A Time to Check In on the Questions You’re Living Within

Friday, December 18, 2015 - 3:50 am

A Time to Check In on the Questions You’re Living Within

I’m a sucker for end-of-year reflection. I love curling up in a big, fat armchair with my journal and looking back at what I’ve written. Even on years like this, when the moments I managed to steal for this kind of writing were few and far between (some pages literally have the date and one short, unfinished sentence), it’s always edifying to realize that one single year can contain so much.

A year is an arbitrary unit of measurement, of course, but it’s as good as any to pause and recognize yourself for getting through the hard stuff, revisit the really good stuff, and get closer to integrating all of it. It’s also a time to check in on the questions you’re living within. In a sense, I feel like each year answers an old question for me and asks a new one. It’s like the years are strung together by fertile, sometimes surprising, question marks.

In so many ways, my 2015 was about limitations. Now that I’m a mother, what am I capable of? What roles can I shed? What obligations can I let go of? How can I make some sort of friendly relationship with the fact that I have decided not to be a superwoman, nor to pretend to be?

It’s a collection of questions that I’ve been dancing around for most of my adult life — always one to over-commit — but this year I really stared it down. I had such good motivation: a 25-pound bundle of exuberance and discovery and never-ending needs. Turns out that a toddler was a force, much more powerful than money or status or so many other things, to motivate me to really reckon with my own limitations.

(Thomas Hawk / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

I haven’t solved what I’m sure is going to be a lifelong struggle with no’s and yes’s, but I do feel a sense of serenity around this particular set of questions. I’ve wrestled with them. I’ve experimented with them. I’ve sometimes resented them. And ultimately, I’m moving on from them.

I simply can’t be everywhere at once, so you will most likely find me on the floor, reading a book to my daughter, or in my home office trying to surface some half-buried thought with my fingers and a keyboard. Everything else is icing. I’m getting much better at missing out.

With this hard-fought serenity, I make room for new questions.

Now, I start wondering about pleasure. Truth be told, I have sometimes felt dumb about pleasure. I forget that my head is connected to my body. I forget that food is a sensory experience. I forget that getting dressed can be a form of play and art. I forget to play music. I forget to luxuriate in a shower or a drink. I just forget.

But I want to remember, so maybe 2016 is going to be about asking myself new questions about savoring those pleasurable things. It feels particularly subversive for a “working mom” to secretly or not so secretly dedicate a year of her life to understanding her own relationship with pleasure, doesn’t it?

(Tom Waterhouse / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Or maybe 2016 is my year for finally rewiring the pathways in my brain that send me scurrying to make everyone happy, prevent heartache or conflict, be the dutiful daughter, the peacemaker, the easygoing one. I have a tendency to make room for other people’s strong preferences by unconsciously abandoning my own. I’m so expert at it that I often convince even myself that I don’t have preferences, or that “keeping the peace” trumps any desire I might have to the point that it becomes my only preference. Sometimes that’s healthy — one doesn’t have to feel strongly about everything — but sometimes it’s a cop out.

Maybe my question this coming year will be simple: What do I want?

Or maybe 2016 is my year for learning how to be more joyful within chaos. How can I just ride the wave of puzzle pieces and half-finished conversations and undone to-do lists and FaceTime catch-ups rather than trying to cling to completion?

Only time will tell. I feel grateful to get another go-round to live my way into some new wisdom. What’s the question you’re putting to bed and what’s the one that’s just being born within you at this transitional time of year?

(Hafsa Nabeel / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved.)

Share Post

Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. Her column appears every Friday.

Her newest book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, explores how people are redefining the American dream (think more fulfillment, community, and fun, less debt, status, and stuff). Courtney is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network and a strategist for the TED Prize. She is also co-founder and partner at Valenti Martin Media and FRESH Speakers Bureau, and editor emeritus at Feministing.com.

Courtney has authored/edited five books, including Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women. Her work appears frequently in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Courtney has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and The O’Reilly Factor, and speaks widely at conferences and colleges. She is the recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre. She lives with her partner in life and work, John Cary, in Oakland, and their daughters Maya and Stella. Read more about her work at www.courtneyemartin.com.

Share Your Reflection

Reflections

apples