In a comment on my last post, a reader reminded me that there are only a little over two months left in the decade. Since I’ve been blogging, I commonly reflect on the end of each year, but I don’t think I’ve ever formally looked back on a decade as it drew to a close. I was planning on doing an update on my “freedom” theme for 2019 today, but I’m going to take a bit of a different approach in this post.
Instead of reflecting on the progress I’ve made in terms of my freedom and sharing what else I’d like to shift before 2019 ends, I’m going to highlight the things I do not wish to bring forward with me into 2020 if at all possible. I may not succeed in leaving behind all of my burdens, but I believe in the power of intention to help facilitate positive transformation. So here’s my list, from the easiest to the most difficult…
This is something that I’ve already made great progress with and it’s had a definite positive impact on my life. For years, I shoehorned myself into tight, thigh-sucking pants and jeans simply because they were “in style,” but I was often miserable. The pant styles of the last decade or so have not been favorable for either my body type or my physical comfort, but I mostly had to just wear what was available to me. Because I’m tall, I typically only have about a tenth of the options that other women have, so that makes things that much harder. However, this year I have spent the time and the energy to find some better alternatives and I feel much more comfortable, both physically and emotionally, as a result.
I already feel highly self-conscious about my lower half, so encasing it in clothing that made me feel like a sausage did me no favors. I will leave the pants and jeans styles that require staying within a very narrow weight range to others. If I don’t look trendy or even “current” in my looser-fitting bottoms, so be it. Yes, the tide seems to be turning toward wider-leg styles, but most of those styles are also high-rise, so that again leaves me in an uncomfortable zone with my short-waisted body and ongoing digestive issues. Most of my new and more comfortable pants are cropped, so I will have to search far and wide for full-length styles for the cooler months that are on the horizon, but it will be worth it. If I have to, I’ll spend the upcoming cooler months in athleisure. No more uncomfortable clothes for me in 2020 and beyond!
For years, I have tracked anything and everything, from what I ate and how I spent most of my waking moments, to maintaining daily and weekly to-do lists that I couldn’t possibly complete. I did all of this tracking because I thought it would make me more effective and more successful. I feared that if I stopped keeping such close tabs on everything, I would be even less successful than I already am. While it’s true that I like data and statistics, the resulting information overload from all of the lists and logs only served to add to my already abundant anxiety. In recent months, I started to question if it was worth it to keep tracking things so vigilantly.
At the beginning of this year, I decided to stop tracking what I wore after having done so for eight years. At first, I was a bit scared to make this change because I thought I’d end up with a closet full of “benchwarmers.” However, I was tired of all of the number-crunching and the guilt around not wearing my clothes often enough. So I gave up all forms of wardrobe tracking beyond “the hanger trick”- and I’ve never looked back! Since such a burden has been lifted by giving up the wardrobe tracking, why not ease up on other forms of tracking, too? I’m not sure exactly what I will give up and what I will retain in this arena, but I like the idea of paring the tracking back and just letting myself be a bit more.
It has been said that guilt is a wasted emotion, so I must be wasting a lot of time! I don’t think a day ever goes by on which I don’t feel guilty for one thing or another. Interestingly, I feel a lot more guilt for the things I don’t do that for what I have actually done. And so much of what I feel guilty about isn’t even a real transgression. One of the primary sources of my guilt is around not being in touch with the people in my life often enough. Despite the fact that I truly believe that the “quality over quantity” philosophy applies to most situations, including personal contact, I’m burdened by guilt for not keeping up with today’s “always on,” constantly in touch culture.
I’ve mentioned my love/hate relationship with Facebook a number of times. A major source of my disdain and anxiety surrounding that medium is the guilt that it engenders in me. Because most other people seem to check in there on a daily (or even many times per day) basis, I feel guilty and wrong for not following suit, even though it’s been a very positive thing for me to take a few steps back. Removing the Facebook and Messenger apps from my phone helped to significantly decrease my anxiety, and I have no intention of ever adding them back. I’m considering taking the Gmail app off of my phone, too, as well as only checking text messages at predetermined times (as Cal Newport recommends in Digital Minimalism).
I also like Newport’s idea of “conversation office hours” and I’m thinking of giving that a try, too. I believe I’d feel a lot less guilty if I created a dedicated time for receiving and initiating calls, although there are bound to be some “gotchas” involved (like “phone tag”). But I’d probably feel less inadequate, anxious, and guilty about staying in touch – and I’d likely do a better job of it, too.
Symptoms Controlling My Life
For years, I have suffered from a plethora of health issues. I’ve mentioned this from time to time on the blog, but I never go into too much detail, partly because that’s not what this blog is about and partly because “it’s complicated.” I don’t even want to ponder how many plans I’ve cancelled due to my many symptoms, not to mention the many plans I simply never made in the first place. I have put my life on hold for far too long and I have lost many days, weeks, months, and even years because of pain and fear.
