#1: I stopped making goals, and started making habits.
In the past, I’ve always made much bigger goals than I could ever achieve because I like reaching for the stars. But, this year, it felt wrong to do that. I was grieving, both personally and politically, and I just did not have the energy to make goals. Instead, I tried to establish good habits that would sustain me. That included trying to exercise every day, read for pleasure every day, practice self-care every day (like meditating for ten minutes), and write for at least 30 minutes every day. Over time, I got better at doing these habits, and felt a little bit better each day. My takeway? How you live your days is how you live your life.
#2: I supported arts and artists.
For me, one of the main things that makes life worth living is ART. So, this year, I put my money where my mouth is and supported artists and the arts. I went to see plays like The Odyssey (with 100+ actors!) by Public Works Seattle at the Seattle Rep, and Dragon Lady by the incomparable Sara Porkalob at the Intiman Theatre, and Howl’s Moving Castle at Book-It Theatre–all of which made me laugh, cry, and feel more alive. I saw hilarious comedians Ali Wong and Hari Kondabolu. I saw a mind-blowing remake of The Wiz by Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Teen Summer Musical. I bought lots of books, magazines, poetry, and zines. I went to Short Run Comix & Arts Festival at Seattle Center and Wordstock, the Portland Book Festival. All these things brought me joy. My takeway? Vote with your heart and your dollars.
#3: I spent time with people I cared about.
I know of 13 people who died this year, including my pop-in-law. Some were people I knew personally and others were the mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends of people I know. Death is a normal part of life, but nothing about it feels normal when it happens. All this death helped me to realize how important it is to spend time with people you care about, and, more importantly, to try to be present with people when you are together. My takeway? Enjoy time with loved ones while they’re still alive.
#4: I supported social justice events and organizations I believed in.
It’s hard to feel like you can make a difference when there’s so much going wrong in the world. But, every effort matters. Every step can lead to change. It’s like that quote by Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. I reminded myself of all this when I marched in the Women’s March and the Black Lives Matter March; when I protested against Milo Y’s speech at the University of Washington; when I donated money to Planned Parenthood and University Beyond Bars; when I called my local politicians; and when I voted. My takeway? Vote with your voice, your feet, and your dollars. They all make a difference!
#5: I limited the amount of news I consumed.
I stopped reading our daily newspaper, and only read the articles that my husband Marcus recommended. I started reading headlines on Twitter, instead of reading more articles. If it was something I was really interested in, then I would read the article, but I was way more discerning and picky than in 2016. I stopped watching local and national news years ago, so I kept doing that. My takeaway? Protect your mind, because no one else will.
I will continue doing these five things in the new year. They helped me through this hard year and I know they will help me again, whether 2018 is difficult or not.
What about you? What things do you do to help yourself through a difficult time? Post your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Art by Elise Gravel.