As we’re more than five months into 2019, I thought this would be a good time to update you on how I’m doing with my theme for the year. As you may remember, I selected “freedom” as my word/theme for 2019. I explained my reasons for this choice back in January, but I’d like to delve a bit deeper today and highlight some of the areas I’m planning to focus on for the remainder of the year.
I hope that shining a spotlight on my theme for the year will help you to think about what you’d like to shift in your life before the year 2020 begins. It doesn’t matter if you’ve chosen a theme or specific goals for this year or not, as most of us have some sense of what we’d like to change in our lives. Also, it’s not too late to choose a theme or set a few intentions now, as there’s really nothing magical about January 1st in terms of goal-setting. We have the power and the possibility to change our lives at any time. June 4th – or any other day – is as good a time as any to think about what is and isn’t working for you in the various areas of your life.
I selected freedom as my word for 2019 because I noticed a distinct lack of feeling free in my life despite the reality of my situation. What’s true is that I have a lot more freedom than many in terms of my time, money, and advantages. But freedom doesn’t only have to do with objective reality; it’s also about how we feel inside and how we live our lives. It’s all too easy to place shackles on ourselves that aren’t really there through our self-imposed rules, restrictions, and expectations. If we think we’re supposed to do, be, act, or accomplish particular things, we may be less likely to embrace the freedom we are fortunate to have in our lives. This has definitely been the case for me.
I hold myself to much higher standards than I have for other people. I also worry far too much about what other people think and I ascribe viewpoints to others about me that probably aren’t even true. But even if they are true, is it worth torturing myself to try to make everyone like and approve of me? Objectively, I know it’s not worth it, nor is it even possible to be universally liked and respected, but that doesn’t stop some of us from pushing for such a result. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for misery and discontent, and I’m tired of living my life that way!
Over the past couple of years, I have seen a number of family members, friends, and acquaintances decline and a few of them may not be long for this world. This has led me to become more in touch with my own mortality than I’ve ever been before. Additionally, as I approach my 53rd birthday, I’m aware that I don’t have unlimited time, and I have started to question whether or not I want to continue living on the same trajectory as I’ve been on for the past many years.
The answer is an unequivocal no! I don’t want to approach the end of my life and wonder whether or not I have truly lived. Although I continue to have chronic health issues that may or may not ever fully leave me, I’m aware that I still have the power and the opportunity to better embrace life than I have been doing. I may not be able to do everything that I’d ultimately like to do, but I can do more than what I have been doing. I can better honor the gift of my life by truly experiencing it rather than perpetually standing by on the sidelines.
How I’ve Already Embraced Freedom This Year
As I reflected back upon the past five months, I realized that I’ve already been furthering my freedom theme more than I thought. In fact, many of my posts this year have centered on releasing some of the shackles I’ve placed upon myself:
- I decided to stop tracking what I wear and to focus instead on just doing “the hanger trick.” I haven’t missed the more in-depth tracking that I did for eight years. It served a valuable purpose in my life for a while, but it no longer was a good fit for me and I haven’t looked back. The simplicity of “the hanger trick” is a better approach for me now and it still allows me to understand in a simple fashion what I am and am not wearing.
- I changed the narrative about my gray hair transition and reset my start date to September 2017, when what was supposed to be a toner stained my hair and set my progress pretty much back to zero. A lot of the inner pain I was experiencing about my hair had to do with telling myself that it had been almost three years (at that time) since I started the process and I was still not done. While it’s true that I started transitioning in April 2016, because I used color so much along the way (highlights, toners, etc.), that wasn’t a true start date (and it’s why I caution against using color on the road to going gray). Since I prefer to wear my hair longer, there’s still some color left on the top layer, but that’s natural at less than the two year point for my length of hair and an average hair growth of half an inch per month. I’m now less riddled by the anguish and self-recrimination I was experiencing when I kept thinking of the April 2016 start date.
- I have incorporated some practices in my life to help deal with my long-standing anxiety and depression. I still need to improve my consistency in adhering to these practices, but I’m doing better at regularly engaging in introspection, spending time in nature, connecting with others, doing fun activities, and affording myself a bit of grace. I would like to get more sunlight, better adhere to a routine, and sleep more, but I’m doing better with my self-care than I did in 2018, which is a good thing.
