It's February and it has now been a year. One year since I decided on a cold day in the mountains, alone with my thoughts, huddled in my bed while the baby slept and the rest of my family happily skied, that something needed to change. I was lonely and was longing for the company of someone that I really enjoyed...someone who had passions and ideas, verve and energy. Someone who is well read. Someone who can complete a thought and compose connected text. Someone who is too busy filling herself up with meaningful pursuits and enriching relationships to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Bravo and Kardashian (guilty). In short, I was deeply missing the me I longed to be.
Two things were decided in that moment. One. I needed a word of the year to guide me back to myself. A touchstone to keep me focused. (Hello transformation!) Two. My mind and my soul needed some refreshing, and the water that could quench that thirst can only be found through something creative. For me, that means engaging with words. Reading. Writing. Listening. Speaking. Words feed my soul, and I had been feeding it an anemic diet of Twitter and Facebook and celebrity gossip sites for far too long. I was tired and spent and postpartum and wanted to go mindless for awhile. Little did I realize that it would, in fact, empty my mind.
I decided that I needed a framework to operate within...a structure to make me feel more bold. Strictly personal essays seemed way too daunting and were to be avoided at all costs. And I am certainly not an expert in anything. What did I love? Words. Reading and writing. How could I express those passions creatively? Through a project, of some sort. I wondered, what would it look like if I wrote about what I read for an entire year? Because, in the words of Adrienne Rich,
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove warming milk,
a crying child on your shoulder,
a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
Because of my thirst, A Year by the Books was born.
I began with lofty goals and grand intentions. I was going to write about EVERY SINGLE THING I READ FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR. I would post AT LEAST once a week. I would wake up EVERY SINGLE DAY an hour earlier than my boys so I could write or read.
Here's what happened instead.
I kept sleeping as long as those boys were sleeping. This past year, waking up early would have been my undoing.
Well. Who am I kidding? I need sleep like cake needs frosting. We are just better together.
I posted twenty times. Not exactly once a week.
I didn't even come CLOSE to writing about everything that I read.
And as it turns out, I can't write about what I read without getting personal. In fact, most of what I wrote could be characterized as a form of personal essay. I even got so bold to submit an essay to a magazine...and it was accepted! (More to come on that soon).
Historically, if things got complicated or weren't adhering to my expectations, I would want to throw in the towel. As a rule, I tend to not give myself much grace. But, though this project, I learned that just because it's not perfect doesn't mean that I should shut it down. I can break my own rules, things don't have to go exactly according to plan, and maybe the way things actually unfold is the way things are intended to be.
I read some amazing books this year that refilled my mind with beauty and helped transform me back into something closer to the woman I aspire to be. I got to know some amazing author/bloggers through their words...Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton, Shauna Niequist, Ann Voskamp. I became reacquainted with old favorites (Barbara Kingsolver!) and met new loves (Maria Semple and Brene Brown). And through this glorious Internet, I am privileged to read so many people's beautiful writing in nearly real time. Blogs are a lovely thing for writers and readers.
I have studied the craft of writing and am exploring the techniques and strategies of writers I admire. I am making it a practice to read aloud to all my children, not just the youngest ones. And I have learned to give myself a break. Rome wasn't built in a day. Habits of mind take awhile to take hold. I will do what I can, when I can.
What a difference a year makes. As I write, I am winging my way to Utah to ski with my family, and am feeling like a new woman, in no small part to my rededication to a reading and writing life. And even though it was not perfect, and not prolific, this space served a transforming purpose. I am thrilled to continue this project. I can't wait to see what come next.
Edited with BlogPad Pro