Toward the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty out of sorts. I felt overwhelmed by pretty much everything, but couldn’t stop committing to things. I was awash in online programs, far too many projects and working to process some intense grief. I was an unfulfilled dabbler, a castaway on an island of overcommitment.
In the midst of this phase of doing All the Programs, I found Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word mini-course. Susannah, in case you don’t know her, is a magically gentle soul and a magnificent artist. (I don’t know her personally, but her heart shines through in everything she does.)
So, I did the Word of the Year program, and discovered Sacred Focus as my word (or phrase) of the year. There it was, waiting for me, as though I’d emerged from the forest of confusion into a beautiful clearing.
This phrase combined the two of the things I was missing most: inspiration and intimacy. Sacred not just about less, but about better. It’s about choosing well, so that we can fulfill each commitment fully, as though it is sacred. It’s about empowered editing. I wanted that sense of both intimacy and inspiration back. I wanted less clutter in my life and schedule. And I wanted to feel alive in my daily life. I realized that the only true way to claim those was to:
Choose less and choose better.
I didn’t just want to be more effective. I didn’t just want to have fewer commitments. I wanted to feel the holiness of my work and life through my choices and in my calendar. I wanted to smile when I saw how I got to spend my time, and I wanted to feel motivated to do those things as well as I possibly could.
Well, gentle reader, if I told you this was a smashing success right off the bat, I would be a total liar. I’ve spent years paring down my life: culling, editing. I’m not a minimalist, yet, but I’ve become more and more selective.
It surprised me to struggle with this so much.
I didn’t realize how much, I, advocate for all things self-care, was still running myself ragged and spreading myself too thin. I was pretty shocked when I found myself with, in fact, even less time than before. Because I had made commitments before my word of the year chose me.
It’s just not what we choose in each moment, it’s what we choose to layer that soon catches up with us.
So, I started backing out slowly. Pulling back on projects, attending fewer meetings, setting aside evenings for little except dinner and knitting. I hit ignore on Facebook invites; I cancelled all of my streaming media accounts; I turned down invitations that didn’t feel like a “hell yes.” I even stopped doing the “nice” things for myself that had started to feel like an obligation: getting my nails done.
With that newfound breathing room, I’ve had the space to figure out what is actually a priority for me.
These can change: they’re sacred, not set in stone. But keeping them in mind makes sure that I’m prioritizing them, rather than the new shiny thing. Right now, I’m focused on my partner and our family*; building my business and my yoga practice; climate justice organizing; making art; and cooking at home. That’s it. Obviously, I do other things. I have other obligations – but when I’m constructing my schedule, those come first. They are what bring me joy and meaning. What I’m grounded in my Sacred Focus, the rest falls away.
No guilt, no shame, no shoulds, no regrets.
When I reflect on what i’ve done in a day, it includes most of what’s in the scope of my Sacred Focus. Not all of it necessarily, but there’s decidedly more of what I want, and less of what I don’t. It’s taken me nearly a year, but I now feel this in my bones: inspiration, and a passion to keep creating; and intimacy, and a deep kinship with myself and my life.
*This includes our partnership, our biological families, our closest friends, and our cats, Dorothy & Harriet.