I’m writing to you from a wooden table at the top of a sand dune.
The water is surging and rushing at the beach below.
The breeze is sweet, the afternoon sun is bronzing my feet.
Here I am.
I’ve escaped the house for a couple of hours.
My kids and husband are designing new “skins” for their Minecraft world.
We’ve already spent the whole day together. Gone to the library, trawled the street for smoothies, wondered whether the helicopters and police and fire stations circling the base of the world’s second largest rock are there for a rescue or just to practice. My husband remarks “Pretty sure it’s just a practice run, not many rescue operations also have a mobile coffee and hot dog van next to them.” I tell him: “Rescuers need energy too!”
By the time it’s 3pm, it’s time for me to run toward solitude.
Sometimes it is easy to do this, like today. I tell my family I am leaving, and my husband sweetly says “Go. Go find yourself a little place to sit at the beach.”
Other times it is harder. Sometimes they’d really not rather I go. Sometimes my four year old is so clingy she won’t even brush her teeth without me in the bathroom with her.
“I will be wonely without you Mummy,” she tells me, eyes brimming with tears.
I go anyway, because if I don’t I will be swallowed up alive, and I will be closing my eyes, hands clenched, becoming the shrieking mother I never wanted to be.
I go because my wholeness relies on it, and if I don’t, I am combustible.
I’m not always as committed to it as I am right now.
I’m committed to self care and solitude so I’m not committed to an institution.
I’m committing, and will continue having to recommit to it for the rest of my life, because a Swallowed Whole life with no space for reflection or creativity is my own kind of purgatory.
I know I’m privileged in this.
But self care is never earned or given, it always has to be claimed. Even when you think you can’t do it.
Especially when you think you can’t do it.
I gave up showering daily when I had kids.
Gave up brushing my teeth twice daily and went down to just one.
Gave up breakfast for a long time there.
All those microscopic time saving methods as a mother.
Giving up basic levels of self-care because I was stretched in other directions.
But my kids are 8 and 4 now, and it’s time for me to claim back more time again. More of me again.
I tell my husband:
“I wonder if I should try and fit in daily showers again.”
“Things aren’t what they used to be hon. We don’t have shrieking babies anymore. These little things can make a big difference.”
Gotta recommit to it, over and over again.
But I’m supposed to be talking about my yearly planning right now.
And all this came out.
But maybe that’s the answer anyways.
That life is busy. And if you parent, life is extra busy.
And we still need time with ourselves and our dreams anyway.
Need to carve it out by hook or by crook, knowing it will make all the difference.
And it has.
Yesterday, I wasn’t up to driving anywhere, so I walked around the corner from my house to the little park that is there.
Took my workbooks with me. Left my phone and laptop at home.
Sat on the ground while the ants crawled all over me.
Shifted around as the sun shifted around.
Watched a scrub turkey stroll by, admired his impossible fan of a tail.
Watched a teen girl stride by me to the swings, headphones on. She swung wildly with abandon for the longest time, listening to that music, staring out at the coastal gums. I felt like she had life worked out, that chick. She knew what she needed to do for her. And she did it.
Here’s how I always do my yearly planning:
I use my own workbooks.
After all, it’s why I wrote them originally.
To set goals in every area of my life and business for the year ahead.
I was pregnant with my first baby back then.
I knew the initiation into motherhood would be tough.
Needed a mast to lash myself too.
The mast of my dreams and goals.
A love letter to myself in the future, to remind me of who I am and what I want for when I get lost in the dark.
The workbooks are my room of one’s own, as Viriginia Woolf would say.
They just also happen to have been the room for 350,000 other people now as well.
350,000 souls lashing themselves to the mast of their own biggest dreams and sweetness.
We will ride out the big waves of life.
I’ve done my yearly planning. Up trees, in cafes, in bed.
It’s usually better to do it outside of my office/usual work space.
I just feel clearer when I remove myself from it.
I’m always fascinated when people worry too much about what pen to use or which binding work betters or the “best way” to fill out the workbooks or if they need to be in a different mood or energy to do it “properly”.
As though everything must be perfect in order to dream a perfect dream.
That it must be imminently Instagrammable.
I must tell you: it’s never been perfect for me.
Planning has always happened in stolen hours. Sometimes I’m in a filthy mood when I begin. There is currently a screaming child near by me. It’s not my own, which is a pleasant change. I use whatever pen I can find at the bottom of my bag. I usually have ants using me as their own personal workout joint. There is frog shit on the bench beside me.
It doesn’t fucking matter.
All that matters is that I DO IT.
In a world that wants to swallow us whole, it’s a reclamation to take time for ourselves. To get quiet enough to know: This is what I want. This is what I will do to get there.
People ask if the Closing Ceremony in the workbooks is that important.
I must tell you: it is.
It will give you healing. And clarity.
From years that are disordered and painful, it will weave the threads into a tapestry.
You will leave that ceremony feeling resolved.
You will see the gifts in the grit, the reason in the random.
Plus: all that life and story and experience? It’s gifted you wisdom that will benefit you for years to come. May as well take the time to mine for it now.
It usually happens in January, this whole planning thing. Give myself a deadline, squeeze in stolen hours until it happens.
It affects my whole year, so it’s time well spent.
Once it’s written down, I keep it close.
Refer to it often.
“A millionaire looks at their goals once a day, a billionaire looks at them twice.”
Everything I’ve created, I’ve written it down in those books first.
And come back to it again and again.
Created what I wanted, even when the winds try and blow me off course.
“If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’ll hit it every time” – Zig Ziglar
I put it in my diary.
Schedule it all out.
Make it ritual.
Return to it over and over.
And day by day, a year is transformed.
Time for me to head down the sand dune.
Put my feet in the water.
Look out at the blue sky.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For all this. The beauty and the despair.
And most of all: Thank you, Leonie of two hours ago. For gifting me with the deepest medicines I know: solitude and creativity.
And that’s how I plan my year.
In stolen moments. In imperfect settings.
Because my life is too precious not too.