This is my version of an end-of-year reflection post, and it’s also an explanation for why I chose a “focus word” for the year–and why I chose the word I did. I love reading personal posts like this, so I figured I’d return the favor for anyone who also loves them. <3.
To myself in January 2019—
You secretly hope this will be the year everything changes in an Instagrammable and obvious way. In the kind of way that people notice: “Wow! You seem like you’re doing amazing!” In the kind of way that drives hordes to your inbox with “Can I pick your brain?” emails. In the kind of way that makes people feel sure around you because you’re so together.
That won’t happen, of course. Instead, you’ll change. Softly and slowly.
By the end of the year, you’ll realize that this subtle reorganizing within was significant, if not obvious.
You’ll begin asking for help, even though asking for help implies that you need it. But you’ll suspect that this is the path toward the community you’ve been wanting. So you’ll give it a go, and it will, frankly, immediately make you better.
(Oh, but you’ll still be bad at asking for help, for sure. You’ll do it in a blustery, fake-confidence way at first. You’ll take the help without really letting anyone in. But as the months of 2019 climb into the double-digits, that habit will weaken.
You’ll begin to get braver, venturing to share your fears with others—without even rehearsing the conversation beforehand. At first, it’ll feel like a gross and embarrassing mistake, as though you just shat yourself on a fully booked cross-country flight.* Eventually, though, opening up will almost feel beautiful like they said it would. At least, it’ll give you enough good feelings to try it again, and again.)
You’ll start paying attention to your body. You’ll realize that you’ve been living a life of the mind and pretty much just dragging your body along.
You’ll see that though you once imagined you miraculously escaped the toxic way our culture treats women’s bodies, you haven’t. Not at all.
The realization will run through you like a bullet: Instead of dieting and exercising like a madwoman to stay thin, you felt like you got a “free pass” to ignore your body because you were already “the ideal weight and shape.” And what else is a woman’s body good for? If by genetic lottery you were born without love handles, there’s nothing more to consider, then, right? Not health, or strength, or flexibility, or energy.
2019 will be the year you finally notice your body—your comfortable gait, your tight hip flexors, your heartbeat and breathing. But all this noticing will trigger anxiety attacks for the first time. Your body will feel terrifyingly out of your control.
So you’ll look to yoga to learn how to trust your body’s involuntary systems instead of fearing them. And, thank god, it’ll help.
One evening you’ll be on the phone with your girlfriend, absently sipping red wine, and you’ll discover you no longer like alcohol, and you’ll stop drinking, and you won’t miss it. Later, you’ll notice that sugar, as it tingles through your bloodstream, feels even more like a drug than alcohol. And for you, it’ll be too hard to give up, not yet.
Ultimately, you’ll catch a glimpse of the better life you could have living in harmony with your physical self. You’ll cringe at how new-agey that sounds, but you’ll believe it anyway.
2019 will be the year you finally recognize that life is not separated into categories you can isolate and control.
run a business well
or write amazing copy
or be a good sister
or forge deep friendships
or talk about politics
or speak with confidence
or relax your muscles in a yoga class
when you’re hiding from yourself.
And so in the first 24 hours of 2020, when someone prompts you to choose a “focus word” for the new year, you’ll instinctively hear yourself thinking “visibility,” even as you remark out loud what a cliché it is to have a focus word.
But then again, like resolutions, like annual end-of-year posts, like going home for the holidays, like your mother baking the family Polish cookie recipe every Christmas…traditions are valuable precisely because they remind us that we’re not original, we’re the same.
That’s why, in the end, you do it. You make your focus word for 2020 VISIBILITY.
If there is an answer to be found, it is in courageously looking at the dark parts of yourself and letting other people do it with you.
“I write, therefore, to drag into the light what eats at me—the fear, the guilt, the shame…” -Scott Russell Sanders, Under the Influence
*I’ve never done this IRL, thank goodness for me and my fellow passengers.