The last day of the month. Snow on the ground. A blank wintry sky.
What felt good this month? Okay, real talk: this month was hard. What felt good was connecting with other people, in a variety of contexts and locations. I zoomed into literary events, and visited a local book club in person. Most recently, I travelled with my dad and sister across the border for the first time in over two years to visit my grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins in Indiana. I’ve been interviewing Grandma about her life (99 years and counting), and it was an emotional moment to see her again in person, and feel her arms around me, holding me tight. At the beginning of the month, we also made a family trip to see Kevin’s family, which yielded many giddy, silly moments, needed conversation, and much laughter on the road. Often, this past month, I’ve felt purposeful and cherished, and it’s been meaningful to be able to offer my attention and care.
What did you struggle with? Very little writing time. I did my best with the time I had, but it was a struggle to string together more than a few hours at a time; nevertheless, I finished the first draft of half of a new fiction project. I also did my best to meet, with equanimity and acceptance, the challenges that were calling me. I overcame anxieties and fears about travel, public events, and covid risks, so despite struggling with all of the above, my fears did not dictate my choices. I’m proud of that.
Where are you now compared to the beginning of the month? This month has been so long! To be honest, I’m feeling pretty wiped out and drained. I’m glad to find myself still running, still able to run. I knew in advance this month would be hard, and I did my level best to prepare for what came by taking each day as it arrived — and my preparation and flexible mindset stood me in good stead. I just need a) a day to clean and organize the whole house; b) a day to lie on the couch and read, and c) a week of uninterrupted writing time to finish out the year … or even just a week of half-days for uninterrupted writing time.
How did you take care of yourself? Yoga, stretching, reaching out to friends, going on walks, running: any activity that invites me more fully into my body. Mostly, I practiced bringing myself back to the present moment, not resisting being exactly where I was. Sometimes this was uncomfortable. In moments of great stress, I listened to a Tara Brach podcast (meditation) or got outside, or took a power nap. I’ve got tools in my toolbox! I set boundaries in ways that felt natural, and genuinely helpful. I let myself be myself. Even if that meant letting the tears flow. I acknowledged and tried to forgive my own missteps and errors, with as much humour as I could muster. (Not always possible to laugh at oneself, but always a relief when it is possible.)
What would you most like to remember? That I don’t have to be defined by my past responses to similar situations, but have the capacity to learn and grow. That I can surprise myself (in good ways or for in more challenging ways!). That it’s possible to feel lonely, even when you’re deeply loved; and that the feeling won’t last. That it’s possible to improve one’s mood by going for a walk with a friend. That I don’t mind conflict, because it’s an opportunity to forge a deeper connection with someone else.
What do you need to let go of? Control, control, control. It’s a manifestation of fear: trying to control how I’m seen or perceived, trying to control how people feel about me, trying to control choices others make in their own lives, trying to plan what will happen. Guess what, Carrie, you’re not the boss of anyone else, and a lot will happen that you’d never guess in advance! Besides, attempts at control are not only futile, they make it much harder to enjoy one’s every day experiences. I want to stay open to the moment that’s here and calling me, rather than arguing with what’s happening. Without a desire for control, perhaps I could inhabit myself in the world more wholly, sensitive to those around me, attuned to the human selfness of everyone I encounter, and fully alive to the ways in which connection is possible; while also recognizing where connection would be forced, unwanted; secure in my boundaries; with no desire to take over someone else’s life, to step in, assume, or project (okay, those last two are next to impossible goals, but still worth trying!). Let go of control; welcome, instead, awareness.