- I have recognized the importance of novelty and I’m doing better at including more of it in my life. I want to increase the frequency of my trying new things, but my husband and I have visited a few new restaurants recently and we also took the trolley inland on Memorial Day weekend to have lunch and then rode it downtown for a bit of exploring. This allowed us to gain a new perspective on the city where we’ve lived for 17 years (and where he grew up). Novel experiences don’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Just a few hours here and there can make a big difference in how we experience our lives and the passage of time.
- I started the “Half Project” to help me pare down my wardrobe and improve my shopping success rate. I realized recently that having a large wardrobe increases my anxiety and impinges upon my freedom, as it takes a lot of time and energy to maintain so much clothing and to select items to wear each day. I’m already feeling freer having a smaller number of pieces in my active wardrobe, although I know that many other items reside in my “holding zone” and “skinny box.” I look forward to paring things down through my year-long experience and to making better selections as a result of the challenge and the guidelines I have set for myself.
Other Areas I’d Like to Address in 2019
It was nice to see that I’ve made more progress than I thought with my 2019 freedom goal. I wanted to take a few moments to acknowledge what I’ve done before delving into the areas that I’d like to continue to work on in the coming months. I think many of us tend to focus more on what we haven’t accomplished and what’s not right about our lives instead of celebrating what we have done to forward our intentions, goals, and dreams. I know this is definitely the case for me, so I wanted to start with the positives before looking at where I’m lacking in terms of freedom.
Below are the areas I’d like to focus on in the remaining seven months of the year. Some of them were also highlighted above in terms of the progress I’ve made thus far. However, I’d still like to move forward and make further strides toward increased freedom with those aspects of my life.
I would like to do better with incorporating some more routine in my life. I know that may sound contrary to my goal of increased freedom, but I feel that some level of routine can actually give us more freedom. If we get the things that are important to us done earlier in the day or week, we are then freed up to devote more time and attention to leisure activities and self-care.
I’d also like to be less of a “taskmaster” with myself and to have fewer items on my to-do list. As it is now, I usually end up feeling bad about myself because I set so many items to do that it’s almost impossible to get them all done. It would be far better to be more selective with my action items to allow myself a better chance of feeling successful. I’d also like to change how I track my to-do items and I may explore the use of a “bullet journal.” If anyone has any insights or suggestions regarding this topic, please share them.
Relationships / Contact
I am a “less is more” person when it comes to how often I am in contact with friends and family members. I aim for quality over quantity and am okay with seeing or talking to the people in my life less often. However, this seems to be in conflict with the way most people approach relationships and contact today. I find that I just can’t keep up with what feels like “quotas” for how often to keep in touch with people, which leads me to feel anxious and bad about myself.
I often feel like certain people are angry or upset with me for not being in touch as often as they’d like. I need to find a happy medium that will work both for me and the people in my life. I realize that I’ll probably never be able to make everyone happy in this regard, but I want to stop feeling so bad about it. I don’t know the answer, but this is something I’d like to explore and work on in the coming months.
Technology / Social Media
Likewise, I continue to struggle with technology, especially social media. For my own well-being, I need to minimize the time I spend on social media sites and I have been doing that. However, when I do go on Facebook, for example, even an hour feels like a drop in the bucket when I visit certain groups because of the tremendous amount of engagement there. I cannot keep up and the amount that I am able to engage always feels like it’s just not good enough. This is impacting my freedom and I’m not sure what to do about it.
It’s hard for me because I don’t like the Facebook interface at all, but I do like the people with whom I engage there. Some people might recommend that I leave Facebook, but the thought of keeping in contact with all of these people individually fills me with even more anxiety. Thus, I need to figure out a solution that will work for me, but I’m not sure how… I know a lot of people will never understand why social media is so hard for me, as we’re all wired differently. The endless scroll and overabundance of notifications that I find so triggering just don’t bother others as much as they bother me. In any event, I need to find a happy medium with social media just like with my email, phone, and in-person interactions.
As some of you know, I struggled with eating disorders for many years before finally achieving freedom with food in my thirties. Unfortunately, dealing with health issues and going through menopause has set me back in terms of my eating attitudes and behavior. I feel like I don’t know what to eat in order to be satiated, feel okay, and achieve and maintain a weight that feels good to me. I feel like I spend far too much time and energy on preparing and eating food and I continue to weigh more than I’d like. I want to find a way to feel free with food once again. I would like eating to feel easier and a lot less fraught. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, but this is something I will focus on in future posts (I’m open to ideas, so please feel free to share what has worked for you!).
