Let's start 2021 already, shall we? I won't rehash why- we know 2020 has been a dumpster fire. You were there. I was there. It wasn't fun.
And January 1, 2021 isn't going to be some magic date when suddenly everything that made 2020 such a nightmare ends! So I decided to end my 2020 right now, and move ahead with planning my next year as if it's 13 months long.
I know, these might be fighting words for some people. But I have a history of doing my "new year's review and planning" work at various times of the year, so it works for me!
This is a process, and it takes me several days to go through it all so I don't wear myself out. I want to share my tools with you so if you decide to follow my lead and move into your next "you", you've got somewhere to start.
Step 1- Wrap Up 2020
First- I pull cards.
You don't have to do this. I don't always do this when I plan, even. But this year I did, and I think it really helped me.
I used this deck and asked 4 questions:
Next, I look back over 2020. Years ago I saved worksheets from Jamie Ridler Studio, about "Celebrating the Season that Was" and "Imagining the Season Ahead". Since then, she's expanded and refined her work into a "yearbook", but her original sheets still serve me well.
I also use an out-of-print New Year's Workbook by Maia Toll, I think from an early iteration of her Witch Camp. I've written more about the journey she took us on in previous New Year's posts, like this one.
Other tools you can use are Susannah Conway, Martha Beck, Hannah Bullivant, Tara Mohr, and more. This year I also plan to do Maia Toll's Winter: Journey of Inanna course again- it's an intense dive into shedding what you think you are and what you want to be, and laying your actual soul bare. I haven't gone through it in a few years, but I'm absolutely feeling it this year.
Step 2- Look Ahead
Much of the work I do to look over 2020, that I described in step 1, has looking ahead work built into it. Especially the New Year's Workbook- that's when I choose my WotY (Word of the Year)! This is one of my favorite exercises. The years when I've hung onto my WotY have been the most impactful for me. In full disclosure, I don't remember what my WotY was for this year, and only have a vague idea about where to even look for it...
Anyway, once I've wrapped up these structured practices, I start a writing journey. Many people call it a "painted picture"- simply, you imagine every detail of your life in one day of the future.
My step 3 will be detailed planning for the coming year, so I'm going to explore a painted picture of my life three years from now, in 2023. Three years seems do-able to me- five years is too big a leap, and I'm already planning out one year, and I like the number 3. None of this is an exact science!
I'll also go through Racheal Cook's Plan Your Best Year Ever challenge. It's a 5 day event, but I've done it a number of times now so I can skip over some redundant or extraneous (to me) bits.
The point is, by reviewing the details of 2020 and dreaming ahead to 2023, when I start to work on 2021 in the next step I'll have really grounded myself in the reality of where I've been, as well as oriented myself towards where I'm trying to go. I've spent a lot of time, as my business coach describes it, like an octopus in roller skates- going nowhere furiously. This is how I put myself on rails and pre-set my direction going forward.
This might be the best time for me to highlight one of the quotes I live by:
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
It is IMPORTANT that you not be too precious about all this! If you don't make a plan, you won't get anywhere. But making a plan is really about just starting your journey- don't get attached to the steps of the plan, because I can guarantee you that they will diverge from your expectations almost immediately.
This isn't cause for cognitive dissonance. We contain multitudes, including the ability to both make beautiful plans and allow them to be composted at any time. We have to make the plans and allow for change. We're not machines- we are nature.
Step 3: Get Specific About Next Year
Having said all that about planning, it's about to seem like I'm contradicting myself. Remember, we contain multitudes. Let's wade in.
Now that I've looked back and into the farther-off future, I'm ready to dig into what's immediately in front of me. I'm doing this with Racheal Cook, my business coach and mentor. In preparation for her Q1 CEO Retreat coming up, she's given us a bunch of steps to break it all down. Essentially, the steps are:
At the end of the retreat, I have a pre-planned quarter in front of me! I usually end up changing my mind or switching things around- remember, don't be too precious. The important thing is that now I'm not randomly or spontaneously making it up as I go along, and I can be confident that these are the right steps for me to take. I planned them with an eye to my bigger picture, even if week-to-week I'm not zooming back out to re-examine that picture.
