A post or two back, I wrote about my words for 2017: Perspective, Prayerfulness and Poise.I’m letting those words propel me, like the wind behind a boat, into this year that I hope will be one of growth and goodness.
But, we all know that a boat needs more than a bluster to venture far.A rudder to guide it, a centerboard to balance it and a sail to catch the breeze are as necessary as the wind, and so, too, are some specific smart goals to accompany my words for the year.Smart goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based, and they’re meant to add focus and specificity to one’s actions.
I love the idea of having a word (or three, in my case) to give an overarching theme to the year, but I know that it’s the practicality of smart goals that will make living out my words possible.With this in mind, I have created a few smart goals to accompany each of my words for the year.
Most of my smart goals are related to Perspective, for a few reasons.First, it’s my primary word for the year; prayerfulness and poise stem from it and I hope lead towards it.Secondly, it’s a bit of a catch all.The place where I most need perspective is work (I need to not let the petty (and legitimate) frustrations, the causes for anxiety, the at-times-annoying people get to me the way I do), and I’m of the mind that focusing on all the joyful, successful, meaningful and life-giving aspects of my life outside of work will help me remember what is important, thus giving me perspective when I have to deal with the inevitable challenges at work.For this reason, I’ve crafted a whole slew of goals that will direct my attention outside of work.That’s perspective after all, right? (one of my favorite definitions: a true understanding of the relative importance of things).
Try at least one new recipe from each of my cookbooks.I have all these great cookbooks, but every time I want to try a new recipe, I look on pinterest or elsewhere on the internet, not in them.I thought this would be a good goal to help me enjoy my home more… and delve into a hobby that I always take pleasure in, cooking.
Read Middlemarch.I have a “Read Before I Die” list and, for the past several years, have tried to read one or two books off of it each year.This is the year for Middlemarch.
Go on one adventure a month (I have a list of adventures, which I’ll discuss in a different post).
Complete a full twelve weeks of BBG (this is the exercise plan that I use fairly consistently — I really like it — but hop all over with; having consistency and a sense of completion but completing the full 12-week cycle will be satisfying).
Decrease sugar consumption by taking sugar-free weeks, or weeks with sugar just one or two days.There is no reason that I should be having dessert every day, if not multiple times a day.With 28 upon me, it’s time to change this.
Acknowledge birthdays. Send cards, texts, emails or phone calls.Do something to celebrate and connect with the people I love.
Blog 50 times.
Connect with my siblings monthly, at minimum.My brothers and sister, along with Caleb and my parents, are the people who matter most to me in the world and I almost always have fun and feel lifted up when I talk/text/snap with them.And yet, I don’t do it enough.
Get organized with giving.I donate here and there, but in a highly disorganized fashion.I want to consider what causes and organizations I value and admire (and Caleb, too) and get organized about making donations to them.
Reflect/journal for at least fifteen minutes each day.
Continue to invest in Spiritual Direction, and integrate what Rosemary (my Spiritual Director) has to say to me into my life.
When I have a lull moment — in the grocery store line, or the shower or the car — give a “help, thanks, wow” prayer: ask for help with something I need, say thanks for something I’m grateful for, and lift a word of praise.
A feeling of skepticism accompanies most of my moments of prayer; let the skepticism go.
Wear heels more, because: look good, feel good, do good.Or, as William James more poignantly wrote, “Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.”In other words, if I look poised, I will feel more poised, and I will be more poised.
Floss daily and take vitamins at least a few times each week.Flossing is one of those things that I have known for a long time I should do regularly, but just couldn’t have been bothered about it.I figured that 2017 was as good a time to commit to this as any, and I knew that developing this healthy habit would help me feel on top of my life; the same goes for vitamins.These goals loosely tie into poise for the same reason as wearing heals.
Before going into situations that I know will push my buttons, prepare myself: take a deep breath and say a prayer for composure and remind myself that I have agency and the ability to be poised.Then go act accordingly!
It’s Labor Day, marking the end of summer and the beginning of fall, as far as I’m concerned. And also as far as I’m concerned, it’s been the perfect weekend for this transition. Saturday was warm and sunny, and Caleb and I spent the day in Keene, New Hampshire, soaking in one last summer day trip. We toured the Horatio Colony Museum (a fantastic tour! Engaging, informative, private, and free!), had a delicious patio lunch at Stage, walked through the town’s weekly Farmers’ Market, happened upon a special weekend art fair, went to Mass at the local Catholic church, and meandered through Keene State College (a beautiful campus, and, interestingly, one of the few liberal arts state schools). Today, on the other hand, has felt perfectly autumnal — cool, windy and grey — and I’ve spent the day inside drinking coffee, writing, reading, and organizing my life (cleaning out my desk and catching up on e-mails, mostly; it’s amazing how much inner order can come from having order in these two realms).
I love it when time and circumstances line up in this way, creating a special kind of space for transition and for paying attention to time (the passing of it and the looking towards it). It helps me to give thanks for the past, honor the present, and look forward to the future, and to overall cherish the sacredness of life.
Reflecting on the past and setting intentions for the future help me to cherish the sacredness of life, as well. And so now, to reflect on my summer and the goals that I set for it…
Take a day trip to a new location each week that doesn’t involve some other sort of travel
There were many trips, day and otherwise, this summer. In a whirlwind of the first weekend of June, we went to Port Clinton, OH to see Aunt Barb, to Cleveland for a dear college friend’s wedding, and to Columbus for our precious niece’s Baptism. Later in June we spent a glorious week in Kiawah with Caleb’s family (but first, a weekend in Charleston) and a special long weekend in Shady Grove for my sister’s pre-wedding festivities. We went to Bristol, Little Compton, Concord and Keene, and spent several individual days or parts of days in Boston seeing friends (and we hosted several different friends in Providence). And we spent a stellar seven days hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, with our very best of friends (cousins and siblings). We packed the summer with activity.
