As usual, a lot of what I learned I harvested from working on the magazine. So I want to start by expressing gratitude for that opportunity and heartfelt appreciation for all the great ideas and resources that other people have shared (or just let me cop). An extra-big thanks to our super staff.
Last year I did a top-10 list, but this year I’m feeling a little less listy, a little more stream-of-consciousness. So here, in no particular order, are some of the most valuable “aha” moments I took away from the past 12 months:
Sleep is serious business. The “Getting to Sleep” feature we did back in November reconvinced me of something I’ve known intuitively (and from personal experience) for a long time, but that I tend to forget when I’m busy: Namely, that not getting enough sleep trashes your immunity and generally turns you into a miserable wretch. I started forcing myself to bed an hour earlier this fall, and it helped a lot. I also became more cautious about keeping my bedroom clutter-free and I started winding down at least 30 minutes before bedtime with a bath, a little slow yoga or some journaling, and that really helped. The bonus: More great dreams.
Play pays you back. There were a few times this year when I played really fun games of no-rules softball with my family, including my niece, Xanthi, who is 13 and has a terrific arm (she is the first girl in our family to not throw “like a girl”), and my nephew, Toliver, who is 10 and does this great thing where he goes weaving and zigzagging totally off the baseline in order to avoid being tagged. It’s hilarious, and he’s a fast runner, so he’s hard to catch, particularly while you’re laughing. Anyway, these games are among my most favorite memories of the year, all of them played on weekends when I had a lot of work to do but decided that playing was more important. In each case, it was the right decision, and I am totally convinced that whatever time I spent goofing off and laughing with my family more than paid for itself in renewed creativity, improved focus and a happier outlook. So thanks, X and T. I love being on your team.
Kindness is a virtue. No news there, but it sank in with me recently that one of the best ways to cultivate this virtue is to be kind to yourself. This year, for the first time, I approached my fitness training with a self-loving (vs. self-driving) attitude. I used my heart-rate monitor to moderate my intensity and to track my progress and recovery, and when a slightly elevated heart rate told me I was overtraining, or under too much stress, I dialed my workouts back. I did more yoga. I took long walks down by the river. I focused on recovery. At one point, when I got really busy, I simplified my calisthenics down to pushups and Pilates. Perhaps as a result, I was more consistent in my workouts this year, and enjoyed them more, than at any other time in my life. I ended up liking the results better, too.
There’s a lot more, of course, and most of it is catalogued, in one way or another, in the articles from this and the past nine issues. This issue in particular, though, is one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s because it reflects the culmination of such a satisfying body of work. Or maybe it’s because I relate so personally to so many of the articles (I think “Fire Your Inner Taskmaster” might have been written for me).
In any case, I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as our team enjoyed putting it together. I also hope you’ll share the articles with anyone you think might connect with them. (Just a little plug here: Keep in mind that a subscription to Experience Life makes a superb last-minute gift!)
One last “rejoice” item: We are thrilled and grateful to have more than a half million passionate, intelligent, discerning readers. We appreciate all the great feedback and ideas you gave us this year, and all the sweet pieces of personal correspondence you sent our way. We look forward to hearing more from you in 2005!