A reflection exercise for your new new normal
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who teaches you mindfulness and thoughtful self-reflection so you can stop second-guessing yourself, make decisions confidently and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
If you know me, you know I love me a good journal prompt and self-reflection exercise. (And if you don’t know me, hi! I’m Catherine. Uh. What’s up? You can read more about me here.)
One such exercise came to me recently. After one of my new-to-my-schedule daily walks earlier this week, I was thinking to myself: Dang. Why didn’t I take walks every single day BEFORE this? Walks are AWESOME. I have found every single little neighborhood park; walked past gorgeous DC rowhouses I never knew existed; I marveled at one billion spring flowers; I gave a hearty six-foot berth to anybody coming my way; I listened to a million podcasts; sometimes I walked in silence and listened to birdsong; in short, I rambled, and came back to my home refreshed, delighted by whatever I’d seen, and ready to sit down to work for the day.
“I’m really going to miss these when this is over,” I thought to myself.
And then I realized: Um, I didn’t have to miss them. Daily walks were not something I had built out room for in my schedule pre-Coronavirus, but they have been a saving grace for me in this time. So, why should I assume I won’t do an awesome thing I’m getting a ton out of when life goes back to you know… “normal”?
Newsflash: I think we all know life is not going back to normal. So why not design it intentionally going forward?
That thought had me jotting down this journal prompt (which I shared on Instagram here):
- Five things I want to keep from this time.
- Five things I want to change when this has passed.
- The themes these items share.
Here are my answers:
- Meal planning. Who knew this could be so useful and fun? (Probably a lot of you, but it’s brand-new to me. Way better than digging around in the fridge at 6pm to realize all I have left is one slice of bread and some mustard.)
- Aforementioned daily walks. My saving grace.
- Creating a daily schedule. This is also saving my sanity and helping me focus. (I talked about it in last week’s newsletter.)
- Weekly family FaceTime chats. I’ve talked more to my family in the past month than I had for like the entire past year.
- Supporting local businesses. Having been getting staples and some groceries and others from my local corner market or coffee shops that are now offering locally-sourced groceries. Intend to keep this.
- Absolutely am going to figure out a way to move closer to nature. Even before COVID-19 I was thinking this; this time inside has made it abundantly clear I need to be near easy nature access.
- Plant a garden in my new, nature-accessible place of residence. So I guess I’m getting a yard! For this condo-living city-dweller, this is quite a development of desires.
- I want to host bi-weekly Sunday dinners for family and friends.
- Start paying attention to local politics.
- Write a book.
Themes that emerge:
- Structure. I’m shocked by how much impact meal planning and creating a daily schedule have had on my happiness and ability to get meaningful work done. (This helped me realize that I could and do have the discipline to tackle something like writing. a book, which I hadn’t let myself believe beforehand.)
- Local. I think many of us are going to come out of this with an appreciation of how local businesses contribute to community and why that’s important to our happiness — and how we need to support them financially.
- Family/community. Dur.
- Food. I mean, I’ve always loved food, but I’m a person who didn’t learn to cook until she was 30. I’m a pretty good cook now, but food, combined with meal planning, is showing me the joys of spending an entire Sunday not on my phone, but shopping, cooking, making for the week ahead so I can nourish myself and my loved ones. Having a space to learn how to grow my own food is a next step I’d like to take.
- Nature. I love DC dearly, and I’m not planning to move out of the area, but I need big nature real near me for daily access. This is something I was beginning to realize at the start of the year but that is punching me in the face real hard right now. Even if it’s just a home in the DMV area that’s got a yard and is close to some local trailheads.
So you see, with some simple self-reflection, you can learn a lot about what is really important to you — and brainstorm a few easy ways to take it forward. As I plan on teaching in my upcoming intentional living course, all external ways of living start with a turn inwards. Your goals, dreams, wants, are all within you already — they may have just been buried for the last few years by a cascade of media, work, productivity noise, or chasing after external validation. Turn inwards and learn to listen to the voice that is telling you how it wants to live.
I’d love to hear your 5s — 5 things to keep, 5 things to change, and the themes that connect them all. Email me your responses here, or reply back to this email, and I will share them in an upcoming newsletter.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this powerful excerpt from Arundhati Roy’s recent piece in the Financial Times that showcases the importance of this moment in choosing how we will go forward, whether it’s globally or in something as small as adding in a daily walk to our day that brings us a glow of joy:
Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.