Things I've Learned In 2016
Here are a few things that've stuck. Stream-of-conciousness style, because, well, I'm sitting in a coffee shop cranking this out before my kid wakes up and that's what you get.
1. We may have left San Francisco, but we definitely still live in a blue bubble. Ahem. Never saw THAT coming. (Cue memories of Berkeley, 2004, and our total sense of joyful certainty that Dubya could never, ever, possibly, ever be re-elected. Same story, different election. 'Murica, I hardly knew ye.)
2. Library is king. We are so in love. Two libraries within striking distance, and we are there 3-4 times a week. My kid doesn't know what a mall is, but he knows where to find Franklin, Babar, Strega Nona, the Berenstain Bears, Moana, and Lightning McQueen. Thank you, God, for the ongoing divine revelation that is the public library. You give me hope.
3. Social media is great. Say what you want about it, especially in the mindfulness/yoga circles I traverse, where it's so easy to demonize as a time-suck, yada yada. But Twitter, FB, and Instagram bring such good things to my life. Twitter is ensconced as my go-to source for political news and commentary (although my relationship with it has changed dramatically in the last few months; now I mostly feel anxiety on opening it up, wondering "What did he do now?"). It's smart and, if you follow the right people, remarkably content-rich. FB keeps me connected to the many wonderful people from all corners of the country where I've lived. Everybody's busy and nobody has time to talk on the phone. I'm so grateful to get a glimpse of all your lives: your children, your work, your passions. Don't diss it. FB keeps us connected in a way we otherwise wouldn't be. And Instagram. New to me, but great. Another wonderfully-pleasant surprise, connecting me to new and old friends and colleagues all the time, and lending a window of beauty to my life. In spite of the detritus: I am grateful.
4. Speaking of: FB birthdays offer a sweet little opportunity to practice lovingkindness every day. Take the time to wish people a happy birthday. Send them a quiet breath or two of metta before you move on. It's such a sleeper of a tender, simple daily practice. And, you know what? It makes people feel seen. And isn't that so nice?
5. Dig in. Cultivate the relationships you have. Go deeper.
6. Simple is best. I read Simplicity Parenting earlier this year and it really reinforced this already-dear sentiment. My little family has a lovely, boring routine of hiking, library, school, church, and work. It feels just right. Nothing sexy. Nothing over-committed. Just right. (Routines matter. Especially when you have little kids.)
7. Cook at home. Crockpots are ideal for lazy cooks. You throw some shit in a pot, turn it on, and ignore it for five hours. WIN. Forks Over Knives continues to be my best friend. Check it out.
8. Vegan, gluten-free is still the way to be (for me). Turning 38 next year, and I've never felt so strong, healthy, and flexible in my life. That is not an accident. It can take hard work at first, but the GF thing is now eight years strong, and damn if those haven't been the best eight years of my life.
9. Having a small child gets easier. My kid is approaching three, and this is such a sweet spot. We are finally sleeping like humans (most of the time) and he naps two hours a day and plays harmonica and reads books and does badass puzzles and goes to a darling Waldorf preschool where he sings cute songs and learns puppet shows about jack-o-lanterns. I have time to do yoga and read and write again. Sure, most days it's tough to get him to wash his hair, and it can take 45 minutes to get out of the house. But we laugh as much as we grit our teeth, and he's so goddamn cool.
10. Life is fragile. Don't take it for granted. A couple of physics professors from Portland State were just killed in a car accident last weekend. Their 4-year-old son was in the car, and survived. That poor child. We were out that way driving to Mount Hood last weekend, too. Could've been us. Don't take a single moment for granted. Death comes quickly. You never know.
11. Living near family is incredible. Game-changer. (Now if we can just get my other siblings out here, too...)
12. Holy shit this year did not end up as I pictured it would. This country is much-divided. I'm not sure what to do with it all. Vacillating between political passion and existential disenchantment. Constantly resisting the urge to hold up my Bernie sticker and say I TOLD YOU SO!!
13. I'm gonna miss the hell outta the Obamas. (SAVE US MICHELLE)
14. Aim for 100 rejections a year. Or a week. (Dude, I can manage 20 a day.) Rejections mean you're 1) doing creative work, and 2) putting it out there. YOU ARE MAKING YOUR ART. You win whether it gets published or not.
15. Practice makes practice.
16. Do what you can with what you've got. This dumpy little blog is 10 years old now. She's practically a grandma, and totally outdated, and hasn't been updated since like 2009 (social media share buttons, whaaa?). But she's a comfortable old friend, and a literary practice mat, and a journal of sorts, and a record of my life this last decade, and she started as a humble little blog that nobody read, and turned into a freelance writing career that now includes bucket-list publications like The Washington Post and Tricycle. Don't underestimate the power of shitty first drafts that nobody ever reads. Sometimes they turn into much, much more.
17. Health is everything. I read this article in the NYT documenting the year-long process of two gastric bypass patients the other day while my sick little guy napped on my lap, and I can't stop thinking about it. Made me appreciate so much. Little things like being able to tie my shoes and touch my toes. My life may be quiet and humble but I am grateful for a body that is healthy and strong, and a labor-of-love kind of job that incorporates holistic wellness into my family's everyday life. You don't have anything if you don't have your health.
18. Listening is learning. Podcasts continue to teach me so much. I'm an introvert, so I've always preferred the learning process of sitting back and soaking up information as opposed to engaged group-work style conversation. I love so much the fact that every day I can dial up a podcast as I hit my mat or drive to work and learn, learn, learn. So grateful for a new crop of podcasts (Rich Roll, Yogaland Podcast, Yoga Revealed, Sounds True Insights from the Edge, Sharon Salzberg, etc.) that is teaching me so many lessons about life, meaning, and wellness.
19. Almost-3-year-olds do not like to wear pants. Working on this one.
20. The Bay Area is not far away. Grateful for the quick flight, and for a few trips back over the last year. Looking forward to being there more often to teach and play in the year to come.
21. I may never be able to forgive evangelical Christianity for electing Drumpf. That's another story.
22. Amazon Prime saves my life on the regular. Two-day shipping ftw.
23. Some of the best articles get written on the fly as you dictate on your iPhone Notes app. Don't disregard the creative potential of stolen moments. Making art is not something that can be logistically or linearly dictated.
24. Don't try to drive in Portland when it snows. #shitshow
25. Grating potatoes is not for weenies. I grated three big potatoes for the most delicious Christmas morning breakfast burrito bake and my arms were sore for two days after. Cross-train your rock climbing and your yoga with a little potato-grating and you'll be good to go.
Grace and space to you in 2017.
2016, don't let the door hit you on the way out.