It’s the last day of the first month of 2021. New Year’s came and went, and while I did wake up on Jan 1st feeling like I do on my birthday – like there are possibilities, unknown opportunities, and the crisp feeling of a potential fresh start – I wasn’t ready to talk about what I learned or start making resolutions . I wanted a “free trial” month of what this year had to offer. Dip my toes into January. Wiggle them a little. See how it feels. See how I feel.
Well the month passed and here are my thoughts on the year we just left behind, and how to make 2021 YOUR year.
THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE SAID ABOUT 2020
Many of us couldn’t be rid of 2020 fast enough. It was different, it was uncertain, it was hard. It made us discover the wonderful and the ugly about ourselves and others. 2020 brought out the best and the worst in people. We all have our own experiences with this infamous year. Like a year long dating relationship that maybe made us stronger, broke our hearts, taught us things about ourselves, or left us in pieces.
For me 2020 was many things.
I grew into the mother I am today. But I also envisioned that time looking SO different than it was. I thought I would spend my mat leave being out and about with my baby (like my mom was with me, always off on a little adventure), but circumstances made it so that I had to find another way to become the parent I wanted to be.
I know my strengths. Getting up and out of the house is one of them. (Ex: waking up on a Sunday and spontaneously grabbing my 4 young brothers, passports, and some sandwiches and going off to Lake George without a second thought or planning, and having the best time – that is one of my strengths). One I thought I would rely on heavily to survive motherhood. The part that loved to explore, and to expose those I love to that joy and excitement. March hit and suddenly I couldn’t rely on this part of my natural personality to guide me. It took real work and effort to become me – at home. It also took a lot of acceptance for me to find a way to thrive as a homemaker and stay-at-home mom, without having my outlet – out there in the world.
My identity took a hit. And then it got back up.
When I became a mom, I lost my identity – the one I knew and took years to get to know and cultivate. That loss was devastating. It took a long time for me to find myself. I didn’t recreate myself or try to go back to who I used to be. I slowly merged who I was, who I was becoming, and who I wanted to be. When I had made a nice amount of progress in this process of finding myself, I felt an overwhelming urge to go and BE ME. I remembered the things that made me me, outside of being a mother. Just me. A person. My person wanted to go out and live. I imagined a beautiful summer with my son, and a beautiful summer being me. Having to #stayhome limited that and I grieved and readjusted my expectations for my “coming out to the world”.
It was all quite dramatic inside my heart and mind but here’s the thing. Questioning ourselves is how we grow. Challenges are how we grow. If we just stare at our feet and keep walking without asking, without looking back, without looking ahead – we don’t get anywhere. We may go backwards, in circles never changing, aimlessly wandering. But we’d never REACH or BECOME. So as hard as last year was given all the effort it took to just be, I am who I am today because of it. It was hard, but we can do hard things. I’m stronger and I know myself better – as a person and as a parent – and I don’t think I would change that if I could.
What 2020 taught me.
Whether we admit it or not, 2020 changed us all – rhythm of life, routine, values, family life, personal selves… Our lives changed completely from whatever routine we had, to a completely unpredictable future. In all this chaos, these are the 4 most significant things I learned in 2020 that I am not leaving behind in 2020. I packed them and took them along with me into 2021 and on:
1. Jon and I learned how to function as a team. There’s a lot to be said about gender roles and expectations of moms + dads, men + women, working vs. non-working parents (a topic for another day). But when we all ended up home for months on end, we learned to put all these norms and expectations aside and live fairly. A way that would not result in me being burned out from keeping up with being the primary caregiver for David and household manager – while I had an equally capable and loving parent at home to share the load. The transition was not easy. But what I learned is that things won’t change if you don’t communicate what needs to change, talk about how to change it, and be patient and kind to yourself and your spouse while you both work to readjust your roles.
2. I was forced to slow down, mentally + physically and learn to enjoy just “being”. The rhythm of life slowed down and I came to love it. I don’t know how I was able to sustain always being on the go, running errands, pushing pushing pushing. Now that I’ve experienced a slower pace, I don’t feel a need to go back. This pace gave me space to focus on being healthy, strong, and close to my son and husband. Sometimes life just needs to stop for us to stop. Otherwise we just keep running and miss out on all the things we’re passing by.
3. The best way to be the best parent is to get in touch with your own needs and boundaries. I learned how to prioritize self-care. There are things we KNOW are good for us, but we “never get around to it” because we’re busy and preoccupied. Daily stressors and events take over. I get it, in the moment those things seem pressing. In 1440 minutes per day, can you justify not taking 5 minutes? Exercising and time alone are two things I need to refuel. I learned to make that time, ask for that time, and not feel bad about it. Investing in you is an investment your family benefits from. Everyone wins when mama is healthy and happy.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of 5 minutes you intentionally set aside for yourself. We tend to think that change takes hours and sweat and time we simply don’t have. This is either a myth you’ve been sold, or an out you use which prevents you from moving forward. Find the thing that fuels you. Drinking a coffee in peace, reading, writing, journaling, moving your body, meditating, breathing in your closet, running, showering, slathering on heavenly scented creams… Whatever your thing is, make time for it. If 5 minutes is all you have, commit to that 5. Make it intentional. I take that that every day and it’s what keeps me going. Recharging does not need to be long, but it needs to be set intentionally for you (ie: breaking a sweat while cleaning your house doesn’t count because it’s for the whole family, not for YOU).
OK ALEXIA, WE GET IT. 2020 WAS ALL THAT. BUT IT’S 2021 NOW, HOW DO I MAKE THIS MY YEAR?
Has life changed drastically from Dec 31, 2020 to today? I don’t know about you, but for me it hasn’t. The craziness goes on and a date on the calendar won’t change that. Personally, I’m dealing with grieving my hopes of seeing my family before baby #2 comes. My mom, stepdad, and 5 siblings moved to Israel in August 2019. I saw them for 2 weeks in February 2020 and I have no idea when I’ll be allowed to see them again without fear of being locked in some kind highly-overpriced-covid-prison-centre-hotel. So bottom line, this isn’t YOUR year because it’s a NEW year. It can be your year if you make it your year.
Don’t get me wrong, I await the lifting of restrictions impatiently. I want to feel the freedom of walking into a coffee shop to chat with a friend, travel to see my family, let David run around the playground and lick the slide if that’s what he wants. That’s not happening now. It will be a time for celebration when it does, but we’re not there now. So let’s not keep waiting for the world to change. Instead of waiting to be happy and waiting to live life to the fullest, I make efforts to make today happy. For me, taking care of myself plays a huge role in this happiness. So does getting out for fresh air and FaceTiming family. If you feel like doing something fun, check out my last blog post here about activities that may be open despite current restrictions.
In the words of @bigtimeadulting, “We have a long winter in front of us, and I refuse to spend the next four months waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel to appear. I’m going to light this fuckin tunnel on fire myself.” We can’t control anything more than our own actions. So I choose to live life now to the best of my ability instead of waiting to be able to live it “more” later. I can make every day my day. We can all make this year, our year.