This afternoon I packed a weekend's worth of clothes, filled my car with gas, and drove to my parents' house in Richland, WA. There was a lot more snow than I expected. I was worried my car wouldn't make it up the hill after my little detour to the river -- but it was so pretty that I couldn't help going for a quick walk. I even rehearsed a phone call to my dad to ask for help if I got stuck.
Like most people, probably, with the new year upon us, I've been thinking a lot about how I want to harness the potential energy of 2017. I love this stuff. I've found potential energy is the largest source of motivation: new beginnings, new idea, new choices, new experiences. Everyone loves a fresh slate.
Like most people, probably, I also have a laundry list of things I want to finish this year. But at the top of my list, is my mental health. And rather than taking a solution-based approach, I want to take a problem-based approach. I've struggled with anxiety and depression and an eating disorder for several years now. To be honest, I don't think there was a time when I didn't have unhealthy eating patterns or high levels of general anxiety or feelings of absolute worthlessness. I could go on and on about how those have affected my life and my relationships both positively and negatively, but I'll save that for a different day.
Within the last couple of months, I've really started to make some headway in my mental health journey. I've gone from not really believing in self-compassion to accepting self-compassion but not really knowing how to properly use it. It might not sound like much, but I'm proud of myself -- it took a lot of work.
I want 2017 to be a year of intentional and mindful decisions. Instead of expecting myself to do everything, I want to successfully give myself the space to step back and trust in my judgment to maintain a decision. I test drove my intentional decision making this semester after much encouragement from my therapist. For me, school is both a stressor and a coping mechanism. Because of this, I often oscillate between thinking school is the best and school is the worst. This would manifest in my periodic inability to successfully complete assignments because of emotional problems but beat myself up later when I would get papers and assignments back with grades that I was not pleased with. This semester I tried to combat this negativity not with "it's okay!" and other forms of ineffective cheerleading but with recalling the reasons I made in the first place to put off or not finish an assignment.
Rather than the solution based resolution which would have been something along the lines of "be less of a perfectionist" or "stop beating yourself up," I want to take more of a problem-based approach to get at a behavioral issue I was routinely falling into.
2017 is going to be a year with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, not just for me, but for our whole country and the entire world. But it also gives us the perfect opportunity for a renewal and lasting change. Let 2017 be the year to think critically and mindfully about our lives, both big and small: play devil's advocate to the op-eds you read on Facebook, read about a political point of view you're not familiar with, radically commit yourself to standing by your decisions.
Rebekah L. Markillie
a PDX based creative who enjoys reading books, contemplating the oxford comma and rolling for initiative.
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