For more years than I can count, Saturday nights were for poetry and groceries. I'd buy new volumes, tuck them into my bag, and head on to the next shop for bread and likely cheese, because you will almost always find cheese in my basket, then go home to read good words and eat good food. It was quietly indulgent, simple, blissful, and I felt so alive at the almost end of every week. A few years ago I started reading less poetry, and while this could easily be linked to the end of graduate school, I think it was also tied to a kind of weight I gathered up around me after graduation and starting back to a kind of work that was not teaching; there was no time for words that might make me long for what was not, and practicality reigned me in every time I started to wander. I was exhausted from school, unsure of the next step, and feeling overwhelmed by the "shoulds", so I stuck close to what seemed reasonable and tried not to let my mind tip toe off into questions of what could be, and instead grounded myself in what was.
Last year, the year of beginnings, I found a sneaky way of making both work for me - I was practical and poised, taking action, risks that were calculated, and I'd gone into it all knowing that if it didn't work, I would try again. The thing is, though I am so eternally grateful for every last one of those beginnings, even the ones that flopped, I'd decided whether or not I thought they would work, and if I could handle it if they didn't, way before I even took the leap. I went into each one with that same heart and mind I'd been exercising for the past few years - the one that once got a fortune that read "keep your idealism practical" and took it literally. I survived the ones that didn't work, and that was INCREDIBLE, but now, as I begin a new year, setting forth new intentions and challenges, I wonder what it would be like to do more than just survive.
I wrote somewhere the other day that last year was all about showing up to the party, and that this year would be about dancing once I got there. Dancing seems to be a theme in this flourishing business, and so far most of mine happens in the kitchen on our black and white tiled floor that is really more black and dirty cream, or in our narrow little hallway, where I've knocked every single picture hung on the wall into a kind of cockeyed dance of their own.
But beyond all the metaphors, the reality is this: last year came with a lot of amazing starts, but now it's time for a little bravery, a little growth, a little risk and resourcefulness, a little 'all in', and a lot of trust in myself. I think maybe that's why I struggled at first with picking a word when last year's felt so right from the very start - because this year's was going to choose me, and it was going to be a lot of words rolled into one, and it was going to ask me to stop trying to measure everything out all the darn time and just be in it, all the way.
This year I want to keep showing up, of course I do, but more than that, I want to be right in the middle of where I am now, amidst all these glorious beginnings, and I want to downright shine. The thing about shining for me is that it's always come with the worry of being "too much" - or being seen as someone who cares too much, or shares too much, is too sensitive, or too selfish. Man, that's a lot of a lot. I am beginning to think though that all that worrying is more about myself than anyone else, because yeah, there will be people who meet me and think those exact thoughts, but that's nothing more than being alive in the world, and being myself, really fully being myself and flourishing isn't going to change that, it might just speed up how quickly someone gets to know that part of me. I don't want to be the kind of person who plays it cool so that I can be somewhat tolerable to a large group of people. I want to be the kind of person who bursts into bloom unapologetically, and who is thriving enough to be okay with the fact that some of the very best things in my life have happened just after I've royally embarrassed myself, and that my kind of klutzy, well-intentioned actions and honesty isn't for everyone. I want to stop weighing out how much I am willing to lose, and just go for it. What if, and this is the question I keep shocking myself with, what if all I do is win? (Go ahead, I'm singing that song now, too.)
So this year I am going back to those beginnings and asking myself what more I would have done had I not been so measured. I am looking at what I wanted but worried over, and I am consulting my favorite lines of poetry like a road map, inviting the sense of wonder, hope, and longing back into my world in a way that is less about sadness and more about growth.
I am making lists about all the ways I'd love to flourish this year, and some are so tiny they seem almost comical to write out (wear hot pink nail polish! share more process videos! braid my hair more often!), and some are so big or lofty that I know very well this year might not bring them into my life, but part of flourishing, the part that flowers know so well, is seeking the sun, and even though they make my insides feel like jelly and that practical part of my brain is screaming "take it down a notch", I write them out anyone so that they exist outside of my heart, and that's kind of amazing all on it's own (publish a children's book! be interviewed for a podcast! teach a class in person!).
In just a couple hours Andrew will be home from work and we will head out to the bookshop and then for groceries, and we'll come home and have dinner, and I'll flip through the new pages I've acquired and I will read him lines and he'll smile at me because he is a fan of my klutzy well-intentioned honesty, and he loves that I get teary reading out loud sometimes because the "too muchness" of how good words can sometimes be is more than my heart can take, in the best possible way.
I am ready for this new year, which feels odd to say since I tiptoed cautiously into the last few, peering around corners before turning. This year I am hoping to flourish my way down the halls, through the doors, around the corners, up and down all the unexpected hills, and if I am too much, then I am too much, and I will love me just the same.