This process will take me a few days, so I have time to rest and clear my head before diving back in for the next bit.
It's not the same every year, and sometimes I do it more than once a year. But In some capacity, at least every winter, I cast my memory back and my imagination ahead, then I stare down the upcoming calendar.
I know we're not going to talk about, you know, the dumpster fire. But I will say that adding in that last step, where I drill down into the immediate future and reverse engineer my goals into weekly tasks for my next quarter, saved my game this year.
I did her Best Year Ever challenge by myself in late January 2020, then joined her Collective and her virtual retreat in March. That means the Q1 retreat coming up will be my 5th run through for these steps, and all I can say is I can't believe this guidance and information has been there for years and I didn't know!
I usually don't regret not learning or experiencing something earlier than I actually do because I recognize that I wouldn't have been ready or accepting earlier- but not this. If you need to get your business in order, start with her Best Year Ever work today. This isn't an ad, I'm just that inspired by it!
So this is my New Year's Plan for 2020-2021, starting now. By December 1 2020, I'll be living in 2021 already. Wonder if that means I'll learn to write the correct year faster? But '2020' is so easy to type! If you have your own routine, or if you try mine and like it, I'd love to hear from you.
Note: some of the links in this article are affiliate links, though most are not. Thanks for supporting me.
Solstice has come and gone. Here in the northeastern US, summer is setting in and it’s traditionally about time for humidity, sandy toes, sunburn, mosquitos, and garden-fresh tomatoes. This year, of course, there’s extra concerns about avoiding people, breathing through a mask, and doing more to stay well on our own.
Walking has become MANY people's activity of choice since our shutdowns, and now that it's summer here the weather can really get in the way. My coach Racheal Cook described her "Thrive List" this week- it's a list of the the things you need in your life to really thrive, and in looking at mine I realized I really do feel better when I move.
At the same time, though, I wilt like a piece of spring mix in the heat, so I also made a list of workarounds to stop my objections before they start!
These are my goals for daily walking in a Philly summer:
This is totally possible. Totally. Sigh.
No really, it’ll be OK if we stick to a couple preparations and plans. Here’s what I'll do, in reverse order:
Skip Crowded Areas
Obvs, this is a given. I have 2 solutions, one expected and one maybe not.
First, go really early. Like, dawn. I’ve taken to sleeping with my curtains open so I wake up then anyway, and it really is a magical time. It’s cool and quiet, except for the birds- SO many birds! And then later, after I’ve gotten my day pretty much accomplished, and it’s the hot part of the afternoon and I start wilting (yes I have AC, doesn’t matter!) I can take a lovely nap, maybe even in the hammock. Perfect. .
Second, get off the path. My local park has lovely trails in the woods, and for whatever reason people just don’t use them as much. But there’s shade and it’s cool and I love trees, so the whole thing is a win for me.
Maximize My Effort
Again, early. Again, wooded paths. But also, cool herbal teas… so good! Lots of herbs are packed with minerals and other nutrients and they act like electrolyte drinks without the weird dyes and overpowering flavors and ridiculous sweetness. I like things like Nettle and Red Raspberry Leaf mixed with Hibiscus and Lemon Balm and Tulsi (aka Holy Basil). It’s like that old “zingy” tea by that big company that everyone’s had, but so much better.
I have a few gallon glass jars (ask at a deli or restaurant if they have an empty glass pickle jar you can rescue) so I drop in 10-12 tea bags total, or 1-2 handfuls of loose herbs each. I fill it with hot water after dinner and put it in my back porch overnight (no sense heating my kitchen more!) Next 2-4 days, depending, I have a fabulous, tart, mineral-rich iced tea ready to sip all day long.
