It felt kismet when, a couple of weeks ago, my colleague Amanda posted one of my favorite pieces by the poet Nayyirah Waheed on Instagram: “I want to live so densely,” it reads. “Lush / and slow / in the next few years / that a year becomes ten years / and the past becomes only a page / in the book of my life.”
It appeared on my feed on a day when I was reflecting on my year and this very sentiment: that after months—years, even—of constant movement, I want nothing from 2019 except to allow myself to land. To breathe. To live a little more slowly.
In the realm of resolutions that ask us to tone up our bodies and gain spontaneous financial security, the idea of simply allowing myself to simply “be” seems almost too easy, if not a bit abstract. But for someone who has learned to thrive in times of transition—who has always abided by the doctrine of “Thank u, next”—the thought of intentionally slowing down has already facilitated the kind of antsy feeling usually reserved for my delinquent meditation practice.
This agitation has surfaced a lot in my weekly therapy sessions lately, as I’ve found myself grasping for words now that I’m feeling more secure than ever in certain areas of my life. When we began working together, it always felt easy to run down a mental checklist of topics to discuss with my therapist: my cross-country move, recovering from my eating disorder, making new friends, mitigating my anxiety, expanding in my career, getting into relationships with emotionally detached people, dealing with the inevitable breakups, and finally, feeling whole enough to find something far more meaningful.
When I relayed this feeling of uncertainty to her last week, part of me quite honestly expected her to dust off her hands and say that I had graduated therapy. Instead, she smiled and said that this is where the real, truly meaningful work begins. Getting to know myself on a deeper level—and to really know the joy in that—is often a quieter pursuit. Because just as with meditation, the parts that need tending to have a way of surfacing when we’re sitting still.
So as gorgeous as Waheed makes the concept sound, I can already anticipate the initial discomfort of allowing myself to slow down. I can already hear what’s next? echoing in my mind. This intention is too abstract—too personal to a version of myself I may not even know yet—to warrant a concrete strategy, even if our culture insists that this is the time of year to make plans. It won’t necessarily be easy to tune out that noise.
But I’ll start with what I know. I’ll read. I’ll romp around the park with my new puppy, who has taught me more about being present in the past three months than I’ve learned in an entire lifetime. I’ll go on hikes that remind me in vivid detail why this place feels so much like home. I’ll find new meaning in the work I do. I’ll turn my phone off on a regular basis. I’ll love—hard. Instead of anticipating growth, I'll recognize how much I've created for myself already. And I’ll stumble. I’ll get anxious. I’ll feel that very specific kind of fear that surfaces when I’m teetering on the edge of vulnerability.
I’ll hold it with compassion, and we’ll jump in together.