Eat/drink on the deck/patio of a new (to us) restaurant each non-travelling week
There was no shortage of good food this summer. Enough said.
Talk to an old friend on the phone/facetime/skype every week
Several weeks ago, I modified this goal to say that if, in the last three weeks of summer, I caught up with five old friends, I would call the goal complete. And that I did!
Write one blog post each week
I skimped on this goal these past few weeks, but feel satisfied with the time I spent writing for other, non-blog endeavors, so no hard feelings on this one.
Complete a few projects that have been on my list for ages:
Create a photo wall to display recently taken pictures
Complete a writing project
Written! Submitted! Accepted??? I hope! But, as I know all too well, I can’t control outcomes, only inputs. So, I’ve done what I can and am letting go of the rest.
Buy and fill in a birthday calendar
Hang artwork that has accumulated
Learn how to use Caleb’s camera
Yes! …with lots of practice needed, of course. And what better time and place for practice than in a New England autumn?!
A year ago today, Caleb and I packed the last of our boxes, watched as movers emptied our Somerville apartment, dropped our keys in the landlady’s mail box, and followed the moving truck to our new apartment in Providence.We carried boxes up to our third floor “Victorian Treehouse” (our tree-line view inspired this nickname), debated the ideal placement of our bed, and mourned our beloved hand-me-down red couch as we realized that it wouldn’t fit through our narrow doorway.At the end of the day, exhausted, we ate Indian food at a now-favorite local whole-in-the-wall gem.
While my predominant thought at the moment is how glad I am that we’re spending the day in a coffee shop writing instead of bleeding money, sweat and tears in the moving process, I’m also feeling reflective as I consider the year that we have had in Providence.Anniversaries, like holidays, endings, and beginnings, are a good opportunity to look back on the past, feel appreciation for the present and look towards the future.And I think that this act of looking back, examining the lowlights and the highlights, can help me to soak in the beauty of the present and move forward with energy, joy, and grit.
Hard stuff about my first year in Providence
I was homesick for Boston for much of the year, and if I am being completely honest, much as I have come to love Providence, there are things that I still miss so, so much about my old city.I miss the MBTA.I miss the vibrancy of my old Church.I just miss the specifics of Boston: the old brownstones of Commonwealth Ave and the lively activity of Harvard Square and the rarified air of the Boston Public Library and narrow little streets of Beacon Hill.
It was crazy hard to make friends, and so I felt lonely for a lot of the year.I’ve made some friends and am building relationships, but I still don’t feel at my old-social-level.
Working at a job that requires a significant commute and a significant amount of evening and weekend hours is less than ideal.It presented a stumbling block socially.
Highlights of my year in Providence
There is good, good food in this city.We could go to a new restaurant every week and still have more to explore.There is great coffee shop culture, and a huge variety of food, and lots of places with amazing ambiance as well as eats.
Being able to live in a place where we can afford a beautiful apartment is a gift.I love our sunny kitchen, and our spacious dining area, and our cozy living room.I love our gallery wall and my yellow desk and our little parking spot and our wood-paneled stair case.
I’ve found special, life-giving communities in my new city.The two that come to mind are the Chaplaincy Center, though which I’ve gotten the opportunity to work in a variety of clinical settings and meed a wide range of people whose work and ways of being I admire, and the Providence Atheneum, that gorgeous little library that also serves as a magnet for smart, witty and creative people.
Having a car (which we likely would never have in Boston) enabled Caleb and I to explore the New England area more, which brought us a lot of fun this year.Favorite trips included Portland, the Cape, Newport and Bristol.
I love living in a walkable city. Even though Caleb and I have a car, we more or less only use it when taking trips, or when I commute to work.This feels like a priority for me in terms of places that I live.
This city is clean and has beautiful architecture and landscaping.I really value being in an aesthetically pleasing environment.
Lessons that I’ve learned/Themes of the year
There’s no way out but through: moving is hard, making friends is hard, starting from scratch in terms of networking is hard.It will always be hard before it becomes easy.
Things take time: building a sense of community, making friends, and finding special places.
Distance relationships with people I love are worth spending time and money on nurturing.Having a car made driving to visit my family and friends in PA possible, and so I found myself going often.The time and energy are worth it.The same goes for friendships in Boston.It’s worth spending money on a commuter rail ticket to meet a friend for coffee; it’s worth driving in to the city to meet with my old book club.
“Going for it” with persistency is hard, but worth it.I have a hard time pushing myself to put myself out there.It feels scary and exhausting.But that’s the only way to meet new people, get integrated in a community and take on new roles.
During a recent day-trip into Boston, I was struck by how keenly homesick I felt for the city: the streets lined with brownstone row houses, the screeching start and stop of the MBTA subway cars, the sidewalks filled with young-professionals walking at a clip, the waterfront breeze inherent to a coastal city, and the abundance of coffee shops, one on every corner.Even as I sat amidst it all, I felt an overwhelming longing for it — a longing to grab the city and hang on to it, to have it as a part of my everyday again, to be living it with regularity, not observing it from the stance of a visiting outsider.
What was this homesickness?Why did I feel such sadness and longing for Boston when I simultaneously feel so content in my new city, Providence? Read more