Now it’s your turn. What are your fair-weather goals? What are your tips to meet them?
1. Get Moving
I know you don't feel like it. But the ONLY way to get past this is to encourage your lymph system to get immune cells in, and trash out.
-Take a hot showers
-Use a netti pot
-dry yourself briskly!
-snuggle into warm clothes
2. Take Stock and Make Stock
Start making hot water, on the stove or in a crock pot, and a tea kettle. I am forever freezing chicken bones and this is the time to use them. Dig around in your fridge and freezer to see what you might add to that hot water. If you were thinking ahead, you may have some veggie ends like carrot tips and celery butts and parsley stems frozen against a future soup, in which case toss it all the pot with the bones. Otherwise, just the bones will do fine, with some salt and a wee splash of vinegar. And a few seaweed leaves, if you have them. Then just put the pot on low with a lid and forget about it until tomorrow.
Like #1 up there, keeping your lymph moving and thin is super extra important now, so we need to stay hydrated and warm. With that hot tea kettle water from #2, make yourself some tea- I keep it easy with instant dandelion or ginger tea, or one of these mushroom lattes that help your immune function and are DELICIOUS. Also, dig out that container of miso you forgot about in the back of your fridge (I'll share other ways to enjoy miso some other time) and drop a spoonful in a second mug. Add a sprinkle of kelp and poof- you have soup. Drink up.
4. Feed a cold, starve a fever
Here's my take on this saying, really one of the only thowbacks our culture has left of a traditional medicine system. Colds are low-grade attacks on our bodies, and we pull out all the stops to fight it- mucus to trap and drain, fatigue to conserve energy, aches as destroyed cells pile up in our lymph glands. An army fights on its stomach, so if yours is calling for fuel, go for it.
Keep in mind, you are working HARD to fight this off, and it takes energy to digest food into that fuel. Choose simple, nutrient-dense, easy to digest options, which are primarily soft, long cooked, and uncomplicated foods. Soups, stews, roasted vegetables, eggs, applesauce, porridges- you know, the really healthy stuff. Dairy, sugar, large quantities of grains, raw foods will all use too many resources or actually feed the bacteria causing the cold. Help your body out.
If you reach fever stage, I believe your body is throwing all available energy at raising your temperature to basically cook your illness right out of you. Support that with hydration, warm clothes, lots of simple resting, and fasting as you feel you need it. Now's the time to really check in and see what you're up for and in need of. It'll take your stock from #2 at least 24 hours to simmer into a mineral-rich broth that will feed your depleted immune system, so nap your way till then.
Don't be surprised if you sleep for 12 hours or more. Don't be surprised when I suggest you go to bed before it's dark out. Give yourself the chance to recover. Just do it, please!
6. Recovery wasn't done in a day
Our culture does NOT value convalescence. But I do! And I get it, it's hard to all for recovery when we're so pressed with obligations and responsibilities from all sides. But if you keep your energy output to 70% MAX for at least 2 days after you start feeling better, you'll actually be able to recover to at least your pre-cold energy levels in record time.
A woman was recently telling me about a strange rash she developed on her upper back. After a few rounds of doctor visits, she was finally told that it was coming from a virus that gave her an upper respiratory issue 3 months prior to the rash! Enough people had had the hacking cough AND didn't actually recover from it, leading to identical rashes on the outside of their lungs months later, that the local physicians were recognizing the symptoms- and recommending steroids. I recommend recovering fully in the first place.
Drink your broth, make it into vegetable soup, eat your simple foods, allow for more time to do routine things, take naps, and when your symptoms start to recede start the clock- you still need at least 2 days of this easier pace to be well again.
Read No You Don’t Need A Liver Cleanse! Not A Detox Program Either! I'll wait...
OK, good. We got that straight.
