I returned home to Brisbane today after a break of 12 days in Sydney. I was visiting my family to celebrate Christmas. I also caught up with a lot of friends. I had hoped that amidst the social rounds I would find some time for reflection. Perhaps I could sit in a park for a few hours or use a desk in a library. I imagined myself thinking and writing, looking back on 2019 and setting goals for 2020. However, the opportunity cost of forgoing time with my family and friends was too high. I’d have plenty of space and time for my annual review and goal setting upon my return home.
Of course, there are many ways to reflect and contexts in which to do so. As it turned out, I did a lot of reflection while in Sydney. I did this through conversation and by noticing my own responses and thoughts in the moment to the places I visited and events I experienced.
I had many conversations with people about how life has shifted for me in the past two years, both personally and professionally. They often made observations on the choices and actions I’d taken to make this happen. Some who are particularly close to me shared what they felt this demonstrates about my values and character, and where my growth opportunities lie (yes, very high trust friendships indeed). I can use their generous input for deeper individual reflection in the coming week. Others can see things in me that I may not. For this reason reflecting both with others and on my own provides more useful insight than either approach alone.
The places that fed my reflection most were the homes of family members. They are homes I’ve visited many times before and they are the setting of many feel-good memories.
Some of the things that I noticed in their homes are the things that I always notice. How well-organised my mum is. How carefully she maintains their home. How well she looks after my 92 (or is it 93?) year old grandmother. The effort she puts into preparing healthy meals and exercising. How the ritual of doing the quiz and crossword from the newspaper together after dinner bonds my family. I also noticed some shifts. How much more challenging my dad’s chronic pain is for him to manage.* How my grandmother drifts a little more mentally and walks more cautiously. My insights from time in my parent’s home are that I could manage my assets more closely and be more consistent with my exercise. The latter would strengthen my ties with my daughter who told me in her Christmas card that she loves going to the gym with me. (Thankfully she also told me she loves binging Netflix with me – a balanced combination of bonding rituals.)
Christmas Eve was a gathering at my brother’s family home. I’m always excited to visit their home. It’s a colourful meld of hand-crafted items, framed photos, books, LP records, memento-covered pin-boards and love. The happiness I feel amidst the displays, colour and textures in their home has me questioning my minimalist push of recent years. I sold or gave away a lot of possessions before my 2018 road trip. It was cleansing and gave me a fresh start. I’ve replaced essentials gradually since my trip ended 15 months ago. I wish I’d kept a lot more books. When I culled them I figured I could replace any that I really missed on Kindle. While that’s true, I’ve since realised I prefer reading and referring back to the more expensive hard copy versions, especially non-fiction. I’d like to put more photos on display to spark happy memories and reminders of the people I love. I’m also feeling inspired to complete the two unfinished textile projects that I’ve stored for over ten years.
The most personally meaningful event in this period was a lunch that I hosted for a group of professional colleagues. It was about gratitude, connection and celebration. The first two of these are values I have held for some time; the latter is something I aim to do more often. My preparation for this event triggered a lot of reflection about my relationship with each of the seven people I invited, why they were important to me and how we have supported and encouraged each other.
The end of a year is a natural point in time to reflect. Even more so the end of a decade. On top of this, getting out of my normal environment and fairly intensive work routine opened me up to insights from conversations and personal reactions to my surroundings. I’m excited to pull together my individual reflection and goals from the thoughts dancing in my head over the coming week.
* At 74 my dad has several health conditions, with the damage to his neck and shoulders from forty years of manual labour being the primary source of chronic pain.