One Word

Happy New Year, dear ones!

I realize I’m a little late to the resolution game, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a lack of some serious reflection.

In 2015, I started recognizing how unsuccessful big, lofty goals can be come the beginning of a new year. Before you deem me as a pessimistic skeptic, let me dig a little deeper.

Goals are good. They are helpful and they are vital for our growth. But what I pondered at the beginning of 2015 was if there was a better way to execute goals so that they are actually attainable, rather than the kind you make on a wimb when you’re feeling motivated by the “January 1st” deadline and then find yourself failing miserably at come, say, “March 1st”. So that year, I decided to take tangible steps in practicing gratitude. I called it my “Year of Thankfulness.” What began as an incredibly optimistic goal turned into an amazing opportunity to put my money wear my mouth was – 2015 was the hardest year of my life, with various things I found seemingly impossible to be thankful for, at the time (a story for another post).

The irony of this goal of gratitude amidst some of the hardest days and months I’d experienced was tremendous, in certain moments. Simultaneously, however, the fact that my goal was something that could be interwoven into every second of my simple, everyday, life activities was strangely beautiful and comforting.

It was more of a theme, an anthem that I sang internally over the big picture of my life. It kept me going on my worst days, and it sank in in such rich, deep ways on my best days. Some of my most joyous moments were also in 2015.

My baby girl was born.

My friendship with my husband deepened in ways I didn’t know it could.

My faith both unraveled and expanded in such beautifully messy ways.

I learned a multitude of things that had you told me I was going to learn, I would have tried to run full force in the opposition direction (and had you tried to stop me, I would have fought you kicking and screaming).

But as 2015 came to a close and 2016 was underway, I realized something: 2015 was the first year I had even come close to achieving a goal I’d set on any New Year’s in the past. It was hard, but it also felt more doable for the duration of the entire year, rather than feeling doable for only as long as the hype of that January-March window typically does. I realized that this method was something that worked on my best days, on my worst days, and on my mediocre days.

Because that’s what we (humans) need, isn’t it? Something attainable. Something that seems possible and tangible and doable regardless of our life circumstances. The reality is that life is beautiful, messy, amazing, horribly painful, mediocre, extraordinary, and ordinary – all on the same token. It is unpredictable. You never know what you are going to be handed to juggle on any given day, in any given hour.

So, come 2016, I decided to proceed with the same strategy of taking something specific I’d wrestled with over the past year and make that my theme, focus, and “goal” to practice growing in over the next year to come. I love this idea because it is all of those things; it is tangible – it can be as specific or vague as you want – and it is also doable, even on the days when I fail in epic ways at being human. I also love this because I think that it’s something every human can resonate with – we all fail in epic ways and we all succeed in epic ways, depending on the season we are in – oftentimes, depending on what day of the week we are on. But this type of goal-setting: this theme, this anthem, this one focus, can be practiced in both the lowest valleys and on the highest mountaintops, regardless of what word or theme you choose.

2017 was my year of valuing the gift of being present (both on the good days and the hard days) over the hustle of constantly trying to earn my “perfection” label (thank you, Shauna Niequist; you changed my life).

{Seriously, drop everything and read this book if you haven’t already. Talk about perspective.}

And once again, as 2017 came to a close, I found that image of my kicking and screaming self as I imagined what my response would have been had I known all that 2017 would entail (again, a story for another post: http://alhanson.org/368-2/), along with some unforgettably sweet moments, too. And, once again, in the midst of this pish-posh of reflecting, I realized that I’d somehow managed to somewhat achieve my second consecutive New Year’s goal of 2017.

As 2018 rolled around, the glaring word I felt the need to focus on was authenticity. Once again, my theme came from a book I finished right at the tail end of 2017 called The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown’s words in this piece have made a pivotal impact on my worldview and have reshaped how I see God, myself, and others. (Again… drop everything. Click the link above. Best $8.99 you’ll spend this year – promise.)

I don’t know about you, but as helpful as technology is today and as thankful as I am for all the enrichment that has undoubtedly come from it, the unending insecurity and pressure to hustle, gain approval, and fake it ’til you get the amount of likes that everyone else has with filters and edits and emojis – I mean ’til you make it – is wearing so heavily on my soul (especially in motherhood – can I get an “amen,” fellow mama’s?)

One of my reflections at the end of 2017 included the painful realization that more of my time than I’m willing to admit was spent on social media every day; and it didn’t take long to make a connection between that and my deeply rooted insecurity as a wife, mom, friend, and human. Life is too precious to spend in a constant state of comparison. Social media was not the only root of this insecurity and self-doubt and comparison, but it certainly didn’t help as much as it hindered in that area, either.

So here’s to authenticity. To deeply rooted connection via coffee dates or shooting friends a text asking how they’re doing instead of checking in on all of them on the screens we hide behind. To loving hard, even when we’re not always loved back. To wearing our favorite ugly sweater, even if it isn’t trendy. To being seen for who we really are, instead of the perfect versions of ourselves we construct for everyone to see. To less filters, even with our uneven skin tones, wrinkles, extra 10 unwanted pounds of postpartum baby weight, dark circles that scream lack of sleep, etc.

{Again, please don’t hear me bashing social media – it is not 100% bad. I’m not even saying farewell to it, myself. It’s simply an example of one way I’m choosing to practice this next year of authenticity: by cutting back from, say, multiple times a day to a couple times a week and seeing the ways my soul comes to life.}

So if you get more texts or calls from me this next year than you’re used to, you’ll know why.

 

Alex Hanson

Wife to Nate, mommy to Lucy.

 

One thought on “One Word

  1. Beautifully written Alex. Think we should all be more aware. I love reading your posts and love you all so very much!❤️

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