Happy New Year! What’s the Word for 2019?

Champagne and Sparkling White Grape Juice left on the table, blankets and pillows cluttered across the floor, the light from the TV filling the dimmed room as the ball dropped, and then again, only the light from the Christmas tree—it was New Year’s Eve, and our time looking forward to 2019 was coming to a close.

This was the first year we attempted to explain the celebration of the New Year to our daughter. Every year, we’ve attended or hosted a party with friends and family, but every year, we’ve watched the ball drop and toasted while holding a sleeping girl up against our shoulders. This year, we stayed home for the first time and relaxed in the living room for a family “slumber party”: TV ready for the ball drop and Christmas tree shining bright, all the other lights turned off, and the floor and couches covered in blankets, pillows, and stuffed animal friends as we prepared to tuck in. Cadence made it to midnight without a problem, and we made a bit of a game out of toasting: Close your eyes, make a wish for the year, and then toast! (Cadence broke the rule of keeping wishes to herself, but hers will be easy enough to make come true: another bear and fox, surely meant to be friends for her two favorite stuffed animals, ever.) After the ball dropped, Cadence carefully considered what our “slumber party movie” would be, and while she decided, Dragan and I spoke in quiet tones about 2018, and what we could see happening in the coming year.

It didn’t take us long to come up with a list of what filled our 2018. Dragan moved on to a new job, we welcomed our second child into our family, we moved twice… and countless other, smaller events that filled our regular Mondays and Tuesdays. After such an eventful year, it’s hard to say what may fill our 2019. But what I’m sure of is that it will be a year of growth. Since we’ve moved to Chicago and are getting settled, there’s time now to get comfortable in our new home and city, and start making a name for ourselves here. As for our children, Cadence is showing interests in all forms of art, as well as cooking and science, and Grayson is growing beautifully; I have nothing but love and high hopes for who they’ll be and what they’ll do this year.

What was harder for me to decide prior to the new year was what I wanted my focal point to be—the word that would guide me in my work, in my writing, and with my family. I kept settling on words that didn’t feel quite right, and it took watching my daughter fall asleep during our slumber party movie for me to finally get it right.

We pushed play on the movie Cadence chose and settled in on the blanketed floor and across the pillows and couch. Dragan fell asleep right away after working so many days in a row, which gave Cadence and I a few minutes to talk about the movie. She asked to hold my hand, which I offered her, and she fell asleep within minutes.

I muted the movie, not really watching it, and simply took in the room around me. It was warm, and full of Christmas tree light, and I could hear everyone I love most in the world breathing, and hopefully having sweet dreams. Though I wasn’t sleeping, too, though we weren’t talking, the simple act of all being in the same room together, celebrating the year before us, made me think about staying present, and truly connecting with those I love.

That’s when I decided that my big word for the year would be “connection.”

There are many reasons, but genuine connection with others has always been a struggling point for me—worrying the relationship won’t work out, sharing too much or investing too much of myself, or allowing depression and anxiety to get in the way of regular interaction; it seems like there’s always been something in the way. But I want to work this year on the areas that I’m in control of: When it’s time to feed Grayson, I can simply sit down, and feed and talk to my son. When Cadence wants to play, I can leave my phone in the other room (I can always bring my camera if I think I’ll want to take pictures). I can suggest that no electronic devices or toys appear at the dinner table. I can send out a personalized, if brief, note to each person I reach out to, and who reaches out to me, over social media and LinkedIn. I can take time at night to note the high points of my day, and mentally throw away the low ones, to make room for more good the next morning.

Not every day will be perfect, and they shouldn’t be; those more-difficult days are the true learning curves of the year. But if I can practice these small changes most of the time, and think about what I can remove from my life that causes me stress, and alleviate those things that distract me, I can focus more readily, happily, and fully, on my family, on my writing, and on building new professional relationships, when they need me.

So now, it’s the second day of the New Year, and I’m taking care of the kiddos and writing, and getting back on track with the laundry and chores (am I the only one who got behind on such things during the week between Christmas and the New Year?). Already I feel more at peace with where I am and what I could do in this new year, simply after having established these small, simple tasks. I hope you’ve decided what you will do to make this year your best one yet, too, and I wish you peace and love, from me to you.

More soon, my friends. Happy New Year!

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