Last year was a hard one for me.
After the previous couple years of pandemic life, I was already feeling pretty fragile entering 2021. But I also started the year with a crazy 9 month old puppy, awful downstairs neighbours who woke me up daily with their screaming, and local pandemic restrictions that just would not quit.
As the year went on, my capacity felt smaller and smaller. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it was the hardest year of my life, from a mental health perspective. I got Covid in the summer and it turned into a form of long Covid, affecting my energy & focus for a long while afterwards, and subsequently my ability to work and earn money from my business.
Then, in the Fall, we made the decision to move into my grandparents’ old house in Waterloo, Ontario, about an hour away from most of my friends and family.
The transition has been hard. The house is not what I would have chosen aesthetically, it’s in a (very) sleepy neighbourhood, I can’t walk anywhere, and I don’t know the city at all. We’re slowly making it our own, but it’s a process. Plus, Mike and I were also moving in together for the first time, so the last few months of the year were a struggle, to put it mildly.
As we approached 2023, I was EXHAUSTED. Depleted. Done. I was desperately craving some structure, some solidity, some steadiness after all the change and upheaval and disruption of the past few years. Every aspect of my life felt unsustainable. I felt like I was at my limit, everything felt hard, and I didn’t know what to do.
Sometime in early November, the word Sustainable popped into my mind. It represented everything I wanted the coming year to be: Calm. Manageable. Well-paced. Balanced. Full of small things often, as my friend Or (and the Gottmans!) love to say.
Sustainable. Able to be sustained. The key word here is ABLE. As in, I need to be able to sustain it. The word “sustainable” (or any word with the ending ‘able’, really!) indicates a relationship with the person sustaining the task or activity. If that specific person is not able to sustain something, that thing is not sustainable for them. “Sustainable” is not an inherent quality, sustainable is a relative quality. Can I, personally, sustain it? If not, it is not sustainable for me.
This word is so clarifying. This word is so comforting. It reminds me to pace myself. It reminds me that if I could not continue an activity for months or years, it’s probably not the right choice for today, either. For example: if I’m rushing through my morning and skipping breakfast, that is not a sustainable choice. For today I might survive, but continued over time, that choice is not going to work for me. It’s not sustainable.
It also reminds me not to get too ambitious with my goals or tendency to want to overhaul my life. Sure, it would be awesome to wake up at 7am tomorrow morning and meditate for 20 minutes and get a workout in and only eat healthy food and, and, and. But can I sustain that right out of the gate? Am I going to be able to keep that up?
Instead, I’m training myself to go little by little. To start small. To do a 30 day yoga challenge in a gentle attempt to get back to daily movement. To slowly restart my weekly review process, because I know it makes me feel good. To give myself a “Fresh Start” in YNAB rather than trying to catch up on all the months I missed. To remember that wonderful quote from Anthony Trollope: “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”
So here we go: a sustainable year. We’re only 16 days in, and I honestly feel better already.
- able to continue over a period of time
- able to last for a long time
- able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds
- able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
- causing little or no damage to the environment
Synonyms: feasible, renewable, supportable, maintainable, liveable, bearable, steady, worthwhile, eco-friendly, continuous, inexhaustible, reasonable, consistent
- Habits: I want to find habits, routines, and rituals that feel doable and accessible given my actual life. I would love to get back to daily movement outside of my walks, and my meditation practice, as well as more reflection & writing.
- Energy: This year I want to crack the code on unlocking more energy for myself that feels steady throughout my days & weeks. I suspect this will have a lot to do with my habits, specifically my eating and sleeping schedule!
- Money: 2022 wasn’t awesome for me financially, but I’m determined to focus on my business this year and create more sustainable income streams and spend in a more sustainable way. Getting back to YNAB will definitely help with this!
- Choices: I want to make more sustainable choices whenever I can when it comes to what I’m buying or the waste I’m creating. I’m more aware than ever of the environmental impacts that our choices can have, and I want to try to reduce my carbon footprint however I can.
- Systems: Since we just moved in together, we’re still figuring out our systems for sharing costs, running errands, and taking care of the home. I want to find sustainable systems that allow us to manage all the responsibilities in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming.
As I said, we’re a couple weeks into the new year and already it feels like things are shifting a bit. I am getting more support with my health & wellness, Bruno is turning into a more calm and mature dog, and we rearranged the house so my office feels brighter and more open. Small shifts have already taken place, and the best part is that all of them (so far) feel sustainable.
I won’t tempt fate here, but I am feeling more hopeful about the coming year and ready to take the next right sustainable steps to keep making things better. I hope your year is off to a beautiful start too.
You can read more about my words from the last ten (!) years below:
2013: Reach | 2014: Abundance | 2015: Grace | 2016: Light | 2017: Embrace | 2018: Flow | 2019: Energy | 2020: Devoted | 2021: Soften | 2022: Present