Now, I love this time of year. Everyone has their own special take on traditions, and my family is no exception. We have a Slovak Christmas, a dinner called Vilija with mushroom sauerkraut soup, homemade pierogies, a fish, peas, green jello and pineapple (hey now don't judge) and ohmygosh the cookies. The big focus is on sharing, so yesterday when the exterminator came my mom gave him a baggie of cookies along with his check. Everybody gets included! After I get home there's a couple parties, and some "special" eggnog that'll knock your socks off, and who knows what else.
It's a fun, adventurous culinary holiday, lovingly made and generously shared, that is not well suited for daily life.
After the holidays I'm going to restart some physical and food choices that fell by the wayside this year. My goal is to improve my elimination, heal/repair my nervous and digestive tissues, and feel rested, clear headed, and inspired more often.
Do you want to Overhaul with me? Since I’m planning this out ahead of time and being more methodical, I thought some of you might want to join me for the ride. Here’s what we’ll do, from December 31 to January 20:
I’m offering you the inside scoop on my annual New Year’s Overhaul. You’ll learn what I’ve been doing (abdominal breathing! intermittent fasting!) and all the deets on some new things I want to try (lymph support! meditation!) There will be herbs, fermented foods, exfoliation and dry brushing, digestive support and poop talk, gut health and sweating.
Simply put, we’ll try some new habits on for 3 weeks and see what sticks, while minimizing the demands put on our bodies.
Want to take part? 3 weeks of plans and descriptions, plus my support, delivered early so you have time to prep, is $30.
Sign up HERE, and look for your welcome email. I am traveling this week so you may not get it same day. I look forward to going through this with you!
Here we are at the end of June, and some days it feels like winter isn't over yet. I'm talking to lots of people who are privately having a hard time coping. When it's sunny and warm, it feels 'right'. But then we get another cool, rainy, clammy day and I'm reminded that this is familiar, it has been since last Thanksgiving, and it completely erases the memory of that bright thing up in the sky.
How can we manage this? I have some ideas:
First of all, keep your D up. I stopped taking my vitamin D supplement because, well, it's summertime now, right? Turns out no, not really. So the last few weeks I've been taking it again, and what a difference! I take a chewable tablet right now, but have done drops and liqui-gels and sprays. Find the kind you're most likely to actually use- compliance is everything.
Next, seize the sun when it's there. When it gets bright out I'll force myself to weed, or read outside, or do anything in the fresh air, irrespective of what else is on my to-do list. Even short bursts outside help remind your brain of our place on the year's wheel, and getting hot and muddy and bug-bitten makes those cool days feel like some relief! Being uncomfortable is not the worst thing in the world, either, so go with it.
Finally, try to re-frame your perspective. Years ago I heard Dr Dan Gottlieb on NPR talking to a caller about her depression. She had described feeling crushed, like a weight pushing her to the ground. His response was seared into my memory: Instead of being crushed, imagine the Earth holding you up, like a gentle hand cupping you until you are strong enough to stand on your own. The vision I have of this is way beyond my pathetic art skills but if I could draw you a picture, you'd hang it on your wall. I just love it.
But what about the HERBS?! I hear you cry in dismay. An Herbalist without herbal suggestions? Well, sure, herbs are great too. Herbs that help nerves, and are sunshiny, like Lemon Balm or St John's Wort or even hemp oils, would be great too. Remember though, herbs aren't like pharmaceuticals. They are only part of the solution. We are empowered to help ourselves, with herbs adding to the overall picture. This is one of those situations where your choices clearly impact your wellness. Use your power!
I'm so done with this. I'm over it. It's just... I can't even.
Have you been hearing this, from your friends or from yourself, about this Spring weather?
Unfortunately, that's too bad. It's only March. This IS Spring! This is what we signed up for! So what are we to do for our own mental stability?
Yes, you can take a vacation. You could bring me with you, too! But seriously, an even easier suggestion is to bring Spring to you.
It can be really comforting to see signs of Spring, so go look for them. Get yourself a potted daffodil. Or a bunch of tulips. Or grab your gardening shears (which means you get to go through your gardening supplies! Yay!) and force some blooms indoors.
