What do We Even Want?!
My family is away right now. They're in Quebec, visiting family, playing in the snow, tubing down snowy hills, cross country skiing and being immersed in the French language in which my kids sorely need to grow stronger. My husband, Etienne Zack, has an opening for his exhibition of his paintings at Galerie Cache in Montreal. This is another plus for their trip.
And me? I'm at home all alone. ALL ALONE! This time is a gift. A gift that I sorely need. Clearly, being in service to children, loads of family togetherness, and a life of non-stop distractions is all encompassing. This life, the life that in itself was once a dear goal, can obscure the inward gaze.
I'm not complaining. I feel fortunate to have a family. When I didn't have a family, I wanted a family.
I chose, with certainty, to walk into this whirlwind that is family life. It never stops. There is a busy wind always blowing, through sun, through rain, through workdays, through holidays. I do take time in the still moments between the gusts, to ponder life, and so I don't lose sight entirely. Reflecting, having insights, cherishing every little realization: that's who I am. It's like breathing. However, there isn't exactly a lot of time amid all the other daily excitement to assess the really big questions. The questions that require more effort and concentrated time. Questions like: What do I want now? This year? Right now?
I have lived and experienced a lot since embarking on family life. I'm still the same person. For a very long time I've been pretty aware of who I am. But there are just so many facets to me. So many facets to you. What do I want to focus on now? You have walked a different path than I have. You, too, probably live in a whirlwind. Even if you don't, do you know what you want? What you want right now? What you want to achieve, edit or focus on in 2023?
Before my family left on their trip I had ideas, for sure, of what I want this year. Snippets. Fragments. Images in my mind built on varying degrees of vague. Desired emotions washing over me now and then. Some firm goals, with no known footing of how to proceed. I wasn't clear enough to move intentionally, to aim myself, into the next coming stage. How about you? Where are you at? In our lives, where there is so much coming at us from the outside, whether we love that or not, when we love it or not, how do we see through to where we want to go? How can we hear our calling over all the other noise? Personally, I think it's pretty difficult. And so, I get really intentional. And I have a truly wonderful time doing so! I purposely create a quiet space for some quiet hours and I listen and look inwards. I tease out what I want - and need - and present it to myself in fun, inspiring forms that I won't ignore and that I can come back to again and again. This makes the days ahead, days possessing contentment and calm, much more simple to live out. I compare this to the concept of "practice your breathing when you're content and calm and then you'll breathe when you're upset and anxious". This time, instead of breathing, you're getting clear.
I am big on having a full tool box that I can draw on every day. I am always on the lookout for more tools do be used in my whirlwind life. I need every new fantastic tool I can find. For getting clear, these are my tried and true tools. This is my process. I invite you to try any or all of these out! In the same or any order.
1) I begin, fairly unconsciously, to prepare for my vision board. I don't put any thought into this stage. It's simple and requires no thought. In fact, the less thought the better. I think it is always best to start something new with "easy". To start, I pull out my pile of other people's castaway magazines that I have been building over the year. For me, this is mostly gardening, decorating, natural health magazines and seed catalogues. For you, that selection might be very different. It all depends on what you tend to gravitate to. I start browsing through the magazines, quickly cutting out images and text that jump out at me, and only if I feel drawn them in that moment. You don't think. You don't want to snip out what you believe you should want. You want to let the surprises happen. You can allow yourself to be perplexed. You're not cutting out last year's dreams and needs. You're learning about you, who you are today. There's mystery in this process! That's why it works! Then put your pile aside and don't even go through them.
2) This is the step that can actually be painful or difficult. This pain has its purpose. But you still might want to skip it. The purpose is that we don't want to keep going through the same trials year in and year out, not if we can help it. And this whole process is to "help it". (To have NEW pain points this year, lol, not the same old!)
You will probably want to do this step alone, and perhaps follow it up with a long, nourishing bath, a fantastic book, a massage appointment, or a yoga class. To do this exercise, I travel in my mind through the preceding year. What stands out as hurting? What was a hassle? Ask yourself, what do you never want to go through again? What junky, garbagy stuff kept coming up over and over again? Make a list. Set it aside. You might cry. You might feel mad. But just set the list aside. You can even toss it once you have written it out. You don't need to dwell on anything you wrote down. This is not a to do list! You'll want to leave this list behind and run from it.
3) Again, you might want to do this next one alone. Or with a close friend with whom you can be vulnerable. But not because it hurts. This one can be quite glorious.
Sit comfortably and make every attempt to feel the feelings in your heart and body, the thoughts in your mind, the senses of your spirit. And then manufacture for yourself all that is tranquil, amazing, exhilarating, calm. Bathe in all the sensations. Just feel. And take note.
4) Read some books that enlighten you, that bring you closer to knowing yourself and the people closest to you, that raise up your spirits. Or you can listen to podcasts or audiobooks that do the same thing. A few that I love:
This specific talk by Marie Forleo Now, Discover Your Strengths, Don Clifton/Gallup The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte How the World Sees You, Sally Hogshead Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
And if you're in the parenting stage:
Parenting from the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel
Good literature can achieve the same results. I'm on a late 19th century tangent and learning lots about who I am in my relationships. Not on purpose, but it happens!
5) This activity is really fun! Create your vision board. Pick up a big piece of poster board and a glue stick from the store. Or you can pull out a broken down box from your recycling bin if you want to use what you already have on hand. Grab your stack of images and text that you picked and clipped in step 1. You are going to glue all these images onto the poster board. Everyone has their own way of doing this. I like to first make piles of the categories that reveal themselves. Many people are more spontaneous than that and they let their intuition lead them through the whole process. You decide what works for you. After you have completed your Vision Board, look at it closely. Every day. Let this be your map for your year ahead. I find that nothing keeps me on my path the way this daily dose does. Especially six months from now. It's only too easy to forget. But I want a good year, a fulfilling year, so I want the reminder. I have made a schedule for the year, too with the clarity the vision board has provided. This schedule has practical tasks such as "turn the compost this month" and more family centered activities like "take the kids to the beach four times this month, and make sure you go in the water with them!" I am all for keeping my eyes open, open to my wants and needs, seeing my way through this year, all year long!
6) Is learning something new on your list for this year? Or going deeper into what you already know or do? Every year I actively learn new things. Over time I have learned to research lots before deciding on who I want to open myself up to as my teacher. We become more vulnerable when we put ourselves in the student role, so we want the right teacher! Sometimes it's the person on the megaphone who is actually the best teacher and whose philosophy will line up with my own. Other times, there is a quieter, more difficult to find option out there who will be my best fit. I do keyword searches, listen to podcasts and skim blogs that might take me further down the rabbit hole. I ask friends who I trust, and I keep my eye and ears tuned. It's amazing how once I identify an interest, how I will start seeing all around me, what I never noticed before. I'm sure you've had this experience, too. And then we get to start living with more awareness and a dash of intention added to every day. I hope that there is something in all this sharing that is of value to you.
I've begun making some small changes to my every-day and it feels great! I had my hair cut. I resumed my daily yoga practice that I had for years, but which came to a halt six years ago. I've been amending the soil in my garden beds this week. I'm beginning a floristry course to deepen my relationship with flowers. I've been going back through "How the World Sees You" (in my book list above) to discover more about how I can honour the unique people I love and live with. Wishing you a wonder-filled year ahead that is guided by what you want!
Slow Botanicals are available at
Westham Island Herb Farm, Delta, BC
International Marketplace, Point Roberts, WA
Your Local Small Market, Point Roberts, WA