For a multitude of reasons, I feel as though I’ve aged at least five years in the past three months.
It was a terrible turn of events, but because of it, instead of contemplating traditional resolutions as I try to look forward to 2024 with some semblance of hope, I am focusing on the things that got me through these last few months of 2023. Things that I will double down on and embrace to continue to survive, and hopefully thrive, in the New Year.
I’m ending this year too shell shocked and disheartened to add anything new to my life, but what I can do is examine the tools and behaviors that are working and double down on them.
Perhaps we can all benefit from a doubling down on a few things:
1. Connection. I need to consciously eye how long I go between times I see my girlfriends, surviving brother, and support systems. I’d be in a far worse place without them, and I need to watch my calendar, get dates on there, and not allow myself to go weeks without seeing someone for a brunch, a basketball game, a fancy dinner, or even just a simple walk.
Get it on a calendar and don’t cancel. What this really means is setting appointments to get out of my own head with people who make me better, inspired, and whole.
2. Listening. When my oldest talks, I don’t need to correct him, counter-point, offer suggestions, give my advice, tell him how he’s flat-out wrong, or try to solve his problems. There is more value in listening and letting his wheels spin as he comes to things on his own—perhaps through that conversation itself, or perhaps years from now after mistakes are made. Let him work through it, and then repeat that same listening exercise with the other teenager for entirely different reasons.
3. Planks and weights. This was my resolution last year and I did it. Sometimes I’m only at the gym for 15 minutes, which is fine if that’s all I have. I don’t have the luxury right now of making the gym a priority every day, or even on a set schedule, but I can make it a priority some days.
And what we all collectively know is that it’s hard to get there, but then it clears your head, opens your mind, and leaves you feeling refreshed. The number of times I have come to a decision about a work situation, how to respond to an email, thought through a phone call, or how handle a professional dilemma while at the gym blows my mind—I should be able to bill for it. I get the same results from a hike with my dog, but I’ve always known that one. Time to double down.
4. New Heights Podcast. Bear with me on this one, I’m in Kansas City and if you are not familiar, this is the Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce podcast. They are NFL players and brothers (and one is better known these days as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend). This podcast has saved my mental health time and again.
I’m not a big NFL person (although I live with an 11-year-old who is, so I’m solidly moving in that direction). I also have never listened to or watched any other podcast, at any time. Imagine if you will two white, American men who laugh, tell stories, tease each other, bring on light-hearted teammates and family members as guests (Kylie Kelce shines in her own likability), openly support each other, do not swear or tell dirty jokes, adorably talk about Jason’s kids and their parents and lives, and get this, they’re not talking about being victims of wild conspiracy theories, they are not angry, they are not talking about politics.
I’ll say it again to be clear: there are hours of footage of these two adult white men on a podcast not airing grievances, not yelling at anyone, not righteously telling another group the error of their ways. They aren’t calling each other or anyone else stupid or immoral, they won’t tell you, the listener, what to think or who not to trust, they aren’t sarcastic, they are not mean-spirited—it’s the most beautiful thing out there. Pure…and it feels so healthy.
I’ve never watched a full episode, just clips that pop up on my social media feed after a difficult phone call or meeting, laying in bed at night, with my cup of coffee in the morning, in my car before walking into the office or my home as I get ready to transition from work mode to mom mode. But these men are a refreshing distraction, the wholesome push I’ve needed to wrap up a difficult few months. I will keep watching their lack of righteous indignation and appreciate their story telling, small anecdotes, and smiles in 2024. One could say their conversations are full of meaningless fluff, but one could also say they are profoundly novel in that they are wonderfully full of fluff.
5. Writing. I’m going to keep writing. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it isn’t. Such is life.
6. Escape with my kids. It’s how I enjoy them, and how they enjoy each other. I’m anxious in my house, I feel buried in to-do lists, dirty floors, piles of bills, the laundry I need to fold, and housework that weighs over me. And my refrigerator needs cleaning.
It doesn’t matter where we escape to—be it to a sports bar, a road trip, a hike, a vacation to another country, a Mexican restaurant, my sister’s lake respite in Colorado—it’s that we’re all together in a place where I am not in a position to be loading or unloading a damn dishwasher or responding to a work email. Not only am I more engaged, they respond to my authentic attention and, as a direct amazing result, they too are more engaged. Funny how that works: when I’m relaxed, they respond.
My happy place is anywhere I am that I can’t check tasks off my never-ending list of things I am “supposed” to be responsible for, and that place is made even happier by listening to their conversations and laughter. I will go to that place over and over in 2024.
7. News. I will continue to be cognizant of the news I absorb and how I react, and work to focus my attention on causes or issues I can realistically impact with the time, treasures, and talents that I possess at any given moment.
8. Love without limit. If you’ve read this far, you had to know a big one was coming. Dear god, we all need to take a look at the people we value and shamelessly throw ourselves at them without pride or human complication. I have lost so many people I love that I’m terrified of losing more, and terrified of a life and world where anything else matters.
When will I learn and how can I convey what it feels like to be on this side of grief? If you love someone, if I love someone, we all must act on it—now. Because when that’s gone, it’s unbearable. A kind of unbearableness that unless you’ve lived it, you cannot fathom. We have to value our relationships with the people who have shown up for us when it mattered, because the quiet that sits in you when they are gone is deafening. It’s the people who add clarity, joy, and authenticity to our lives. Don’t let them slip away.
9. Life Coach. I saw a life coach a few times earlier this year, and I will go back in 2024. I’ve had good experiences with therapists at various periods of my life and am eternally grateful for that, but this time I felt like I needed a business coach. But I thought through it with a friend and realized that I know what a business coach would say; the issue is why I don’t do certain things, or why I don’t lean in harder to the places I succeed. Some might call that a form of self-sabotage, but perhaps we all dabble in holding ourselves back or dealing with insecurity. Hence, a life coach.
I’m a single woman with no husband, no parents, and in a sense, no real boss. I need someone to tell me what to do from time to time. Or maybe, god forbid, tell me that I’m doing okay, at least at a few things.
10. Sunday dinners. These are where it’s at for me. I’m doubling down on them in 2024—lingering at the table longer and Pinterest-ing more asparagus pastas and tomato pies. And dessert, every single time.