Introducing the Year of Intention

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world
– When Death Comes, Mary Oliver

This is nearly a month late, even though it’s been sitting in my drafts folder since December. It never felt right to finish or post something so self-centered given all the genuinely huge and existential stuff going on at the start of the year. But since this weird little corner of the internet is where I document and ponder on stuff, I didn’t want to put it off any longer.

As has been mentioned, resolutions are useless; I prefer themes. And that’s in a NORMAL year, which I’ve pretty well assumed 2021 will not be.

This broader framework approach to success and growth feels especially necessary this year because the truth is, who the hell knows what’s going to happen this year! Best and unlikeliest case, we’re all out of our homes and back to “normal” by April – which is not going to happen. Worst case society collapses and we join up with a roving band of warriors to survive in a post-apocalyptical landscape. And between is a literal infinite amount of possibilities. One or both of us might lose our jobs, or we may get promotions. We may have to move, or we may need to extend our lease. We may get vaccinated or we may have to wait months for our number to be called.

Who. The. Hell. Knows.

Staying motivated through monotony is challenging.

Finding contentment in isolation or confinement requires a lot of mental practices, discipline and gratitude being chief among them.

Trying to conceptualize a future while surviving a horrible present is rough.

Trying to mark time without the benefit of observing holidays and enjoying seasonal change is antithetical to the entirety of human experience!

That being said, I do think that it’s possible to live intentionally, regardless of circumstances, and that’s why I chose the theme I did. 2020 felt like something that happened to us that we had to constantly catch up and respond to, we were living reactively – and that’s okay! But in 2021 I want to find ways to live more proactively, even if circumstances stay as they are for a long while. In fact, I think it’s best to assume they will, and plan accordingly. So what is intentional living going to look like for me?

Financial: a new big picture

Being intentional in our financial planning. But wait, C., don’t do you have the same goals every year? Not exactly, dear minion, let me explain my feelings.

2021 is going to be the year we (hopefully) see the end of our debt, which has been a long time coming and which has been my “big picture” motivation for a long time. And that means I need a new big goal to think about and use as a north star. While I think this is going to take shape in several micro goals or challenges throughout the year, as is my want, the new big intention is to make significant progress towards home ownership through savings and new investments. Small projects are fun, but I find they work best when deployed in service of a bigger vision, and buying a house feels like a bold new horizon to shoot for.

Health: healing, not coping

I mentioned in my last yearly theme post feeling burdened by emotional or psychological weight I don’t want to drag around with me anymore. This is perhaps a bit woo woo and fluffy for some, but I want to approach my both mental and physical health and energy in 2021 with a forward-looking intention. Jeff and I were talking about how many minor small issues we’ve just sort of lived with and accepted with our health rather than trying to find permanent solutions.

Rather than coping with old traumas and managing health issues, I want to use the resources I have like therapy and my healthcare access to truly heal what I can and make better choices about what I can’t.

This may mean leaving behind or changing relationship dynamics with some people. It may mean seeking a second opinion on certain issues to see if I can get better outcomes. It may mean choosing the more invasive option rather than the therapeutic one to try and fix stuff permanently – and yes, this is both literal and metaphoric, roll with it.

Ultimately I want to feel more that my health and wellbeing is something I’m making deliberate and intentional choices about, and less something that’s happening to me. I kicked this off a bit early by scheduling a health assessment over the Christmas break to get a battery of testing done and some one-to-one time with both a nurse and doctor to review the results.

Pleasure: an obscure goal for healthy hedonism

This is a strange one to try and articulate, but I have sort of assumed that no matter how much I may wish it, my physical world may be very small this year. But for me, part of living intentionally means finding ways to maximize the pleasant and positive sensations I am able to cultivate. I hope to be able to travel to one of my brother’s weddings this summer, but I can definitely enjoy various kinds of media without guilt or snobbery. I hope to be able to see my best friends this year, but I can certainly choose to wear fancy pajamas on the weekend or when I work from home. I hope to be able lounge on a beach with my husband, but barring that I can definitely have a weekly fun night at home.

There is a culture taboo against coziness, comfort, and rest but these are things that I want to lean into this year. I’m not talking about mindlessly scrolling the interwebs until going to sleep, but I do mean intentionally seeking out media, experiences (as far as I am able), and sensory opportunities that are based purely on healthy hedonism. What feels good, does not harm others, and allows me to pass time during lockdown isn’t just acceptable, it’s to be lauded!

This might mean dressing prettily for no reason, it might mean enjoying “fluffy” media of some kind, it might mean eating more decadent food than I should (though it might also mean choosing to, say, stretch for twenty minutes rather than do a vigorous exercise regimen). Trying to find things that feel deliberately good and comforting does not necessarily mean indulgence, greed, or wanton disregard for consequence. And if ever there was a year to try and discover the difference and fine tune the balance, I think this is it!

Do you have a theme this year? What made you choose it and what do you think it’s going to look like?

4 thoughts on “Introducing the Year of Intention”

  1. It’s certainly hard to stay motivated when there’s seemingly no end in sight to this lockdown! I’m lucky that it hasn’t changed anything for me, but it would be good to have some info about an exit plan.

    I haven’t set a particular theme for my year but I like the idea. I read another blog post recently where the author chose ‘delight’ as her word for 2021. It reminded me of a recent This American Life episode (The Show of Delights) — Act Two: The Squeals on the Bus was especially lovely. I may have to save it to listen again whenever I’m feeling low!

    I’d like delight to be part of my year — things all seem a bit flat and grey at the moment, but I guess it’s possible to find delight in small things.

    Your goals sound great! Very exciting that you have home ownership on the horizon!

  2. I’ve been a bit ambitious with my theme for this year, as it’s a 3-parter! Last year, my theme was joy, especially finding joy in the small, everyday things. it was a fantastic choice for the year as it turned out! I’m going to stick with this as a practice. #2 is Kindness and really this is how I like to live my life, but I specifically want to include being kind to myself. That includes keeping up with a healthier lifestyle to be kind to my body. #3 is simplicity – paring down my life to a less complex beast. Buying less stuff – because really, who needs more? Eating and drinking more simply. But also committing to less and keeping things simpler. I am lucky enough to be in NZ where we can still do many things that other nations can’t, so I want to appreciate that!!!

  3. I love all of this.

    I don’t have anything specific — just grappling with health issues at the moment feels overwhelming.

    But finding joy whenever and wherever possible is key! This terrible pandemic shows no sign of abating any time soon.

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