In a few hours, the people in my little corner of the world will raise a glass, saying goodbye to 2017 and moving into the New Year full of hope.
I’m an optimist by nature, so turning pages, looking ahead, fresh starts, new days, new years, new mercies… these things light me up inside. I was made for New Years! (Except for the year that I wasn’t. If you want, you can read about my abysmal start to 2016 here.)
2017 was an interesting year for me. I have read many wise words over the course of the past week or so; eloquent authors waxing poetic about endings and beginnings.
Try as I might, the only words I can think of to do 2017 justice are those of Monty Python: “And now for something completely different…”
I will always remember 2017 as the year I shrank my life.
It was a year of nos and yeses unlike any I’ve ever experienced to this point.
While the world is out there generally trying for bigger and better: grow your business, lobby for a promotion, try for a raise, get ahead… this year, I walked away from almost everything that I’ve used to define my identity for the better part of the past decade.
Volunteering. Leadership positions. Busy work, chaos and clutter—both the mental and physical kind. Everything. Gone. Stripped away.
There were a lot of nos.
I don’t know about you, but I find saying no incredibly difficult.
The optimist in me guarantees that if I have a chance to contribute to something good, I will jump at it. Balance and margin don’t stand a chance!
But 2017 was different.
There were a lot of nos.
In hindsight, 2017 was the year that God finally got my attention. A little health scare early in the year precipitated the need to re-evaluate my priorities and—once and for all—start putting my time and attention to some things that have, until now, remained perennially on the back burner.
And so, I said a lot of nos. But I also said a few yeses.
In 2017 I said yes to self-care.
It’s not that I wasn’t taking care of myself—I generally eat well and try to be active throughout the week—but I struggle with some wiring that says my job is to meet everyone else’s needs first and then—if there’s anything left: time, energy, resources—I’ll do something for myself.
The problem was that I seldom left anything for me. Totally my doing, I know. I own it. I know many women who are great at taking what they need for their mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Me, not so much. I’m getting there though. Baby steps.
In 2017 I said yes to writing again.
I’ve quietly nurtured this writing dream for a long time, but it’s usually the first casualty of my lack of time, energy, and resources. Hit and miss is how I would describe my efforts to this point.
Because I’ve never made my writing a priority, it simply has never become a priority. But its call is persistent and relentless. In letting go of many of the volunteer and busy commitments I had prior to this year, I’ve freed up time to begin again.
I’ve begun blocking writing time into my weekly calendar and keeping it sacred. This is more difficult than it looks, given my tendency to respond “how high?” when people say “Jump!”
Keeping this yes has definitely meant a few nos.
In 2017, I said yes to white space.
This is probably the single biggest positive outcome of my year of nos. I wish I could adequately convey in mere words what breathing room and white space has meant to both my head and my heart.
I have spent so many years being busy. Simply filling my calendar and my days and my house with clutter because I could, because I thought I needed it, because I thought it was expected of me.
Living in a state of cognitive dissonance–holding to a certain set of values and beliefs and yet not living in a way that truly honoured those.
The result has been decades of discord ringing in my ears. My head. My heart. It is the root of my relentless pursuit of contentment and purpose through things, through activity, through busy.
But here’s the thing about busy: it robs us of the present. If you’re anything like me, your ‘busy’ means that you’re rushing from one thing to the next, not fully enjoying or relishing the experiences of the moment. You’re just getting by.
Chances are, at the end of the day, you drop into bed too late, exhausted, already lacking adequate sleep before you even begin. And then you hit the ground running as soon as day breaks.
Busy only takes.
Does this resonate with you at all?
White space, breathing room: blank spaces in the calendar that remain unfilled… on purpose. What a beautiful thing these have been for me! They are life-giving…
I’m walking slowly.
I’m breathing deeply.
I’m reacquainting myself with silence.
I’m practicing being still.
And in the quiet, God is refining my listening skills: removing the endless sources of noise and distraction so I can more clearly hear His voice.
Which, I think was His whole point.
And so, it’s here in this place that I’m welcoming 2018: starting small with my scaled-down life.
I have no idea what this year will look like. It’s possible that there may be more stripping away that needs to happen.
It’s possible that in the spaces I’ve created, God might have some new things waiting for me to step into.
But, in the spirit of “something completely different,” I’m open to wherever He decides to lead.
Were you satisfied with your yeses and your nos in 2017? Or, like me, do you struggle with balance and margin?
I’m a huge advocate of sustainable change (Because years of yo-yo dieting and upending life-as-we-know-it have taught me that I am incapable of any other kind). I know that, unless you have superhuman discipline, changing your life doesn’t happen overnight.
What ONE THING can you take away (say NO to) or implement (say YES to) that will give you a small, sustainable start on change in the New Year?
I’d love to hear from you! Give me a shout!
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
~Ezekiel 36: 26-27 (NLT)
If you’ve enjoyed this little musing, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe to receive future blog posts. (Scroll down to the bottom of my Home page to where it says “Subscribe.”)
I’m doing my best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. I’d be so honoured to share the journey with you. Putting one foot in front of the other, and—hopefully—not in my mouth. (I’m not sure you fully appreciate how difficult this is for me.)
Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent, but I’ll try for amusing. At the very least, I hope you’ll come away feeling a little better about yourself.
Happy New Year!