I still have the first diary I ever received, a small, red, leather-bound book sealed with a gold lock and key, sitting under the tree on Christmas day in 1983, a gift from Santa. I wrote in that one sporadically, and in the dozens I've kept in the years since, sometimes faithfully writing every day before skipping months at a time. It's a precious record, those earnestly-penned thoughts and feelings, ones that, when I sit and re-read them, sometimes make me laugh and sometimes make me cringe. It's certainly a history of personal growth.
I've collected all my journals over the years in a large storage bin, where they sit quietly undisturbed most of the time. Every now and then, during moves or spring cleaning, I'll stumble upon it, open the lid, and start sifting through the years of my life. Some pages are written with a bold, confidant hand, some smudged with tears, the handwriting slanting downward on the pages. The one commonality between them all are my yearly goals, which I've been writing down since I received that very first red leather book.
My goals began, at 8 years old, as simple New Year's resolutions, but they evolved over time into a strategic plan for the year. For the past 20 years or so, every January, I look at last year's goals and measure my progress. What did I achieve? What didn't I accomplish, and why? How did my goals evolve over the year? What changed? There are some goals I struggle with, year after year. I feel triumphant when I look at the ones I've finally 'checked-off' and achieved or made significant progress towards, and I feel humble looking at the ones that I've finally resigned to let go of.
As I sit here reading my journal from January 2015, I feel incredibly emotional. I had no idea then, that one year later, Elie and I would be expecting our child to arrive in our life. I had let that dream go, and had given up on the idea of becoming a mama. With Elie, we have such a rich, full life, I had refocused to look beyond motherhood to other ways to make my life meaningful.
Here's what I wrote:
...As I approach 40 and begin my 40th year on earth, I would like to approach my goals differently. Every year, since I was 8, I have written resolutions, which then transferred to goals as an adult. Today, I am thinking more intentionally, to approach this year with intention and the idea of exploration and growth. Since my life is so wonderful, what can I do to expand and stretch and reach--to develop a richer and even more fulfilled inner-self and expand my impact on others--to give and to share?
First and foremost, I commit to continue to nurture my marriage, to be kind, to listen, to be thoughtful and loving...
And I begin my 40th year with the following intention...My intention is to explore the new possibilities within myself and continue to be open to new learning and discovery, to be realistic about my limitations, and to be kind to myself.
I then listed new activities to explore: Hebrew lessons (no), volunteer cuddler position at the hospital neonatal unit (did apply, but pulled out when I got pregnant), reading more books (yes), calligraphy class (yes), watercolor class (yes), bread baking class (no), Hearth to Health workshop (yes), daily meditation practice (yes).
The inspiration for this 'year in review' came from Allie Seidel. Thanks Allie! I will be doing this every year from now on.
Since Elie and I started dating, my yearly goals always include exploring a new place, and in 2015, we travelled, visiting six countries (Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Italy and Mexico) and between us, eleven states (Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas (twice)). Unfortunately, I didn't get around to blogging about all of those places. Perhaps during this next month of nesting I might get those posted.
I wrote intentional statements for both personal goals covering spiritual, physical and emotional health, learning and community service; and professional goals. Having a baby did not appear anywhere on my list for 2015. But as I look back and read my intentional statement, this refrain keeps echoing in my head: Let go and let God.
Or perhaps, when you let go, magic happens, miracles occur. I never pressured Elie to have a child, although it was something we talked about. But he came to the decision to become a father on his own, which makes this celebration all the more joyful.
So, as I look to this next year, I'm flipping a page, creating brand new intentions for this new role in my life. I often find inspiration from reading other peoples' goals and reflections, so I'm writing these here in the spirit of sharing.
My January 2016 journal reads:
My intention for 2016 is to be kind, pursue serenity and give grace: to Elie, our child and myself.
To keep our marriage a priority, strengthening our foundation of love and respect, building our family.
To be a loving, nurturing and serene mama to our child. As Elie put it, "to act like this is our second child and not our first" meaning we'll be more relaxed.
To not take myself too seriously. To let go of perfection.
To be present for the small and big moments of this new journey as a mama and a part of a family of three.
To be a good role model for our child by letting go of the idea of 'achievement' and pursuing the passions and activities that bring joy, whether personal or professional.
When it comes to specific goals and activities, I feel like the year will be dedicated to exploring motherhood, parenting and creating our new family life. However, I am of the strong belief that parents who take care of themselves and their marriage create an example and an environment for healthy and resilient children. It's the oxygen mask philosophy, which has always made a lot of sense to me. So, I will...
Continue to focus on my spiritual practice, with daily prayer and meditation. (Activity: daily prayer and guided meditation)
Explore a spiritual practice for our family. (Activity: practicing daily gratitude/prayer as a family, exploring church opportunities)
Continue to focus on my physical health, with daily walking, regular yoga practice and healthy but balanced eating. Be nice to myself as my body recovers from pregnancy and let go of unrealistic expectations or comparisons. (Activity: daily walk of 3 - 4 miles, practice yoga three times per week)
Continue to make my marriage to Elie a priority: being present, spending time, practicing kindness, listening, checking in regularly, giving love. (Activity: daily check-ins, weekly date nights)
Learn to be a 'good mother' without firm expectations of what that means. Give love, be nurturing, be kind, show compassion, give up perfection, refrain from comparison or judgement, be open-minded. Relax. (Activity: join mama-baby walking group, practice mama-baby yoga once a week, family cuddles)
Continue to travel, because I believe the best education for a child is to know the world, and there's no reason not to start right away. (Activity: Plan at least three trips, including at least one to a foreign country)
Continue to make my friendships a priority. (Activity: weekly walking dates and coffee dates and regular gatherings)
Continue to serve my community in meaningful ways. (Activity: Serve on the Leadership Team for the Family Meals Program, consider resuming teaching cooking classes)
Post regularly to this space (Simmstown.com) on marriage, motherhood, lifestyle, design and cooking, providing inspiration and ideas for a joyful, balanced life. (Activity: at least one blog post a week)
Explore meaningful ways to continue to practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, while still making my family the priority. (Activity: evaluate each opportunity and take on projects that bring joy, post once a week to the Nourish blog)
Over the years, I've used different systems for recording and tracking my goals, and keeping a daily calendar. For the years I worked in consulting, I used the Franklin Covey system, which helped me keep track of projects and deadlines. Then for the past seven or eight years, I've used an online calendar (either Outlook or more recently, the Mac calendar) combined with PaperBlanks journals, which I used as a combination planner/journal/place to keep notes and random thoughts.
With our little one arriving soon, this year I wanted to make sure I recorded everything in a hand-written book, so I could be very organized and have one place to mark and record all the year's milestones. So, I purchased one of the Emily Ley Simplified Planners, in the Daily Edition, along with notebooks to tuck in the front, for more pages to record notes. I love the simple and colorful design, so I think this system is going to work well. I'll report back at the end of the year.
So, there you have it. Intentions and goals for 2016. I hope you find this helpful.
Happy 2016! xo