This post is part of the 2021 Writing Challenge. This challenge is open to anyone and involves writing on one word a week for 52 weeks. Write for yourself or write for others but either way, please feel free to share by posting a link in the comments (if you’re posting on this week’s word) or post on social using the #2021writingchallenge and tagging me on Twitter or Instagram, or posting on my FB page so I can repost. Happy Writing!
2020: The year of good intentions
We all had good intentions for 2020. Some intended to go on much-needed vacations. Others intended to visit friends they hadn’t seen in a while. Some intended to marry the love of their life in the presence of all of their friends and family while others intended to advance their careers.
Some intended to spend Christmas with loved ones but instead, spent it alone.
Why intentions are better than resolutions
This past year, life didn’t go exactly as planned. We had to detour, adapt and find a new level of flexibility and resilience that we didn’t know was possible and like stretching any underused muscle, it was painful. This is why I have chosen the word intend as the first word for the 2021 writing challenge. New Year’s Resolutions seem too determinate – too much commitment in a world that is changing every week. To resolve to do something implies that there is a level of control or certainty but as we wave a bitter farewell to 2020, control still seems out of grasp.
Instead, I suggest that we set intentions. Historically, to intend stands in-tension with intentions. The famous proverb says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” but if we look further into the origins of the word intend, we discover that it comes from the Latin word intendere, meaning to turn one’s attention, literally to “stretch out”. Where do we want to turn our attention this year? How do we want to stretch ourselves in 2021?
The great part about intentions is that they can transcend and transform any activity. If I intend to treat my body with respect, meaning to care for it better, this intention can apply to what I eat, or how much sleep I get or how I travel from place to place – do I drive or do I walk? We hear people talk about living intentionally. This means to make deliberate and conscientious choices. It means, in the first place, knowing that you have a choice. In 2020, we learned that things we thought were immoveable are actually moveable. We learned that it is up to us to make decisions about what is best for ourselves and for our families.
So what do you intend this year? What values do you want to govern your life, your day-to-day activities no matter what your calendar looks like, (if you bother buying one).
Here are a few intentions to help you start thinking about what you will turn your attention to in 2021. Maybe for you, it means picking one intention for each day.
- Be present
- Have fun
- Make someone’s day
- Choose your attitude
- Try something new every day
- Make space (in your heart, in your mind, or in your physical space)
- Take time to reflect
- Enjoy nature
- Live clean
- Say, “I love you” more
- Reach out
- Let go
“You told me once that we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our accomplishments. I thought it a grand remark. But we must intend to accomplish—not sit intending on a chair.”― E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
What Ella has taught me about intentions
Ella has taught me a great deal about intentions, about pushing towards a goal even when it seems like the odds are against you. As parents, when she was born with Trisomy 21, we said that we had the same expectations of her that we did for my neuro-typical son, Jakob, who is two years older. We didn’t see Down syndrome as an excuse but rather an unexpected circumnavigation. Eleven years later and Ella certainly is not where Jakob was developmentally at 11 years-old but the intentions remain the same.
We haven’t abandoned our expectations but rather they have evolved as we have come to better understand who Ella is and what is important to her. Ella has taught us to slow down and enjoy the journey. She has taught us to see the world differently, march to a different beat and accept a different standard of what it means to succeed. Ella has taught us to commit to the intentions, not just the achievements. This is not to say that we don’t celebrate achievements. We just don’t hold out for the arrival, recognising that there are many worthwhile victories along the way.
By setting intentions, we can turn our attention to what matters and embrace a different route and unexpected blessings.
2021 brings a new leg of the journey and quite frankly, we might not get to where we hope to be in a year from now. Vacations might still need to be put on hold, stadiums might continue to sit empty and we might still be waiting for a good ol’ bear-hug. It’s not going to be easy but that’s okay because we have built resilience and we are more flexible than ever. By setting intentions, we can turn our attention to what matters and embrace a different route and unexpected blessings.
The image I have used for this post is of Coombe Hill in Buckinghamshire, UK. A few days ago, we took the kids and instead of parking at the top as we usually do, we parked at the bottom and climbed up. Audrey, my five-year-old, wanted to be the leader. She took us off the path, through bramble and up one of the steepest parts of the hill. Jakob bounded up to the top while Ella, being the trooper that she is, bear-crawled up the hill. It was a tough climb but the scenery from this unchartered side of the hill was breathtaking – scenery you couldn’t see from the “path”, which, by the way, ended up being a complete mudslide as we discovered on the way down.