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Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

  1. A good book clears the head. Not so much the introspective books. They have their place, but an old novel with characters who have stood the test of time, been put on screen in a way that pleases no one because the depth of character is too difficult to grasp. At the end of my year, I gave my heart to the characters of Middlemarch and Little Women, though I have the wildness of Kristin Lavarnsdatter for getting me back to binge-reading, aka deep reading.
  2. When I ask myself, “how do I want my day to look?” I realize it does not involve social media. I still check Facebook a ridiculous number of times each day, but I rarely post or comment now. Scrolling is a sign of something wrong in my life, not right. And even though I know an online presence will one day be important to my path to getting a book published, I rather hope it takes long enough that likes, clicks and my email list will not determine the potential of my work in the eyes of a publisher, not that I’m saying I will wait that long.
  3. Exercise is essential. I feel like garbage otherwise. I might think I look like garbage and though I try to avoid self-deprecating comments I cannot own that I have not had self-deprecating thoughts. But more than looks, it helps my back not hurt so bad (by using the muscles) and energizes me all around.
  4. I actually do need alone time. I am a flaming extrovert so it comes as a surprise to me and my uber-introverted husband that after a long day at home with the kids, I want to be in the bedroom with the door shut to, ahem, clear my head and read a book.
  5. Writing has become the sign that everything is right in my world. If I am not writing, I am not being introspective. If I am not writing, I am not engaging in the world of beauty and word-craft that, as my counselor says, make my spirit sing. I have the great joy of being a published columnist and newspaperwoman (regular pay!). When I run away from writing, I have found I am running away from myself.
  6. When I get used to a good thing, it is easy to forget to savor it. After four months at home, the blessed moments with my children began to pass me by. Whether I was exhausted and retreating to online articles and podcasts or whether I was energetic and Christmas decorating, I need to stop and savor my time with my children…and hot chocolate.
  7. Artists inspire artists. Whether it is a matter of hearing that other artists bear similar burdens or inspiring each other in our craft, it has been good to meet with other artists and grow.
  8. It is okay to be a sad person, as long as I can still be a kind person. I believe in manners so much more now. Maybe it was the sadness that made me more deliberate in my speech. Maybe the sadness just made me appreciate people more. Whatever it is, I find my relationships are fuller and better now. Acts of kindness fill my heart and I am deeply grateful for the people who perform them. I try to be gracious and kind in return, and even when no specific act is rendered.
  9. Sunshine and candlelight do a lot for improving my mood. I always believed environment was important, that in between decorating has a world of value even it does not fulfill the final plan. Cabinets you hate are a lot to look at for years. Beauty is life-giving. God is the superlative beauty. Exposure to beauty opens up Heaven and God’s glory to me in the small way that beautiful created things reflect their Creator. And when that happens, I am closer than ever to my daughter.
  10. I know what I need to cope whether at home or far from home…and it doesn’t involve alcohol. The trick is in recognizing when the moment is one that calls for coping, instead of allowing the moment to wash me away. The ingredients are the same: reading, writing, exercise, art or craft, quiet and, at other times, friendship. I can now say I have habits built around home and away, created through crisis, which I can access when I no longer have what it takes to handle the day.