For a few years now, each January I’ve been picking myself a word of the year. Not an unheard of concept. But I’ve been enjoying it. It obviously isn’t going to fit every facet of your life cos it’s just one little word. It can’t work miracles. But I think it’s nice to have a ponder around the end of the year about what you want for yourself in the next twelve months. What do you want to achieve, sure. But for me, the word is less goal-oriented and more just a vibe. It’s how you want to treat yourself in the next year. And it’s what you want to do for yourself. It’s a matter of self-care.
This is all to say that this year I’ve chosen the word gentle.
Last year I chose ‘rest’. I’m infamous for doing too much and jerking myself around. Letting my battery drain flat almost weekly. But I feel like I really made some good strides towards slowing down in twentytwentytwo. However, I know I can do better. There’s room to improve and grow. And so ‘gentle’ it is.
I don’t often share my word with people, it’s something just for me. But I don’t know, I just kinda thought this year’s might need to be heard by some of you. That you’ve maybe been jerking yourselves around too. Running on empty and making promises you shouldn’t and commitments you can’t even fit into your schedule. Well you know what? Fuck that. F u c k t h a t.
It’s time to rest.
We only get one shot on this earth and it can be easy to think we need to live it like an Instagram highlight reel. But that’s not real life, we all know that by now. Real life is much slower and much less glamourous. But it’s in the smaller, quieter moments that we learn who we are. So I encourage you to find some moments of silence this year. Just be alone with yourself. See what comes up. What feelings, emotions. It might not be that deep, maybe you’ll just find a new hobby and that’s just as great. I’ve recently been doing criss cross puzzles as I listen to audiobooks. And goddamn it’s so relaxing.
So that’s one interpretation of gentle for this year. But it’s not the only one.
Humans are creatures of stress and panic and anxiousness. Maybe now more than ever. I’ve talked about it before, but how much of that could be avoided? Not all of it, of course. Much of life is out of our control and we can merely react to it. But the moments where there’s an option to let something go, step back from something or altogether turn our backs on something, maybe this year we try to be gentle with ourselves and take the plunge. Moving through life angering at every little thing we face is something I’ve definitely done before. But it’s fucking exhausting. And I don’t want to live in a world where I hate everything and everyone. So I try to find ways to make it more bearable. A super small example: I hate crowded places where there’s a lot going on. I feel overstimulated very quickly. But getting to my office from my bus stop the other side of the city centre, or even just getting my groceries or meeting a friend for coffee, requires me to venture out into the madness. So I simply put headphones on. I find (mainly, safety first) blocking off one sense helps quieten down the world a bit and I can get lost in a good story or at the moment the lyrics of Stormzy, lol. My brain focuses on that and basically autopilots me through the people. I feel much less stressed and often actively happier cos music can really just improve your day like that, can’t it? You may be thinking, what the fuck is she talking about there? I’m gonna assume you’re an extrovert then. But that’s okay, as always, your thing might not be my thing. But you know what your pressure points are so work on ridding them from your day to day.
Now those pesky uncontrollable stresses we were talking about earlier? Yeah, they’re harder.
Let’s just say it, they fucking suck. Some moments are truly sent to test us in this life. It’s not fair and it can be agonising. If you’re going through it right now, I’m sorry. I really wish you weren’t. And I hope you’re okay. And if you’re not, don’t suffer alone. Let someone help you. Your people are there for you. But if you are going through something right now, I especially want you to try and be gentle with yourself. Made plans this coming week that you really can’t face? Fucking cancel them. Can’t quite convince yourself to go for that run? Fuck it off. Just want to curl up on the couch and watch 27 Dresses and cry? Fucking do it. Some things in life are just painful. You can’t wrap a piece of shit up in a bow, you just can’t. So don’t feel the pressure to try and do that. You don’t need to be okay every second of every day. Slow it down. Be gentle. Remember that these moments are fleeting. And whilst the pain or anguish or grief or anger may never fade completely, the urgency of the moment will fade away. You will be happy again, I know it doesn’t feel it right now. But we don’t need to think about the future right now. We need to stay present in the now. Give yourself the space to feel what you need to feel. Stop trying to bury it down and pull yourself in five different directions to please others. Put yourself first. And be gentle. Make a hot chocolate, run a bath, do a jigsaw, some yoga, a nap, a frozen pizza (the tried and true), a dreary night time walk or a fort on the couch. Sit still and decide which you need tonight on this cold, rainy, miserable Sunday evening. Find one thing to make yourself smile and do it.
I hope you find moments of serenity this year, I truly do.
Heaven I Know – Gordi