Go find a forsythia or other spring blooming bush. Snip one or two branches that have lots of buds. Bring them back inside (quick now, it's COLD outside.) Grab a jar or something heavy with a blunt edge, and smash up the end of the branches. This will allow them to take up more water than just the small snip does.
Now put them in a really simple vase- a small jar, an old pitcher, a bud vase. In a few days, you will have lovely bright yellow flowers brightening up your house! And in a few weeks, you'll have them outside too. I promise, it's coming.
This is the scene outside my kitchen window today (at just past noon, 18 hours before the Spring Equinox, at about 40 degrees north, between Philadelphia and Allentown PA.) You can see for yourself why gardeners get so worked up about southern exposure!
What are we looking at?
This is my backyard, a few days after a snow storm. The left side of the image is South. By the angles of the shadows from the tree, the clothesline, and the line support, you can see how far we are from the sun being directly overhead at noon (it gets closest at the Summer Solstice- as I said, this is the Spring Equinox).
That greenish patch to the left of the tree is where the sun has warmed and melted the snow and ice we've been chopping away at for the past few days.
Any structure that faces South and doesn't have anything in its way will get more sun and more heat during the Winter months, because the sun is angled so sharply from the South. This is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere!
This means, for example, if I built a low wall or cold frame on the right side of the lawn, it'd get lots of sun and not be shaded by the neighbor's fence, making it an ideal place to grow cool weather crops.
I wonder if my landlord would mind me building out there...
How does it feel to usher in a new year between December 30 and January 1?
Are you inspired, motivated, making lists and setting goals and planning big plans?
Or does today just feel like yesterday?
New year celebrations happen at different times for different people. Some celebrate the end of the year on the Winter Solstice, Chinese New Year isn't until January 28 this year, and I personally don't feel like anything is "new" until Spring- this year, on March 20.
The wonderful Maia Toll just reminded me today that we all move along at our own pace. She likened it to flowers- some will be popping up in February, and others won't break the surface till June. And it's true, some years I'm a June baby. That doesn't mean I've wasted the first half, just that I was still preparing till then. (Check out Maia's Witch Camp to join in the fun, like today's New Moon call.)
So take your own time with your new year. Be active or passive according to your own needs, instead of reactive towards everyone else's. And set broad intentions- she also reminded me that this is where the energy will go, so channel it towards good things.
Wishing you smiles, today and always!
Second Step: Take stock and make stock. What did I have on hand? What could I easily pull together to feed and hydrate myself? I dug into the freezer and the fridge and the tea basket. Since I needed to fill up the electric kettle anyway, I filled up the crock pot with water as well. I had one package of 'carcass parts' left- chicken necks and backs specifically bought for stock making purposes. Into the pot they went, lid on, heat Low, and forget about it. I'd have soup stock ready for tomorrow, when I had more energy to deal with it.
Third Step: Tea and Soup and Herbs, Oh MY. Meanwhile the tea kettle was hot. I added dried hibiscus flowers a pilates client just gave me (beautiful and delicious and high in vitamin C!) and Ginger Honey Crystals (these are magic) to a quart mason jar, filled it with hot water, and left it to steep. In a mug I dropped a scoop of organic miso paste and a sprinkle of dried kelp and more hot water. Instant soup!
I carried both of these into the living room and set them aside to cool. First I ate applesauce, with Multi Metabolite Immune powder mixed in. It's a sprouted seed powder with immune herbs and Lion Mane's mushroom. I demo for the company at grocery and health food stores part time and this is one of my favorite items. Then I had the soup and tea, warming me all the way and making me comfortable. I was still hungry so I reheated some pasta with meat sauce- you know, for dessert. :)
Echinacea is a great part of this routine, when I can remember to take it. I'm my own worst patient, for sure. In acute cases like this I SHOULD take a dropper of my tincture every half hour. But, well, now that I'm thinking of it I'll go get that dropper bottle and put it in my pocket. There, I just took a dose.
