distant trees on a sunny day, the light making a blue orb

Image: a field and a fence, in the background tree friends on a sunny day, the light refracting, a bonus blue orb…

Do-Overs Forever

It is known that I do not hold by New Year’s Eve, and begin my new year on February 2, the under-appreciated holiday known as Groundhog Day, or as I think of it, the Holiest Feast Day of Do-Overs Forever, Amen.

January for me is more like a very relaxed trial run that absolutely doesn’t count, it’s not even the dress rehearsal, but something before that. The pre-, the Erev (Eve of), the thing that comes before.

Just casually, steadily, intentionally marking out the steps, a whisper-hum of wishes, pointing myself towards.

A run-through of what things could or might look like once we get into our groove, but: low stakes. Very low stakes.

January the longest month of just getting through

January of course it has its own issues, being the Never-ending Month That Does Not End.

Here in New Mexico it was also very, very cold in a way I can only describe as unforgiving. And January also contains some extremely painful memory-days for me that are nearly always harder to get through than I anticipate.

So I don’t push in January, as a matter of principle, and also because pushing is no longer an option for me.

I don’t push in January

January is for getting through it, percolating on my new year wishes, running some reconnaissance on my various new year experiments, and seeing what helpful intel I can gather.

Reconnecting with myself, maybe poking my head out and trying to reconnect with people I care about.

But mainly just a lot of ritual and repetition. WE DO GROUNDING THINGS, and we do them over and over again, and we just keep doing them.

Show up. Light a candle. Keep it moving. Follow the focus. One beautifully fractal step at a time.

Good job. Back to bed is also a step. Forgetting is part of remembering. Rest is part of recovery. Compassion compassion compassion. Add more compassion.

Ritual & repetition

Waking up each day and doing the things that help…

Naming this: Hey, I am doing things that help. I am doing some of the things that help. Even (and especially!) when I don’t want to. Acknowledgment & Legitimacy for the hard things being hard, they really are.

Awarding myself ten trillion sparklepoints for sticking with it, the courageous ongoing work of We Got This, Just Keep On Keeping On.

Noticing how the light is coming in a little earlier here in the northern hemisphere, and hanging out a little longer before sunset…

True New Year

I don’t insist on big new shifts in January, all I do is introduce small, cumulative tweaks to the things that were already working. And I continue to give myself so much credit for being brave and adaptable.

And no pressure! It doesn’t count! January is just a test-drive. We aren’t making assumptions or commitments, just trying some things while tending to the basics.

That way when True New Year arrives on the second day of February, I wouldn’t say that I’m ready, because what’s that, but I’m definitely not shell-shocked the way I was at the end of December, with all the pressures of NEW YEAR NEW EVERYTHING in the air.

And by the time I’ve had the longest month ever to sit with (or near) some of my goal-wishes for the new year, they seem less intimidating by then. Maybe I’ve already taken some symbolic steps towards them, or slid into their DMs (so to speak), maybe we are closer to meeting than we were before…

Treasure (sometimes unexpected or unanticipated, also a verb)

I love and treasure the qualities of Newness and Recalibration, these joyful, hope-filled aspects of beginnings, the tantalizing freshness of it all. I just have a strong allergic reaction to the sort of collective pressure that builds up approaching the new year.

Luckily, none of that stuff is attached to Groundhog Day, a perfectly mundane holiday, which makes it an excellent candidate for a Feast Day. And, the next day, the third of February, is National Carrot Cake Day, which sounds very cheerful, so I’m into it!

Happy National Carrot Cake Day to all who celebrate, and if you don’t then what better time to introduce more cake into the world.

It couldn’t hurt.

Solved By Cake. Unexpected medicine. The healing powers of sweetness, which is also how I think of the practice of Can I Add More Compassion? What would ten percent more sweetness towards myself feel like?


Then on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which this year is Sunday, February 5th, we come to the eve of the birthday of the trees, who get their own new year, it goes through Monday the 6th.

The holiday of Tu B’shvat is celebrated through deliciousness and simplicity, eating tree goodness (almonds, figs, dates, fruits of spring) and feeling good about trees.