I think I have worse body image than anyone I know and I’m tired of it! I feel self-conscious of the way I look so much of the time and this is something I would like to change. Finally completing my gray hair transition will help, as it’s been hard for me to walk around with two-toned hair, especially since the colored part turned a brassy shade that clashes with my skin tone and clothing. I usually feel that I need to lose weight in order to have better body image, but what if I’m unable to do so? After all, my body has been larger than I’d like ever since I went through menopause three years ago. Although I’ve managed to drop a bit of weight, many of my pants are still too tight and my midsection isn’t as slim as it used to be, either.
Do I really want to waste so much of my life force on feeling bad about my body? The answer is no. I plan to read the new book, Beyond Beautiful: A Practical Guide to Being Happy, Confident, and You in a Looks-Obsessed World. What I really like about this book is that it focuses on developing a body neutral attitude rather than the type of body positivity that has often been espoused and that feels completely unrealistic to people like me. I would like to stop evaluating my worth as a human being by the size of my thighs and the number on a scale or an item of clothing. I have wasted far too much time, energy, and anguish over feeling bad about the way I look. I don’t want to live this way anymore, but I don’t know how to stop with the self-criticism and self-judgment that feels so ingrained in me. I also plan to refer back to the posts I’ve written on body image, including the two-part series last year that focused on tips from friends on overcoming negative body image (part one | part two).
My “Half Project” is all about feeling better – and freer – about my wardrobe. I’m tired of having too many clothes and making shopping mistakes. It feels heavy and awful to look into my closet and see an abundance of bad choices looking back at me. It’s frustrating to keep making similar mistakes over and over again, but I know that much of that has to do with shopping out of a sense of anxiety and low self-esteem.
One thing that’s helping me a lot with my wardrobe is a program called Dressing Your Truth. This program, which starts with a free online course, is based upon the premise that there are four different energy types and we all lead with one of them. Our primary type not only relates to the way we approach the world and express our personalities, it also governs what type of clothing styles look best on us. It may sound hokey – and I originally abandoned it after first discovering it back in 2012, but I’m finding that it’s right on in terms of my type. I can now clearly see why I prefer certain types of clothes and why many of my closet “benchwarmers” earned that status.
I’m sure I will write more about Dressing Your Truth as time goes on, but for now I’m just trying to absorb as much information as I can. I joined their membership program called Lifestyle and am finding it to be well worth the $95 yearly investment. I think that the combination of Dressing Your Truth and my “Half Project” will help me to experience more freedom with my wardrobe, as I pare down the items that don’t work for me and purposefully add a small number of items (my two items per month limit after my shopping pause) that do work.
I mentioned worrying too much about what other people think. This is a big problem for me, even now that I am in my fifties. I’ve often read that what’s great about this stage in life is caring less about the opinions of others and being more true to ourselves. That has yet to happen for me, but that’s an intention I’m setting for myself. I want to feel that it’s okay to be who I am. Interestingly, although I started learning about energy profiling and Dressing Your Truth as a way to improve my style and my shopping track record, it’s doing so much more for me.
I’ve come to see that I have been trying to be someone I’m not. My energy type (Type 4) is a stiller, more reflective and introspective type, but I have been comparing myself to people of other types and finding myself lacking. I keep thinking I should be able to have many proverbial balls in the air and navigate a busy life calmly and easily like my husband and others do. But that’s not me and I’m tired of wearing myself out trying to measure up to such standards. I want to embrace who I am and live in accordance with my own energy and desires. I think I will be much happier, more peaceful – and feel freer – as a result.
That may all feel like a tall order for seven months, and it is. But the truth is that I’m going to be living my life anyway, so I may as well set intentions for how I’d like things to feel and manifest for myself. If I come to the end of 2019 and feel even 25% freer than I did at the beginning of the year, I will consider that a huge win! I’m not expecting perfection or a 180 degree shift, but I would like to experience a greater degree of freedom in the areas highlighted above. I believe I can get there, and I also know that I am a work in progress and will continue to move forward in all of these areas in 2020 and beyond. Stay tuned for more in-depth posts about the various aspects of my “freedom project” as the year progresses.
I’d love to hear about the themes or goals you’ve taken on this year and what you’d like to see shift before December 31st. I invite you to share your wins, challenges, and insights in the comments section. Also, if you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions about what I’ve shared, please chime in. In my next post, I’ll offer an update on the first month of my “Half Project,” the swaps I’m making, and what I’m learning as I dress with less and slow down the churn in my wardrobe.