We’re over halfway through 2018 (how did that happen?!), so I thought it would be a good time to revisit my word for the year.
I chose flow for 2018 because I felt drawn to surrender to the natural flow of each day, rather than trying to plan for every moment (which is impossible with a baby, anyway). That, and I harbour not-so-secret ambitions to be a zen earth mama who floats around in a state of blissed-out mindfulness all day. Ha! Please tell me I’m not alone in that lofty ambition?
Some days, I flow like a zen yogi. Nothing feels too overwhelming, I find happiness in the most mundane of tasks (like wiping down the highchair for the 29th time), and I’m at peace with how things are.
But -- and it’s a big but -- I’ve realised my ‘good flow days’ tend to be when everything is going well. When Zoey is settled and well-rested, when the sun is shining, when I get enough sleep, flow is easy.
When Zoey is unsettled or cranky, and I’m exhausted, flow feels somewhat impossible. I find myself rallying against the way things are, trying to fix unsolvable problems, and losing faith in the bigger picture. I go from wannabe-zen-mama to obsessive googler, and I start to question my intuition. I start swimming against the tide instead of leaning into the discomfort and waiting for it to pass.
Basically, I suck at flow when life feels hard. Because who wants to flow, zen-like, through runny noses and sleep deprivation and mountains of dirty laundry? Not me. I want to hit fast-forward.
Like with all goals and intentions, the challenge is holding steady during off days. Of which there are many.
People don’t run marathons by skipping training every time it rains. They show up anyway, get a bit cold and uncomfortable, and hope for sunnier weather next time.
That’s the lesson I’m trying to learn.
“Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned.” - Frank Sonnenberg
The lesson life keeps serving up to me is: let the hard days be hard days. And flow anyway.
It’s not easy. When life feels hard and uncomfortable and confronting, every cell in my body screams: solve the problem, solve the problem, solve the problem. When really, 99% of the time, there is no problem. There is nothing to solve. It’s just a rough patch, and it will pass.
So, my intention for the second half of 2018 is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. To accept that some days will feel exceptionally difficult, and that’s okay.
I’m sharing this because I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling this way.
Do you switch into problem-solving mode every time you have a shit day or week?
Do you lose perspective of the bigger picture when you’re exhausted?
Do you struggle to flow when things don’t go your way?
Do you try to suppress ‘negative’ emotions?
Susan David says we’re living in an era of relentless positivity, where “being positive has become a new form of moral correctness”.
Her work on emotional agility has been paradigm-shifting for me. She encourages people to stop viewing emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and to instead approach all emotions with curiosity and lashings of self-compassion.
It’s like Susan is writing everyone a giant permission slip to feel tough emotions like stress and sadness and anger and fear. She’s reminding us that these emotions are natural and normal. A simple truth that is easy to forget when you’re scrolling Instagram at 11pm.
“Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress or discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” - Susan David
So, with all of this in mind, what does flow look like for me as I go into the second half of 2018?
Here are some strategies I’m going to test-drive over the coming months, as part of my new intention to flow anyway.
I will try to:
Stop switching into problem-solving-mode every time I have a shit day. Some days are just a bit hard, and that’s okay.
Breathe more. Cliche, I know. But I often rush through my days without pausing for some much-needed rest and perspective.
Set firmer boundaries around social media. I love Instagram, but there’s a fine line between engaging with an awesome community and subconsciously absorbing other people’s highlight reels. I pull out my phone every time I’m bored, which is a gnarly little habit that I need to kick.
Write as much as I possibly can. And I don’t mean professionally -- I mean writing for me. Journalling. Brainstorming. Jotting down ideas on a piece of scrap paper while I bounce Zoey on my hip. Getting words out of my head and onto paper is -- and always has been -- the most incredible form of self-care for me.
Acknowledge that this year’s flow will look different to next year’s flow. I’m navigating a very specific season of my life: new motherhood. It’s not meant to be easy.
Celebrate the good days without using them as a measure of how every day should be, because that will only set me up for disappointment -- and, ironically, it takes me out of the present moment of enjoying the epic day as it unfolds. Basically: stop projecting (quite possibly my biggest challenge).
Keep embracing the reasons I chose to flow as my word for the year in the first place -- because I still want as much of that zen goodness as I can manifest!
Do you have a word for the year or some intentions you’re trying to live by? I hope this ‘dear diary’ post has resonated with you on some level. I’d love to continue the conversation. What are your strategies for leaning into discomfort?
Jess O'Connor is a freelance copywriter based in Auckland, New Zealand. She loves helping people find the right words to attract their dream customers.
She specialises in blogging, ghostwriting, and web copy. She also specialises in reading Hairy MacLary and Slinky Malinki to her 11-month-old daughter.