I’m tired of it! I may never be free of the symptoms that have become albatrosses around my neck and have robbed me of my life force for decades, but I want to be free of the fear. So often I say no to taking on anything new because I fear that I won’t be able to see it through. I fear that I will disappoint others and myself, so I sit on the sidelines of life over and over again. I feel like a bystander of my own life and meanwhile I keep getting older. Now I find myself smack dab in the center of middle-aged with the senior years fast approaching.
Part of why I struggled so much with overshopping was because shopping was something I could do when I felt well enough to go out. It didn’t require making plans that I might later have to cancel. The stores are always welcoming and when I got dressed in regular clothes and ventured out, I felt more normal and more alive. I was out among other people and I felt like I was more a part of the world instead of the sick person who didn’t leave the house on most days.
Of course, there are many other things I can do besides shop and I want to do more of those things. I also want to make more plans and take the risk that I might occasionally have to cancel them. But I want to challenge myself to see plans through whenever possible, as often when I push myself, it ends up being okay even if don’t feel fully up to par. I can always go home early if I need to, and I’ll already be wearing comfortable clothes because I’m saying no to uncomfortable clothing in 2020 and beyond!
The Opinions of Others
I worry far too much about what other people think of me. I don’t like to meet new people because I fear they will judge me, and I often don’t want to interact with people I haven’t seen in a while because I don’t have a good story to tell in terms of career and “success.” I even wore the uncomfortable clothes because I wanted other people to think I was “cool” and stylish. My gray hair transition took much longer than it should have because I feared criticism and judgment for walking around with two-toned hair, but the highlights and toners I used to try to camouflage it made me look worse and set back my progress.
I have long felt like the black sheep of my family and I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peer group at school, either. I still don’t feel like I belong in many groups because I’ve taken some unconventional paths in life, including not having children and switching jobs/careers multiple times. I often feel embarrassed to speak my truth and be who I am, but that costs me far too much and I’m ready to be done with it. No matter who we are, not everyone will like us, but so what? We won’t like everyone else, either. Yet as long as we find some people with whom we share mutual love and respect, that’s truly all we need.
I’m tired of apologizing for who I am and how I’ve lived my life. I’m tired of avoiding social situations because I don’t have a good answer to, “What do you do?” It’s a boring question anyway! I remember reading about someone who instead asked, “What is your dream?” and The Minimalists like to ask, “What are you passionate about?” In most instances, those questions will elicit far more interesting conversations, and those who are lucky enough to earn a living from pursuing their dreams and engaging in their passions can serve as an inspiration to others. Additionally, there is so much more to us than what we do or don’t do for work anyway, so why not talk about those things?
Obsessive Worry and Rumination
The Serenity Prayer is a tough one for me. I get so stuck on “the wisdom to know the difference” that I lack the peace and serenity I crave so deeply in life. On a fundamental level, I believe that I should be able to control everything and generate the outcomes I want in virtually all situations. This leads to excessive worry and rumination, which is definitely not compatible with any type of serenity! And when things don’t go my way, I always make it my fault. Personal responsibility is great, but sometimes we accept responsibility when it’s not ours to take. I’m overly self-critical (I could also add that one to this list!) and I hold myself to far higher standards that I have for other people, which is also exhausting.
As I move into 2020, I want to stop worrying about anything and everything and I want to stop the obsessive rumination that also plagues me. I want to stop second-guessing everything I do. Sometimes we have to make the best choice in the moment and then try not to look back. We can’t always know what’s right and best, no matter how much we research a situation. In many instances, we’ll be able to course correct if necessary, but even when we can’t, most decisions aren’t life or death issues anyway. We have to do our best and move on.
There’s a saying that worrying is praying for what we don’t want to happen. Most of what we worry about never comes to fruition and the worry simply serves to rob us of joy in the moment. I’m tired of stealing my own joy. Old habits die hard and I know this one will be hard to let go of, but I have to try. I have to kick my obsessive worrying and rumination habit to the curb and live more in the moment. Doing so will bring me more of the peace and freedom that I desire. Down with worry!
What I Want to Keep
I could probably add a few more items to the list, but the above pretty much encapsulates what I most want to leave behind. But there are also many things about myself and my life that I will gratefully take forward with me into the coming decade. I will happily embrace those I love most, including my wonderful husband and kitties, as well as the handful of friends who love and accept me for who I am. I will also continue to cherish this blog and my readers. Additionally, I am grateful for the personal qualities that will continue to guide my path, such as my curiosity, creativity, compassion, and courage. I hope that these traits, as well as my intelligence and love of learning, will accompany me for the rest of my days.
I look forward to embarking upon a new decade and I know that writing will continue to be a big part of my life. Thank you for your readership and your support, whether it has been for months or for years. Now I’d love to read about what you want to leave behind in the 2010’s and what you plan to carry forward into 2020 and beyond. I invite you to share your thoughts on that topic, as well as how you’d like to finish out 2019. I’ll be back soon with an update on my “freedom” theme, along with how I’m doing with my “half project” and other topics.