This Happens Every January

I have January 3rd through January 8th circled on my calendar this year. On these days I’ve written: “YOU’RE FINE. IT’S FINE. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.” You see, every year of my adult life I seem to have an existential freak out on these exact days. It goes something like this: 

January 1st, I usually lounge and eat a lot of cheese and leftovers straight out of the container. 

January 2nd, we do the depressing work of taking down Christmas decor. 

By the time the 3rd of January hits, anxious pangs start to creep into my chest. 

No matter what the previous year has presented, or the joy the future year holds – this happens. 

If the previous year had presented more challenging moments, like the year Penn’s father passed or any of those pandemic years, I entered the new year cautious about what fresh hell the new year could hold. 

If the year had been quiet or even (knock on wood) “good” on the balance, I tiptoed into January expecting the other shoe to drop. After all, there’s no way good fortune can last, right? 

Taking Control

I’m smart, but not a fast learner. It’s taken all of these years for me to recognize this exact same pattern. Finally, this year, I’m ready for it. I’m standing guard like a kid guarding my post in a game of Capture the Flag. I know these feelings are coming. 

If I had to make a New Year’s Resolution at this moment it would be to not waste precious minutes of my life with worry. The last two lines of Mary Oliver’s “Poem 133: The Summer Day” always knock the wind out of me. She writes: 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

—Mary Oliver

I may print these lines and tape them to my mirror to start 2024. But how does one do the work of worrying less? I don’t know how to NOT worry. It seems to me I came equipped with an upgraded worry feature when I came off the factory line.  

In my weird attempt to take control and combat worry, my instinct is to make a list and set a goal. The act gives me a false sense of being able to control my fate. I know it’s a fake feeling, but my anxious soul takes comfort within the boundaries of a rule I’ve created for myself. 

Getting Uncomfortable

Last year, my goal was to push myself out of my comfort zone. I put myself into situations where I felt downright uncomfortable. To be clear, my comfort zone is my couch so putting myself in more social situations or, as we did in July, kite surfing was a major win. I’m happy to report that on the other side of discomfort was a certain thrill that’s hard to replicate. 

This isn’t the traditional “lose weight” or “eat a salad every day” type of resolution, but I’m proud to say it stuck. I’ll carry this goal into 2024 and beyond. I’m already planning a really long solo hike that will be physically, and likely, emotionally uncomfortable. 

Putting myself in the way of discomfort over the last year has helped me realize, I’m capable of so much more than I ever imagined. Watching my kids handle hard things has taught me just how resilient they are too. 

Making A New Goal

As I sit here, looking a new year in the face, I don’t know exactly how to do the work of “worrying less” but this is my 2024 goal. Instead of writing the word “worry” in my morning journal pages, I’ll instead make goals of things I need more of: 

  • More love
  • More learning
  • More spontaneity 
  • More… MORE

With all the MORE, I pray the “worry” will be less. I want to allow myself to get excited for this new year. We have so many fun things ready to be released into the universe: Penn’s new book in the spring, a new card game available for pre-order now, and other fun creations. 

Just like I have circled on my calendar: “YOU’RE FINE. IT’S FINE. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.”

Okay 2024, let’s do this. I’m ready.