year old sleeps the night in his own bed and when my eight year old no longer seeks my guidance for his projects, but my personal fulfilment cannot wait that long.
So alongside cherishing the time I have with them I will carve out the space to write and read. I will show my boys that chasing your dreams is not something to be ashamed of.
Speak my truth
It’s a cliche, but I need this reminder. My current big writing project is dancing around submission stage at the moment, and with that comes a cacophony of self-doubt demons. I find myself seeking advice from all corners, and substituting other people’s opinions about what I have to say for my own. Logically I know that no good will come of this – sacrificing integrity and authenticity will never end well – but there have been several points over the past year when I have had to work hard to rein in the desire to please others before myself.
Fate again intervened on this one with the opportunity to work with the lovely Kamsin Kaneko whose nurturing and incisive coaching style is proving exactly what I need to get me back on track.
Seek out people that share my vision
One of the unexpected silver linings for me last year was how much bigger my network suddenly became when everyone had to go online. It can sometimes feel lonely here, on the fringes of the mainstream calling for radical change. But last year I came to realise just how many other people there are shouting into the void. I was invited onto podcasts, delivered workshops at online conferences – and suddenly the fact that I was a home educating mama of two was no barrier to getting my voice heard.
I hope that this accessibility will continue long after this pandemic is a distant memory, but in the meantime I am going to use these new lines of communication that have opened up to bolster my confidence and light up that void. We are stronger together – and ironically in this time of social distancing there are fewer ways of keeping us apart.
Follow my children’s lead
This may seem to run counter to much of what I’ve said here, but actually I strongly believe that seeking out a consensual dynamic with our kids is one of the keys to maximising quality time for everyone in the family.
I am proud that my children are strong willed, however frustrating or inconvenient it might feel some days, and by really paring back the times I need to say ‘no’ I am convinced that we will all become more competent members of the team.
We have long aspired to be child-led – in learning and in life – but this has slipped over the past few months for all sorts of reasons. As this new year unfolds we are slowly building back up to a more equal power dynamic, and the results so far have been awesome.
We have to keep believing, you know? That we can live the life we want to live even when the world is falling apart. Especially when the world is falling apart.
I hope that you are doing ok.
And I’d love to hear how you are facing off with 2021 – intentions, resolutions, goals or anything in between. Let’s make this year a good one, whatever it might throw at us.
To support my intentions I am in the process of creating a journal to structure the days and weeks that make up the year – gentle target setting, scheduling and reflection with every aspect of life in mind. I would love to share this with you and get your feedback – if you’d like to be kept up to date with this and other developments please subscribe to my newsletter!