2016 was a very forward-facing year for me, and it was exhausting. Fortunately, most of this forward-facing was also quite exciting—events related to the release of Bystanders—and I’m above all grateful and stunned for all the opportunities I had to read and present and write guest posts. But being an introvert, I felt like the year was very energy-draining. The political climate in the U.S. was very upsetting in 2016–and continues to be so for the unforeseeable future. Art and Dash and I didn’t have a single vacation or getaway that wasn’t tacked on to some kind of writing event or other obligation. I constantly felt like I was being chased by an eternal to-do list that, rather than getting shorter, kept seeming longer and longer and longer the more things I checked off it.
So here we are on the last day of the year, and reflections and proclamations abound. Frankly, I’m tired. And my new year’s resolutions and thoughts seem to reflect this. Therefore, I’ve got a new mantra for 2017:
Say it with me…
Retreat, as in pull back, move inward, chill out. Not retreat from fighting the good fight, but rather stop and reflect, focus on priorities, be smarter about my time choices. I gave a lot last year, and this year I want to be much more selfish about my time. I want to concentrate on writing, producing creative work, daydreaming. I’m working on a longer writing project right now and it requires more focus and energy than writing flash fiction. If I don’t give myself permission to focus and say no to other things, I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. And I really want to finish it.
But even more than writing, I want to spend time with friends and family because I want to, not as tacked-on to a self-made book tour. Retreat to me doesn’t necessarily mean become a hermit. It means to make the effort to spend quality time with people who are important to me, in ways that are fulfilling, fun, relaxing, and present. It means calling an old friend on the phone rather than scrolling through Facebook newsfeeds and getting depressed at all the terrible shit going on in the world. Emailing someone a thoughtful hello message rather than getting in a Twitter fight with a total stranger. My energies have been very distracted this year and I feel weary by all of it. I need to retreat in order to protect my emotional health.
Repeat, as in seek out the things I’ve read, watched, done before and found joy in. Re-reading the classics, the books I fell in love with years ago. I first read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis when I was in second grade, and throughout the years I’ve re-read the series and always discovered something new about it and got something new out of it. I’d love to revisit other texts that I loved years ago and see if I can learn new things or, at least, remember why they spoke to me so strongly the first time.
The same goes for my favorite movies—Art and I have DVDs collecting dust on our shelves of movies that we never re-watch because it always seems there are so many new films we haven’t seen . But I’d like to take some time to relish in old friends in 2017 and dust off those shelves. We recently re-watched Star Wars: A New Hope with our son, who was watching it for the first time, and seeing it through his eyes was a delight.
But beyond movies and books, repeat to me also means spending more time doing things that bring me joy. Things that aren’t obligations—crafting, putting together puzzles, just having long conversations with people I love. Putting down the phone and computer more. Connecting offline more than online.
Want to #RetreatRepeat with me? I’ll try to make a list of books, movies, etc. that I’ve read, watched, done throughout the year, and I’d be interested to hear what other folks repeat as well.
Happy New Year to everyone, and may 2017 be your best year yet.