Only What Matters is my mantra for the year. This is a check in.
I spent the first half of the year shedding most of the surface things that didn’t matter: crap in my schedule, incessant worrying about dumb things that just take up brain space and distract from deeper fears. In the spring, I went a step further and let go of a few relationships that had been draining my heart. That was mostly a brain game, I didn’t tangibly sit anyone down for a big talk or anything, I just gave myself permission to stop pursuing this or that friendship, I acknowledged the people in my life that weren’t working out, either on my end or theirs. Some of those decisions were painful, some a little embarrassing, but after awhile it felt really good, really whole, not to be trying so hard in my relationships.
Admittedly, in the last few months I lost track of my Only What Matters goals. It’s been a happy, busy summer. But even though I haven’t concentrated on the phrase, it’s interesting what has seeped into our daily living anyway. That’s the thing about mantras, I guess, if they really take hold. They pulse through your decisions whether you’re actively seeking them or not.
So at the lake it became “What matters about this meal for 20?” That everyone leaves the table sated. Not that every morsel is the best of their life. “What matters about this afternoon?” That we spent quality time together. Not anything that’s waiting on my computer. “What matters about this boat ride?” That my daughter sees me try a new skill, not that it’s accomplished or not.
I’ve had the space lately to think about another aspect of what matters, and that is active discussion. In the course of so many people in and out of our house this summer, I’ve participated in and overheard some hard conversations. As a matter of principle, I usually steer away from controversial topics like politics or religion with people I like, in the interest of keeping the peace. But some of the national conversations that are taking place right now are so important. I’ve often kept silent for the sake of relationship, but that’s not always doing myself or the world justice. Speaking up has been scary (I usually shake while doing so), but there’s a freedom afterward, and I always learn something, especially when there is disagreement.
"What matters about this conversation?" That we both walk away smiling or that we stand up for something we believe or that we listen to another side or that we all evolve a little bit more? It’s a case by case basis, that one. But finding my voice - an active voice, with a person sitting in front of me, and not just from behind my screen - has been liberating and terrifying and, hopefully, furthering for all of us. I didn’t even realize how quiet I’d become over the years on things that mattered.
Staring at the back half of this year, I’m pruning even more. What matters in my parenting has been a tender topic to explore. What matters about my career has been the most complicated of all, but I’m getting there. Lest you think I’ve been overly intentional about this mantra, you should know that I forget about it for days, even weeks at a time. But it’s funny how once you put something into the universe, it won’t let you forget. It comes to you. Some of what matters has been decided for me, whether it was my wish or not.
Simplifying has been beneficial in every single way. I’ve cooked more, yet stressed about food less. I’ve written more, and trashed the most amount of sentences. I have less friends than I did in January, but feel more myself.
This mantra’s going to stick, I think. I say that every year.