My cousin Sarah and I often talk about what our annual "themes" will be for the coming year. The idea is to set some goals related to that theme, that we can hold each other accountable for as the year progresses. In one of our first years, we set a goal related to hours of exercise and number of kilometres clocked. One year I focused on learning to love myself a little more. Another year I focused on saying "yes" to things less often, to leave time to relax and recharge.
I've been thinking hard about what 2017's theme will be. I'll admit, it's been hard to be optimistic enough to even set a goal. Maybe that's the seasonal depression talking, but boy, 2016 has been a dumpster fire of a year from my standpoint here on good ol' planet Earth: Trump. Brexit. The rise of the Alt-right. Devastation in Aleppo. Standing Rock. Kinder-Morgan. Zika. Philando Castile's death live-streamed on Facebook. An ongoing fentanyl crisis in our own backyard. Terrorist attacks in too many places to name. The earth warming up an alarming rate. Freakin' David Bowie. It's hard not to peer into the future of 2017 and see more of the same darkness. It's hard not to feel helpless in the face of the challenges that we know are in store for us.
Enough is enough. I am appalled at the direction this world is going, but I do not want to go down without a fight. I want to take action. I no longer want to feel numb to the injustices that happen down the street, or across the world. So that's how I started thinking about 2017, as the Year of Action. The problem was, where to start? How do I change, and also help bring about change? I'm just one insignificant person - how do I make a difference? For me, one of the things I have realized I can do is understand how privileged I am, at the opportunities I am afforded, and also learn to be content with what I have.
I have always had two soothing or numbing behaviours in the face of fear, stress or pain: food, and shopping. One thing I am so grateful for this year is that I found the Whole 30 and eliminated most garbage food from my life. I replaced junk food with exercise and good eating habits, became healthier, and lost a good amount of weight in the process. That's an ongoing journey, one that will take time, but it's become a part of my life. So, coping unhealthy mechanism number one, gone.
Which brings me to the shopping. It's no secret I like nice things. I love clothes, love dressing up, love making my home beautiful. I'm a girly girl and a secret wannabe homemaker. I collect books, retro housewares, pretty shiny things. This year, when I took away food as a crutch, I found I was turning more and more to shopping as a cure for whatever uncomfortable emotion I was feeling. If I felt it, it meant I deserved a new dress. Or a new lipstick. Or that new book. If I didn't feel it - the confidence, the happiness, the love, that also meant I needed the new dress. If I just got this one thing, I'd be perfect. I'd be lovable. I'd be happy. I'd be worthy. Most of the time, it worked. The buying of the things worked. Until one day, it didn't.
You see, I've become aware of the gross disconnect between my social conscience, which is increasingly loud in its concern for others, for our environment, and for building a world that is sustainable for us now and for our kids in the future, and my consumption of...well, stuff. I live in a house of nice things. I have a closet full of beautiful things to put on every day. Why do I keep needing more? And what do these things really add up to, in terms of a life well lived? Will I be remembered, and do I want to be remembered, for having the cutest outfit, and the prettiest house, or for my actions, and the things I put out into the world? When will I have enough?
So, the theme has become clear. It's the Year of Enough:
- I've had enough - I want to contribute to positive change in our world.
- I have enough - I need to learn to be mindful with how I spend my money and in my consumption of things.
- I am enough - I don't need stuff, or accomplishments, more money, or less weight, to be a worthy, lovable, person. This one is my ongoing battle, against perfectionism, feelings of insecurity, of being different, incomplete somehow. Who I am and the good I do is enough.
I have my theme. In terms of concrete actions, there are a few things I am committing to:
- Community Work: I'm going to make an active effort to offer more volunteer hours this year. I've sat on boards for the past several years, and offered pro bono legal advice on an ad hoc basis when people really needed it. I've contributed financially to charities. I'll continue to do that, but I want to commit to actually offering myself to be of service to more organizations, in different ways, in 2017.
- Shopping Ban: Here's the big one guys. I can't even believe I am saying this, but - I am committing to a Shopping Ban, in order to learn how to be more mindful with my money, and with my consumption. I don't intend on giving away my possessions and becoming a minimalist - I like stuff too much for that - but I want to learn how to use and appreciate the stuff I've already got. I'll be posting my Shopping Ban rules later, for more accountability, but this is gonna be a big one. Big ups to Cait Flanders whose website, and Mindfulness Budget Journal, are a huge inspiration and resource for this endeavor. I don't know how long it'll last, if I will set a goal of three - six months or try to stick it out the whole year, but it's got to be a long enough challenge to do some real change to my current spending habits.
- Work on Me: thetrial of learning to feel more worthy as a person continues. I'm committing to devoting more time to my well-being, and not leaving this as the last priority on my to-do list. I'm committing to building free time into my schedule, rather than filling my schedule to the brim with other commitments so that I don't have to sit with this stuff and work through it. I'm building in the "me" time.
So, there's my 2017 for you. It's the Year of Enough. What does 2017 mean for you?