Starting the Year with Appreciation

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Happy 2022, my sweet Internet friends!

I love New Year’s. One of my traditions is to create a vision board, with visual reminders of what I would like to experience, accomplish, or feel during the year. I value the opportunity to approach the new year with a sense of intention. And in my mind, your “vision” for the year can be a work in progress. I haven’t finished my 2022 board yet!

Looking at my board, I can see how much I have to look forward to this year. At the heart of it all, though, I have one goal: to be present in each moment, as much as possible. To appreciate the big, exciting, moments, but also the ones that feel small or “skippable.”

My mind tends to wander off in all different directions: past, future, unlikely hypothetical scenarios. It’s not always a bad thing, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m steering the ship. So I’ve been experimenting with different ways to help myself stay grounded in the now. I’ve been trying meditation. And about two weeks ago, I decided to start a gratitude practice. Or, as I’m calling it, my appreciation journal.

Merriam-Webster describes appreciation as “an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something.” I think that’s just so perfect. I want to make a more conscious effort to acknowledge what is valuable in each day. So, before I go to bed, I’ve been filling out the following prompts in my journal:

  • I am grateful for . . .
  • I am proud of myself for . . .
  • I am looking forward to . . .

I’ve only completed nine entries so far—I don’t pressure myself to write if I’m not up for it!—but it’s already been a learning experience. Admittedly, the most challenging of the three is deciding what I’m proud of. I have a tendency to focus on what I could have done better, but I’m working on that.

Reflecting on the other two prompts, I’ve recognized that it’s easy to look forward to major events or feel grateful for out-of-the-ordinary acts of kindness. You don’t really need a journal to remind you. But on average days, there are so many things I look forward to without even noticing. My morning coffee. A phone call with a loved one. And the things I feel grateful for, as I’m wrapping up the day, could also be easily overlooked. A relaxing evening playing Animal Crossing. Someone showing me patience when I was feeling stressed.

This has made me realize how easy it is to generate more moments of joy on a day-to-day basis. Also, taking note of what you appreciate in your life breaks the cycle of overlooking the everyday good. In his essay entitled “Why Gratitude Is Good,” Dr. Robert Emmons, a leader in the scientific study on gratitude, explains, “I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness.”

I know not everyone likes to write, but I think there are all kinds of way to make appreciation or gratitude a habit. You could make a goal to take a photo each day of something that brings you joy. Or, once a month, you could do something special for someone who brings value to your life. As a bonus, I would recommend checking out these resources on gratitude from Greater Good Magazine, where the above article from Dr. Emmons was published. They have interesting information on gratitude’s benefits and suggestions for how to practice your gratefulness.

Wishing you a moment of joy where you are right now. I am grateful for you.

xoxo

Marie

Ending the Year with Purpose

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Hello my winter wonder-pals,

I don’t know about you, but the last couple months of this year have been flying by. 2021 has been a roller coaster of a year, and I don’t feel like I’m gently coasting back to the station just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year. I love the cold weather (when we have it), I love all the extra opportunities to gather with family and friends, and I love the ever-expanding universe of the Netflix Christmas movies. But recently I realized that my excitement about all of the above (and more!) was starting to twist into overwhelm. So much to do, so much I want to do, but seemingly so little time!

As I was reflecting on how I was feeling, I remembered a podcast episode I listened to earlier this year. Priya Parker was a guest on Brené Brown’s podcast called Unlocking Us. Priya is the author of the book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. During the episode, Brené shared a quote from the book that has stuck with me: “a category is not a purpose for a gathering.” For example, a birthday party is a category. The purpose is something only you can define. Maybe your purpose is to close out a difficult year in your life on a positive note, or to celebrate the year’s victories with the people who supported you along the way.

