December 30, 2012

the week of in-between

There is no other time in the year that consistently defines "in-between" like this week between Christmas and New Years Day. All the intensity, festivity and community of Christmas begins to wind down, at different paces for every life, and this week is our countdown to the New Year's beginning. I love the chance to create new goals and aims for my life, and obviously this energy of possibility and fresh new starts is familiar for most people in the tradition of New Year's Resolutions. Do you feel energized by this transition week?
Our Christmas was amazing, filled with so many gifts both literal and figurative. Among my favorite figurative gifts: harmony, thoughtfulness, a mix of traditions new and old, and childlike wonder and joy. We savored every single minute we could with family and friends, cozy fires, Christmas records, Christmas movies and the dreamy glow of the Christmas tree as it decorated the walls with tiny, glittery sparkles. I hope you had an amazing Christmas, too!!

And then Christmas ends for everyone, perhaps trickling over a day or two or maybe this whole week of in-between. I don't mean to sound overdramatic, or overly melancholy. If Christmas happened all year long, it wouldn't hold the magic that it does for so many people. The better my Christmas, the more I feel at peace to let all its gifts of joy and love and cheer energize me going forward into the New Year. So in this week of in-between, I am unwinding gently from the jam-packed daily schedules and the endless post-it note t0-do lists that have decorated every surface of my life in recent months. I am uncovering my desk again, and getting back to the daily practices that nurture my creative soul. I am embracing silence again, and learning how to enjoy the gift of blank space, within and without. I am seeking a sort of detox in my days, to help prepare me for the gift of a brand new year.
I am considering the start of this New Year to come: what kinds of goals do I want to embrace and set for myself? I love this goal-setting process, but if I over think it or do not practice gentleness in my expectations, I can turn it into a punitive chore that rubs my nose in my failures from years past. As much as I want to be goal-driven all year long and not join the ranks of all the people who only set goals at the New Year, there is a reason this tradition of goal-setting has stood the test of time. There is something that just feels more significant about the official start of a brand new year, a year that is documented differently from any other even simply each time we have to write the date on something.

How do you create goals? Reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (read my thoughts here!) has given me some great new perspective on goals this year, and I have been saving the accompanying Happiness Project One-Sentense Journal and her new book, Happier At Home as fresh starts for my New Year. I am obviously really motivated by structured goals, checklists, and specificity, but sometimes that can limit me too, so I am trying to open my mind to consider the idea of "goals" from more varied perspectives! 

I am really lucky to have some amazing friends who inspire me with their own creative lives and accomplishments! I was really inspired by this post from our friend Elsie! Her "28 before 29" concept helped me to realize how important it is that goals always be growing and changing and developing. Her list challenged me to be more ambitious, and this is one of my favorite things about Elsie. Watching her achieve her dreams and reach for new ones inspires me a lot! Her post made me reflect on how limited my goals had been year to year, sort of a broken record that only made me feel worse about myself every time I replayed it. So last year, as I made my goals, I tried to be inventive, specific and ambitious, and one of my goals that I wrote down but didn't tell anyone for a long time was to begin this blog. Sometimes you have to write it down just to admit a goal to yourself, before you can see where it will lead you! 

If you're not an obsessive list-maker like I am, there are still SO many ways to consider your goals and find inspiration to make your New Year what you want it to be. Our friend Heidi, who is an ambitious, creative storyteller and artist, recently told us that  at the beginning of the New Year, she often chooses a word that she wants to define her year to come. Focusing on that word has helped her to clearly aim her choices and goals throughout the year in line with that theme. I haven't thought of a word yet for myself, but I really love this idea and what a great challenge, especially for someone as obsessed with words as I am! What would your word be?

I want this week of in-between, these last two days before the New Year officially begins, to build me up and make me feel excited for the year to come. I want to review the growth of the year that has just passed, and see the incredible potential in beginning again. How do you think about your goals and prepare to make new ones? Is your list already made or do you wait until the New Year starts? Are you a list maker or do you think more abstractly about your goals? I would love to hear how this works for you so I can consider my own goals from more perspectives! 

(Loved the way these display windows at Anderson's Bookshop in Downtown Naperville mixed Christmas decor with one of my favorite things: books!)

December 11, 2012

december joy

I am finally feeling December. Usually, November helps me out a little bit more, one week unfolding into the next and building up joy and anticipation so that December can arrive with a flourish. But November was not my favorite this year. I gave the best I could to my NaNoWriMo project but in the end the best I could give to myself was to let go and accept that I could not make my goal. I am proud of myself for trying (and proud of all of you who tried, too! Did you make it??), and I am proud of myself for being able to let go. Some of our friends wisely use the term "seasons" to describe the months and years of their lives and relationships, and I am learning to apply this term to myself and my writing, as well. This season was not for finishing, but for learning to be gentle and accept that what might be best in one season is not necessarily what is best in the next.
But now it is December, and though I have been tempted to wallow in that leftover sense of defeat from November, I do not want to miss any more hours or days or weeks! I want to be here, now. What do you love about December?? I love the consistency of the holiday season, the decorations of red and gold and green which can be counted on to grace the fronts of buildings and shop windows everywhere you look. I love the traditions passed down from year to year, from activities to projects to the quest for perfect gifts. I love the sparkle of holiday lights that migrates down each block, beginning with one house and then spreading to another and another. 
Last week, I set out on a mission of a different sort: to soak up the holiday season for a couple of hours and help my brain transition into this lovely month. I want to be present for this season, to absorb and experience all of the days that are left in this year. My camera helps me see more, pay more attention to the world around me, slow down as I move from place to place and notice more of what I pass on my way.
These tiniest of moments, like this little spot on the tree - full of red berries and glittery gold and even a pink flower! - are what make the season bright for me.

And that moment when the lights blink on, as dusk settles over the bustling town. One of my favorite parts of Christmas is when the streets go from mostly-normal to completely-extraordinary, all in a single second.
And the little bits of cheer just keep on going, everywhere you look, and they are my reminder (if I will listen!) to slow down, pay attention, and let the hours count.
What are your December joys?? I would love to hear about them, and I promise to keep sharing the joys I discover myself throughout this month, too! xo