Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

This past year has been…

Ok, let me start over.

This last couple of years have been a mess. I’ve been up and down- mostly down, if I’m honest. I’ve let a lot of things slide, and a lot of things have run right over the top of me. I struggle to remember specific things that have happened, and when, and in what order. The months bleed together and eventually the years. It’s a blur of lying in bed watching tv, hunched in my writing chair bullying myself into writing, or pacing the aisles of the same four grocery stores once a week as my only escape from my house.

Back in 2017, my friend Jacob started a trend of choosing one word as the theme of the year, rather than a list of resolutions. My One Word for 2018 was ‘Focus’ because I wanted to get my ducks in a row to publish. In 2019, it was ‘Growth’ because I wanted to grow my scope and my audience. In 2020, before everything went to shit, it was ‘Streamline’ because the previous years had been a messy jumble of chasing cars and licking wounds. I thought advanced planning would be the hack, and when everything went bad and I had no choice but to stay home and work, I thought I’d be right. In 2021, I chose ‘Regroup’ because most of my life I thought what I needed to do when I went off the rails was take a deep breath, get my feet under me, and buckle down.

Focus, concentrate, get your shit together.

Have you noticed a pattern? I think I do.

That doesn’t work. You’d think it would, it sounds like it would. But the problem is that my brain wants to focus, it wants to work. When I get thrown off, it’s not because I forgot to focus and needed to be reminded. It’s because I’m only focusing on one thing, and there’s more to life than focusing on writing, and more influences on my writing than my ability to focus.

A friend of mine made a joke recently about assigning me homework to ‘find the joy in life again.’ I laughed it off, but the idea festered.

I put so much pressure on my ability to write. If I stay in bed too long, it gets hard to write. If I don’t write, I get depressed and I stay in bed. And the cycle spirals downward until the deadlines just whoosh past me.

A couple weeks ago, I started an exercise regimen. I don’t like to exercise. I was built to sit and create. But the body wants to go on living, so it must be indulged like a toddler. One weekend, I overdid it and didn’t want to exercise, but I was already feeling down and knew that if I didn’t exercise, I’d have guilt on top of fatigue and disappointment.

The same friend Jacob started going back to the gym in his own journey of self care and in one gym selfie, he adapted an old wtiting adage- ‘I don’t enjoy exercising, I enjoy having exercised.’ He is such a wise friend, I value him immensely.

So I got up and worked out. It was clumsy and unsatisfying, but the absence of guilt was palpable. I was sore and annoyed, but not disappointed in myself.

And that’s when it hit me.

Writing is only part of the picture. It’s a big part of the picture, both in terms of time investment and emotional investment, but it’s not the whole picture, npt the only thing contributing to my mental health.

So this year, my One Word is ‘Whole’. I’ll still be focusing on writing, but I’ll be giving myself some space to attend to other aspects of my life, as well. Exercise, meditation, my hair and skin journeys, housework, hobbies, reading, and writing.

The thing is, 2021 was pretty much 2020: The Sequel, and even with vaccinations and a low death rate, Covid is not over. Life, for me at least, is not going to return to normal any time soon. I need to do something, I need to adjust. And I’m not built to mope.

There may be some growing pains, some missed personal deadlines, some wordcount goals falling short, but the trade-off might be overall improved mental, emotional, and physical health. Which in turn might produce better stamina and focus.

I anticipate falling off the proverbial wagon more than once, with all these balls to juggle. But I can’t imagine a downside to at least trying.

What about you? What One Word would you choose to carry with you through 2022?

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