I thought that was such a smart way of looking at things. Even though I’m not hosting a gathering this year, I realized I could use the same strategy to approach the varied opportunities of the season. What am I hoping to express to someone by giving them a gift? What do I hope to feel, or who would I like to connect with, at the next holiday party? Maybe those things seem obvious, but as someone who loves calendars and to-do lists, I find it so valuable to stop and reconnect with my “why” for any given task or event, as opposed to just continuing to go go go.

In a moment of synchronicity, yesterday I came across a mediation on Headspace entitled “Re-defining Holidays.” The purpose of the exercise was to set an intention for the season. I came up with two: presence and peace of mind. By presence I mean, I don’t want to speed through the season. I want to be here for it. My mind can often spin off in a variety of directions, but if I’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it’s that our best opportunity to do good always exists in the present moment. And at the very least, I would like to do some good before the year ends by being truly present with the people I care about.

My reason for choosing peace of mind as my other intention is pretty straightforward. Ending this roller-coaster year with a sense of calm sounds pretty darn good.

In everything this month brings your way, I hope you are able to center yourself and what you need. My wish is that you are able to end the year with contentment in the present moment and hope for what’s yet to come.

See you in 2022!

xoxo

Marie

A Few Rays of Sunshine in January

Updated January 27, 2022

Hello my dear snow angels,

I was going to write something for you today. I had a bit of an epiphany recently, and I was so excited to share it. Unfortunately, that idea doesn’t seem to be done cooking, so I will have to save it for another time (perhaps next month).

While I enjoy winter, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. If you could use a pick-me-up, here are a few things that have added color to my days as of late.

A song: “Delight” by Avenue Beat

Like many folks, I was introduced to this girl group via their anti-ode to 2020. But I’ve gone back and listened to, well, everything else they’ve released. I really enjoy their sense of humor and lyrics, and this song is a *delight* to sing along to in the car.

A podcast episode: “Auld Lang Syne: A History and Remembrance” from The Anthropocene Reviewed

New Year’s is one of my favorite days of the year, and its unofficial anthem holds a special place in my heart. This tender deep-dive into the tune is slightly somber but full of hope. Which, actually, is how I’ve always heard the song.

A quote by Frida Kahlo Rebecca Martin*

I came across the below quote, oddly enough, while shopping for a new notebook. It has rolled around in my mind since. I like the way she puts it that, even when we feel strange or flawed, we’re never alone.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” Frida Kahlo Rebecca Martin

A movement: The Good Life by Jess Weiner

One of my favorite creators is starting a new chapter in her career, helping people develop their own Good Life. Her first (free!) workshop called “What Do I Really Want?” is available to watch through 2/2, but you can sign up for her newsletter or follow her on Instagram for more resources + updates.

What has been brightening your days as of late? I would love to hear in the comments below!

xoxo

Marie

*1/27/2022: The quote in this post was originally attributed to Frida Kahlo, which is a common misattribution. It was originally written by Rebecca Anderson and shared on the blog PostSecret in 2008. Read more about it here on BuzzFeed.

“Getting What You Deserve” . . . 12 ½ Years Later

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Hello New Year’s babes,

The other day on my drive to work, I had another time-travel moment. This time, a happy one. I remembered the first time I had a piece of my writing published. It was a guest blog for the website of Jess Weiner, one of my favorite creators and biggest inspirations. I was brace-faced and 17, and the post went up one week before my high school graduation. It’s no longer online anywhere I can find, but thankfully my dad had the foresight to screenshot it years ago:

I love reading things my Younger Self wrote; I always find a gem or two of wisdom from her to me. This time, it was the line “It seems to me that the root of all unkindness is a lack of respect, and the most basic kind is the kind we have for ourselves.”

The reason I was thinking about the blog post, though, is that I was thinking about the concept of deserving. I realized that when my brain is scanning in the background for mistakes I’ve made, what it’s doing is looking for reasons I don’t deserve to feel happy. Since you did X, you should feel Y. Decision Z could have caused A, B, C, D, etc. If so-and-so knew about E, what would they think? And on through the alphabet and back again. Logically, I know that the worst-case interpretations presented by my mind are literally never accurate. But emotionally, sometimes they feel terribly real.

