Prompt 176. The Five Lists
& a journaling challenge to kick off 2022
In our household, the New Year is the most spiritually, creatively rich season. Jon and I both have rituals around it. In the days leading up, he always squirrels away in his studio with a sheepskin rug and some water for a period of fasting, and I recommit to my daily practice of breathwork and journaling—shocking, I know!
Right now, amid this newest wave of the pandemic, as I begin my second round of chemo, these practices continue to be a lifeline. This has been a seemingly endless season of difficulty and uncertainty for everyone—and yet, as is always the case, it has also contained so many moments of beauty and joy. Journaling is how I make sense of these contradictions and the countless ambiguities of life. It’s how I come to understand the world and my place in it, how I learn to carry all of it—the hard things as well as the wondrous ones. As for breathwork, it’s what keeps me from caterwauling and rending my garments while waiting in a multi-block covid test line.
So to mark the passing of 2021 and to ring in 2022, I’m sending this newsletter a day early with a New Year’s inspired prompt, along with a journaling challenge. To usher us into this special time, I’ve curated a week’s worth of my favorite evergreen prompts and a guided meditation from my friend, the amazing breath coach Taylor Somerville. Paid subscribers will find them at the bottom of this email. I hope you’ll join us!
In parting, I’d like to share something from my friend Hallie. Yesterday she texted to say she bought me a card she would probably never get around to sending, but she loved its message so much: “To a new year full of things that have never been.” To that, I say cheers.
The Isolation Journals is my newsletter for people seeking to transform life's interruptions into creative grist. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. The best way to support my work is with a paid subscription.
176. The Five Lists by Suleika Jaouad
At the threshold of a new year, I often find myself ruminating about the things I didn’t get done, what I wish I had accomplished, where I need to improve. It’s the voice of my inner critic, a voice I know all too well. To drown out her chatter, I crack the spine of a new journal and reframe the concept of New Year’s resolutions by writing my way through a five-part series of lists.
I start with an inventory of things that I’m proud of, big or small, to savor and celebrate all that unfolded in the last year.
I move on to a second list—of what I’m yearning for. Often in the process, I uncover desires not yet known.
The third list is a tough one but a cathartic one. I write down all the things that are causing me anxiety, from the most mundane inconveniences to looming existential dreads.
My fourth list is a toolkit of sorts. I reflect on all the hard things I’ve gotten through and jot down the resources, skills, and practices that saw me through and that I can return to and rely on in the new year.
My fifth and final list is my favorite: my wild ideas list. I set a timer for five minutes, and in a completely unedited stream of consciousness, I jot down every wild scheme, every grand plan, every creative idea that comes to mind, no matter how harebrained or unrealistic.
These lists are celebratory, energizing, exorcising, reassuring, and motivating. They quell my inner critic, reminding me that I’ve accomplished so much, that I know what I want, that I can face it all, that I have everything I need, and that I can dream as big as I dare.
Your prompt for the week:
In place of resolutions, journal your way into the New Year with five lists.
What in the last year are you proud of?
What did this year leave you yearning for?
What’s causing you anxiety?
What resources, skills, and practices can you rely on in the coming year?
What are your wildest, most harebrained ideas and dreams?
A 7-Day New Year’s Journaling Challenge & Guided Meditation
My two most crucial, life-giving practices—the ones that have gotten me through this pandemic and will get me through these next months of cancer treatment—are deceptively simple: journaling and breathing. To help you start 2022 with more clarity, energy, and intention, I’ve curated a New Year’s care package for you. You’ll find seven of my favorite prompts, as well as a guided breath meditation from my friend and amazing breath coach Taylor Somerville.