I always feel good about trees so that’s an easy one but it’s fun to have a day just for that.

Living close to national forest land, I am writing this looking out at juniper and piñon and cottonwood friends. Blessings of protection, tree friends. Thank you for oxygen, for love and comfort, for companionship and salves and magic.

A month of new beginnings

So really if you think about it, we get a whole bonus month of new year, new beginnings, slow-time style, and I love that for us.

Repeats. Cake. The steady companionship of the trees.

Do-overs forever. With an emphasis on what is delicious.

Reflecting time (two meanings)

As you know, I like to reflect on what was hard and what was good.

I don’t want to skip naming the hard things, because sometimes that can become a way of neglecting myself through trying to gloss over pain, forgetting to meet myself with the compassion I would have for a friend in my situation.

I want to practice acknowledgment and legitimacy, the hard things were hard! Absolute heroism for making it through despite that.

And I like to name the good, not out of a desire to force myself to find silver linings or demand gratitude from myself, but because the good is here too, and it is helpful to bring my attention to what is hopeful and possible. New buds, a shifting of the light, here and present for the miracles.

Naming what was hard for me in January

In general I’ve been getting better with the solitude, but I did go thirty entire days from the last week of December to almost the end of January without a conversation with a human who is not me,* and while it was not as devastating as I feared it might be, it’s just very intense.

*Unless you count the polite {“Did you find everything okay?” “Yes, thank you”] weekly exchange at the grocery store as a conversation, but sometimes I find that interaction even more isolating.

There is the isolation of living alone by the trees with no one to talk to, and the other isolation of making the journey to town for provisions, realizing I am surrounded by people who are living interpersonally and in a world where Covid is “over” (for them), and I am not living interpersonally, and do not exist in a world where Covid can be ignored, and I am unable to join them there, and it makes the loneliness more disorienting.

Mmmmmm what else

The cold spell was brutal and my pipes froze so many times that I started filling jugs of water each day, then shutting off electricity to the well before sundown, and waiting until mid-day to try for running water again.

Showers were few and far between because the roads were too icy to drive anywhere where I can shower.

The one-two punch of Long Covid with traumatic brain injury remains devastating and unpredictable. There are days when my brain doesn’t work, days when my body doesn’t work, and days when both of them absolutely refuse to come online.

There are also miracle days when I can do things, sometimes even with relative ease, but because I can’t know or even guess when these days will show up, I cannot plan for anything.

Naming what was good

I am less lonely than I used to be, not because of any real change of circumstances but somehow finding it easier to have a good time with myself again. More cooking, more dancing, more laughter, more being okay with slowing things down / being slowed down.

A good deal of practicing what my dance teacher in Portland used to refer to as “do less to get more”.

Mainly: I made a list of what works and then did what works, and stuck with it like it was a life raft, which it maybe was. Ritual and repetition. Staying attuned to hopefulness when I can, and to ritual and repetition when I can’t. Show up, do the thing at the time, or a version of it that is doable, rest, repeat.

And this week I was able to spend time with a friend (twice!) and got to see a doctor who is a delight, and wow it was so good.

Sunshine almost every day. Lots of people check in on me from afar. I am not alone, even when I perceive that I am. Red chile cauliflower potato soup! Made a large batch each week as part of ritual & repetition, nourishing and delicious.

What worked in January!

Found a rhythm of rinse and repeat with my rituals, not literally because I mostly didn’t have running water, haha, but more like, I got into a steady groove of yes, this is the steady groove, and I crave it.

Craving it is really what I’m going for. Any sparks of desire in a storm, right?

Ran some experiments, all very small and low-stakes.

Started closing my eyes very early in the pursuit of Ten Delicious Hours of Eyes Closed, and it turns out this trick works for me, which is annoying, but there it is.

Started treating 7am yoga hour like I am teaching a class I am very excited about (even if it is just for me). Some days I even do feel a little excited about it, and other days it is a slog, here’s to more of the good ones, but I show up either way.

Added fifteen minutes of gentle stretching before bed.