When I was 17, being kind to myself meant believing I deserved everything I dreamed of and acting accordingly. Ultimately, that’s what I would want for anyone I love . . . and everyone I don’t know, too. But I think for me, right now, the idea of “deserving” feels a bit loaded. The math of life rarely adds up in a way that makes sense to me, anyway. I’ve been both blessed beyond measure and experienced pain I didn’t “earn.” I don’t have to look far beyond myself to see plenty of examples of things not working out for people as they “should.” Besides, one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that mental self-punishment does not make me a better person. It doesn’t solve the past or give anything to those around me. In fact, it often makes me so internally focused that I miss what’s going on for people I care about.

So while I believe that we all deserve the absolute best in every way, heading into this new year, I’ve decided to stop thinking about what I deserve (which lately has devolved into negative, past-focused thoughts) and think more about the life I want to create. I don’t have to understand the past or future or fairness or even the oddities of my own mind to make today a reasonably good day, headed in the direction I’d like to go. I’ve already found, in recent weeks, that being just a smidge more intentional with my days—finding small opportunities to connect with others or make progress on my goals—matters. The flicker of hope is there.

Life has these beautiful moments of synchronicity now and then. Jess Weiner, who so graciously shared my words about creating your dream life many years ago, is starting an endeavor to help others build The Good Life, on their own terms. (You better believe I already signed up for the first workshop!) Heading into the new year, I wish you the space, support, and resources you need to build your own Good Life. One day at a time.

xoxo

Marie

7 Quotes to Ignite Your Confidence

Hello my new year babies,

2018 is nearly over. Looking back over the year, I really can’t complain. I’m healthy, safe, and happy (at least most of the time), and I continue to be blessed beyond reason or measure. That being said, as I’ve acknowledged before, my life is in an interesting state of flux. I’d say I’m definitely pretty clear on where I want to be, but it appears I have a ways to go to get there. Often, when I can see an opportunity on the horizon, I have this fire-feeling of, I’d be so good for this! You have no idea! I just need someone to let me in the door! Which brings me back to this month’s topic, confidence.

Photo by Danil Aksenov on Unsplash

This year I found a sense of confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. It looks and feels different than I imagined it would. Our culture is an intensely visual one, and so I often think of confidence in image. A woman standing gloriously in her power, oozing Beyoncé “***Flawless” energy. Don’t get me wrong; I think images like that, especially when they showcase the actual, beautiful diversity of our world, are incredibly valuable. But for me, confidence has been a quiet, stable, private thing. It’s a foundation from which I can more easily take on challenges . A sense that I am worthy and capable of doing things well, and perhaps more importantly, that I will also be okay if things don’t go well.

Sometimes, when I put myself out there, and things don’t play out the way I hoped, I can hear the echo of how I would have reacted in the past. Why are you so awkward? You should have said this/done that. If only you were better/cooler/prettier… But generally speaking, I don’t feel or think that way anymore. I know my worth. And I also understand that life is complicated, and particularly in situations that involve other humans, placing blame is rarely a helpful or accurate way of interpreting things. Besides, if you showed up and did your best, what more could you really ask for?

I hope this new year brings you confidence. Both the flashy, sparkly kind, but also the type that will carry you through your most difficult trials. The quotes below by seven fabulous women are there to light your way.

xoxo

Marie

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir

“You are revolutionary. You have amazing ideas. You have the ability to create, to change, to solve, and to influence. Don’t sell yourself short by not spending your time, energy, and money on creating the best version of yourself.” – Lilly Singh

“As long as you keep going, you’ll keep getting better. And as you get better, you gain more confidence. That alone is success.” – Tamara Taylor

“Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do and, at some point, you will.” – Venus Williams

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

“I am my inspiration.” – Lizzo*

*This one is actually a song lyric from my confidence queen, Lizzo. Worth a listen (or fifty).