I used to love new year’s resolutions when I was a child. I’d make a list each year with bright markers. I’d draw the year in bold letters at the top of a page and include all my resolutions for the year: Good grades, making a sports team, that kind of thing. It was immensely gratifying to tick things off the list as the year went by. I’ve always been a list person! Meeting those goals were simple, I had 12 months in the school year, a definite beginning and end, and clear goals. Achieving these goals felt straightforward. If you studied, you got the grades. If you practised, you made the team. Without realising it at the time, I would set resolutions I knew I could achieve. Not that I didn’t have to work for them, but they were, to an extent, still sitting comfortably in my comfort zone.
I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions for 2020. I haven’t had any new year’s resolutions for years. At some point during my 20s, my ‘goals’ changed to things like ‘drink more water,’ ‘exercise more,’ and ‘read more books.’ The idea felt outdated and my goals, if you could call them that, were vague. 2019 was the beginning of many changes in our lives, and as I stood on the brink of my new life (as a mother, in a new city, with many other big changes/ challenges looming ahead), I had the urge to set new year’s resolutions again. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a list with bright markers that I could tick off with satisfaction as the year goes by? But what would this list look like? Have a baby- check. Find a place to live – check. Build a support network – check. Finish Masters – check. Survive – check. It didn’t feel right. Instead, I thought something more abstract might work and I chose a word as a theme for my year, something I can aspire to: Flow. I liked this idea. 2020 would be a year of ‘flow.’ There was a lot I could do this word. I could aim to be more easy-going. Take things in my stride. Go with the flow. It even applied to my creative work. I wouldn’t be so hard on myself, I said, and I’d allow my writing and creativity to flow more easily. It sounded like a great plan.
I moved to a new city (check); had my baby (check); then the craziness of 2020 begun.
Now we’re almost at the end of this year, I can tell you with certainty that I absolutely FAILED to achieve any sort of flow in my life. I can also laugh at myself – I was setting myself up for this failure from day one! Sure, there were times when I managed to take things as they come. At times, I was even genuinely unruffled by the ups and downs of this uncertain year. Overall, however, that wasn’t the case. I’m simply not an easy-going person and this year was particularly challenging. I might not have succeeded in achieving a zen state of mind but maybe I did learn some things about flow along the way. I was bullied into going with the flow by the Coronavirus pandemic when, like so many other people, my careful plans went out the window. I was gently coaxed (ha-ha) into going with the flow by my baby who, I quickly learnt, doesn’t care about my plans or schedules or to-do lists. I wish I could tell you I always handled these situations with grace and acceptance, but the truth is it made me angry. And my inability to go with the flow made me even angrier. And all this anger and frustration made me sad, sometimes.
Even my writing was not ‘flowing’ the way I had hoped. I pushed myself hard to keep my creative writing projects going for a couple of months, including Wild Library, but it came at the expense of my sanity. I could not find the time and, more importantly, the energy to keep everything up and so, I let it go: if I get round to it, great. If not, then that’s also okay. Except it wasn’t. I felt I was betraying myself, a part of my identity, as if I were undoing all the hard work I’ve put in so far… I’ll put a break on the drama here. Can tell I was NOT going with the flow? Even letting go was hard.
But little by little, without even realising it, I was learning to go with the flow.
I spent the last couple of months prioritising. I had to ask myself some questions, questions that needed honest answers. What did I have to let go of, really let go of, without guilt, without second guessing myself? How will I spend my energy and time? There were some tough decisions. Even though I can’t say I have perfect clarity, I do have more direction. I found myself setting some new goals, much to my surprise. Maybe I’ll even write them down… These aren’t new year’s resolutions; I don’t think these goals can be contained in twelve consecutive months. They’re much bigger than that.
I think I’ll keep ‘flow’ as my own personal mantra for the next year. I can certainly do with more ‘flow’ in my life. This includes accepting that I’ll never be an easy-going person. That’s okay. But I can work on surrendering to the ebb and flow of life; accepting those things out of my control and the circumstances that cannot be changed. After all, there are still a few weeks left of this year. I can continue to work on letting go and, sometimes, to just go with the flow.
Thank you for reading the Wild Library blog. You might also enjoy Making Friends during Covid-19 or Three Books that Got Me Through the First Six Months of Motherhood.
Have a wonderful day!