This blog has been drifting a while, but now it’s been a year since I last posted—to share my theme for 2020. The absence here was reflective of the intensity in (work) life, which was only amplified by working from home during global crises. But I’m not really here to rehash the year that was, rather to set the touchstone for the year ahead, carrying forward an approach I picked up a few years back. Instead of setting resolutions—which seem even more elusive than ever with all the unpredictability—I’ve settled into picking a word or theme for the year:
In 2020, we certainly achieved the stress part of growth. For me, the rest was harder to come by as the year dragged on and the intensity of my work built. Once the massive grant I was coordinating was submitted, I checked out and leaned into the rest. I stopped checking work email, took Outlook off my phone, and have spent the last almost 3 weeks just doing… whatever, within the confines of staying close to home and COVID safe. It’s involved a lot of cooking and reading, some running and hiking, streaming shows and TV.
Now as my break approaches its close, I find my thoughts turning to what my focus will be for 2021.
What do we do after a year that brought so stress, confusion, upheaval, uncertainty, disruption? What do we do when realize how fragile our plans are, how much is beyond our control? What do we do as we see some hope on the horizon but remain unsure of how long it will take to get there and what things may change along the way?
Heading into 2020, I took on a new role at work, became a manager, (remotely) hired and onboarded my first direct report. We had a clear and enormous project that easily filled the time for the year. Now that it’s done, it’s time to translate our broader roles on paper into practice.
Last year, I also took on a big running goal. I ticked off 50 miles (and 16,000 ft of elevation gain) on a local mountain. I lost some momentum late in the year as stress mounted, but I’m building back. I’ve shown myself I’m capable of something huge, and now I get to think about how I push my boundaries from here.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of building something, in the expectation (even of my own making) to prove my skill or worth. What I take on in the midst of that excitement and expectation can create imbalance, if I’m not mindful. Intense focus on one thing while another also needs care and attention. Picking up too much of the work myself. Tending to issues that could be returned others. Losing the intention or purpose. Ignoring the signs of fatigue, injury, stress.
I’m terribly inconsistent in maintaining a yoga practice, but a concept that strikes me is finding the center. There’s nothing passive about it. Even as I am by outward appearances (mostly) still, I’m grounding the corners of your feet or drawing your spine long or tightening core muscles. Poses start with one of a few foundations, and I can add features to increase the complexity or difficulty depending on where I am physically and mentally that day. When I begin to feel the imbalance, to tip out of the pose, I adjust those small tensions—and if I can’t recover, I just return to the center, ground myself, and try again, perhaps with a different modification.
And so, I will try to carry this word with me through 2021: Center. I will seek out those core ideas and practices that serve as the foundation for my work, my relationships, my health. I will learn better and commit to those things that ground me. And as strain and tension builds, threatening to topple me, I will strive to bring myself back to that center and make adjustments to strengthen my approach going forward.