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15 Years of Mantras Or, why we have girlfriends, fortune cookies and more

It’s that time of year, when we all look back over the past year and look forward to the new one. This often comes with the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.

Years ago, around the time of having my first child, I decided to stop making myself empty promises about getting up and going running before breakfast. (I’m not a runner. Or a morning person. Or even a breakfast eater.) Instead, I decided to pick a motto for the upcoming year, something that I would say over and over throughout the year, a mantra if you will, with the hope of becoming a better person or feeling more settled in life.

Here’s a look back on 15 years of mantras with an explanation of how they came to be.

As you close out the year, may you find resolution in the year’s activities and truly look forward to the next.

2005: It is what it is.

I had moved to the dreamlike Mecca NYC is for writers — with a 2-week-old baby. I resolved that writing would wait. Simply giving up on the guilt let me focus on raising my son. Accepting this allowed me a contentedness I’d been missing.

2006: Just write it down.

I had stopped writing altogether, aside from keeping a journal. Muses would visit, sit around my living room, get bored and leave. I decided I didn’t have to pound out a novel with them, but I could pay them the respect of writing down their ideas, if only to return to them later.

2007: One day at a time

My second son was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and underwent three surgeries before his first birthday, with weekly appointments to adjust his orthodontic molding device, with a toddler in tow, in a city without a car, and a husband who was a medical resident. But we got through it… one day at a time.

2008: No one’s doing this to you; you’re only doing it to yourself.

Reading “Emotional Blackmail,” I realized that all you can change about someone is your reaction to their actions. You can simply choose not to let things bother you, because it has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t work for everything, but it is incredibly helpful for someone else’s road rage. Pull over, and let it pass.

2009: Smile more.

In “Eat, Pray, Love,” I was struck by the guru’s direction to smile during meditation —even in your liver. A simple smile can be amazingly powerful. Try smiling at strangers. More people will hold the door for you rather than let it slam in your unsmiling face.

15 years of mantra

2010: You got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.

This Beatles’ line has become my marriage’s theme song. My husband finished medical training, we bought our first home and first car, and we feel like we might stay put after eight moves. We’ve come a long way, baby! It’s nice to have finally arrived after planning, saving, and hoping. Godspeed!

2011: A wise man listens more than he talks.

This came in a fortune cookie. After working from home and mostly only having my children to talk to, I like to talk to other people. But I relate through personal experience and get excited about my thing instead of listening to their thing. I’m listening, please continue … .

2012: Why God gave us girlfriends

An article written by Stanford psychiatrist said “one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.” Here’s to our next Girls’ Night Out!

2013: Embrace the moment.

I saw a mug with this slogan while Christmas shopping. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I feel the need to not only embrace my children, but to embrace any moment that presents itself, to not look to yesterday or tomorrow, but to be present and revel in today.

2014: Let it go.

This annoyingly catchy song is a good reminder. Let go of guilt, grudges, regrets, others’ opinions, stuff that happened 20 years ago … “Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.” Let. It. Go.

2015: Random acts of kindness

At Christmas, the gift of giving is on everyone’s mind. Let’s try to keep it up all year —not just with more charitable contributions, but with actual acts of kindness, preferably for strangers, for no apparent reason. Spread kindness and cultivate gratitude.

2016: Get ‘er done.

We’ve lived in our home for five years. We’ve crossed off many to-do list items, but some just linger. While also turning 40, it’s high time to kick things into gear. It may mean less perfection paralysis, but I’m committed to getting it done. May your to-do lists diminish as well.

2017: It’s fine. No one will scream or throw up.

Stepping out of the car for yoga, I noticed it had been about a week since I had shaved my armpits. For one second, I considered going home. But I told myself it was fine and proceeded into downward dog. Remembering this keeps my momentum moving forward when I’m about to back up. I smiled at the girl in class sporting ’70s, full-on bushy pits. You go, girl!

2018: Good old Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”

This is the year of hope so hopeful it gets stuck like a thing with feathers would. You can’t swallow it or cough it up. It sits in your chest refusing to dissipate.

It’s hope that we’ll be the best versions of ourselves; that we’ll see strength in difference with genuine curiosity; that our kids will stay safe; and that our leaders will seek wisdom with grace. It’s hope that we feel inspired to be the change we want to see in the world and have the courage to take action. Hope that, when kindled, will ignite a flame.

15 years of mantras

2019: Prioritize

I am retiring from a few things and saying no more often to make space in my life for other things — writing, reading, exercise, and more nights on the couch with my family. My oldest started high school this year — only so many years of this left. Wishing you more memorable moments.

2020: Publish or perish.

This is the year you will read something I’ve written. I will go to that monthly writers’ group. I will write. I will rewrite. I will submit. I will get rejected. I will submit again. My writing has been trapped inside my computer, notebooks and journals for 20 years. I will commit to getting one thing published. I look forward to sharing it with you!

About Monica Leigh

Baltimore's Child Staff

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