Fourth Step: R.E.S.T. Just do it. I watched a movie on Netflix. It wasn't very good so I won't tell you about it.
Then I went to bed. I slept for 12 hours, and rested in bed with my phone for another 2 hours after I woke up. THIS IS IMPORTANT. The main reason I got back up when I first got home was that it was only about 4pm, and I knew what it would mean to wake up at 4am, or even 6am, in the dark and starving and still not well. Had I needed to work today, I totally would have done it. But since I had today off I fed myself and then went to bed, so this morning I was free to be more leisurely.
Fifth Step: Recovery wasn't done in a day. Today has been a mix of doing things and sitting down with a bowl or mug of something. I know it sounds decadent but convalescing is something we don't allow ourselves to do, though it's really a necessary part of being ill. I'm still a little stuffed up and worn down but I feel 70% better than I did yesterday. Writing this is part of a 'sitting down' section of the day, though it is using more energy than Netflixing on the couch, and I have tea here with me.
Next I'm going to turn my chicken stock into soup, adding it to kale and potatoes and anything else I can dig out of the fridge in a big pot with some diced tomatoes and spices. I'll add a handful of dried nettle and a big sprinkle of dulse flakes for their trace minerals, and have dinner in an hour or so. None of my To Do list is getting done today, and I forgive myself for that. Yes, I'll be extra busy during the week, but I'd still be sick then if I didn't allow myself the rest time now.
Dealing with a spring cold involves prevention (I did not anticipate just how horrible the weather would be so dressed poorly), fluids, nourishment, and REST. Taking it easy the rest of yesterday and today has been crucial to my rebounding. If I had pushed today I'd have gotten more done, but struggled the rest of the week to get even this recovered. R&R is the most important thing we can do for ourselves, especially when illness strikes!
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Hello! Yeah, it's been a while. Not much, how 'bout you?
Well, it HAS been a while. Just before Christmas I was Planning the New Year, and now the halfway point of winter has passed. It was a time of quiet for me. Sometimes I wondered why I wasn't writing anything here, and sometimes I wondered why I ever had, but mostly I just quietly worked and let time pass.
Winter is the season of Water, and I felt it- like I was at the bottom of a deep pool, and eventually I'd bubble up to the top and get moving like a Spring thaw. As expected I did resurface, and it's wonderfully peaceful to know I can count on change to happen at its own pace!
Many of my clients express their frustration to me about being "lazy", about finding it hard to exercise or even get excited about anything during this time of year. How I wish everyone would look around and see how "lazy" Nature is being, and how judgmental we are holding ourselves to different standards.
A week ago we had an honest-to-goodness blizzard here in Philly. It was an entire day of strong winds and huge drifts and pity for people with dogs that needed walking. When I finally got back to my pilates classes, it was so much fun to listen to the stories about families getting snowed in, watching movies and doing puzzles together. None of these women, who are usually SO HARD on themselves, felt any guilt or self-recrimination for just laying low.
Winter is all about laying low. Some days the sun is out and it's almost balmy, some days we have energy and motivation and can accomplish "things'. But on balance, Winter should be as quiet and restful a time as Summer is outgoing and social.
I let myself just be over the last several weeks, and now I feel the wheel has turned and it's time for me to rejoin you. Maybe I'll take another break or three before we see flowers here again. Point is, accepting my downtime felt good. Don't beat yourself up over yours!
In the meantime I did do my New Year's Planning, on my annual New Year's vacation at the Outer Banks. I also began some outside work to learn more, and some inside work to teach more. I met a pilates teacher who can substitute for me when I have to go away, and introduced myself to people who might further my dreams. And I knitted a poncho. It wasn't an empty time, just a quiet time. And I thoroughly enjoyed it!
May the remainder of your Winter be as peaceful.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.