Instead of thinking about getting into bed before 6pm as a failure, as if I have given up on [everything I used to do], I’m thinking about it as an intentional hibernation and healing practice. Again, if a friend were doing it, I would cheer them on and find the good. Can I do that for myself? Sometimes!

23:23 minutes for getting things done, then if I have to sit down and recover, I do, but this is a good amount of time for me to give to washing dishes or closing tabs, or whatever needs to get done.

What do-overs do I want for the New Year

I want to keep showing up for what is working, for Yoga Hour and Cooking Club (imaginary, currently the only member is me, but anyone is welcome to join me from afar for daily food prep), and closing my eyes in pursuit of Ten Delicious Hours of maybe sleep and maybe eyes-closed, resting and hibernating.

I want to keep adding elements of And I Crave It to these rituals, so that they become more pleasurable and enticing. To yearn to be doing the things I’m doing anyway.

And on the days that these practices are a slog, I want to remember that showing up is worth it, but also I want to be flexible and adaptable, letting myself move on from something that is stuck, come back to it later or reconfigure the plan.

And on the days when I have no energy or a case of bad brain weather, I want to shower myself in love and sweetness, and applaud myself for resting.

Instead of making a list at the end of the day of all the things I didn’t get to that I think I should have, I want to appreciate myself. It is no small feat to navigate this world. We’re just practicing.

What are the qualities of Secret New Year

What are the qualities of Secret New Year / True New Year / Most Holy Feast of Do-Overs forever?

Process. Spaciousness and Expansiveness, aka There’s time.

Experimentation. Compassion.

Sweetness and Comfort. Trust and Hopefulness.

Sanctuary and Structure. Creativity and Play.

Something about layering on these experiences of nourishment and sustenance.

We try things. We notice what’s working and what might help. We tweak the experiment. All intel is useful.

What is my plan for the Feast of Do-Overs

Not much, I never know how much energy I will have, but am going to keep doing the things that work and keep on keeping on.

There will be red chile cauliflower potato soup that I made during Cooking Club time this week.

I might gleam something with extra care, maybe wiping down the cabinets is tomorrow’s gleaming op, if I have the energy for that.

Might do some stone-skipping or a version of a Monday Meeting to get clarity on my wishes for the year.

Nearly every day, if I’m paying attention, an insight or idea-spark will volunteer itself about a small shift I could make to one of my experiments, and I would love to get better at noticing how these add up over time.

Cumulative magic

This goes back to taking the time to pause, remember, appreciate the winding path. While progress might feel slow, it is cumulative.

Resting is not only good practice, it’s when I can turn around and see just how far I’ve come.

Sure, maybe some days it’s too foggy to see. Okay, that happens too, we add compassion, make soup, a breath and another breath for the shifting light and all hope-sparks to come.

Can I undo the habitual mind-trap of linear progress?

And if not, can I notice that I’m in it, and remind myself that it is a mirage. Do-overs forever. Carrot cake and trees and showing up again.

Do-overs are a practice of kindness

Do-overs can be playful. Do-overs can be fractal.

The rewriting and reconfiguring of habits, patterns and existing structures can emerge from anything. Sometimes they come out of a state frustration or a useful if not-fun breakdown. And sometimes they come from appreciation of an already-good something that you want to be even more good.

I have said this probably ten thousand times but: it is brave to try things, and it is also brave to be like, ”Oh yeah absolutely no thanks to that thing I tried!”, and then try something else.

We learn through experimenting and experience. Ritual and repetition, small shifts, add compassion, notice what we notice, regroup, start again.

Happy Feast Day of Do-Overs Forever to you, I hope you are able to feel some hope-sparks and, if you like, begin your year again.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like. Come play in the comments!

We are experimenting with experimenting! All experiments are useful experiments! All Do-Overs are good! You can brainstorm experiments & practices, for rewriting a pattern, whatever you’re working through, People Vary.

And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.

Wishing you a sweet new year that is an improvement in all ways over the last one, and if you are boycotting the passage of time then pretend I did not mention that! May we all find the supportive rituals, playful experiments and loving compassion we need, or something even better!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing what needs fixing, focused on making it through winter.

Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share one of my posts with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self