The winter holiday season revolves around traditions. If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another holiday, there are lots of rituals, customs, and activities to repeat each year. I look forward to getting Christmas trees with my kids each year. Making ornaments, selecting the trees, and decorating the trees is the holiday tradition I most look forward to and enjoy. Having children has brought a new element to holidays, as I can experience traditions with each of them and see the joy they experience with different events. It was fantastic to see my daughter prepare for and perform at her winter band concerts. Unfortunately, many other plans around this holiday season changed for myself and many people I know. The new COVID variant proved highly infectious and put many people at risk in the last few weeks. Facing the changes and breaking some traditions challenged my emotional resiliency this holiday season.
As I looked back to my blogs for 2021, I was reminded of themes of uncertainty, disappointment and stress that impacted my emotions. I also saw mindfulness of others, appreciation for learning, and the care of others in my family and community. In a year where each interaction we have with one another can put each other at risk, I have become more aware of the intention we impart in choosing how to spend our time. There is a greater need for care and consideration of others than I can ever remember. When we can spend time with others, we want the time to be used purposefully and carefully.
Many people have chosen to spend more time outdoors during the pandemic. Spending time in nature connects us to others, our past, our community, and the ecosystems in which we live. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our phones, technology, and the digital networks we can sometimes hide within. I am very appreciative of my opportunities to be outside and appreciate the world around me. I also respect and admire the community of people I have connected to through fishing and writing.
At a time when many people seek attention through divisive tactics, I have seen how sharing and understanding is celebrated and opens opportunities. The members of my Trout Unlimited Chapter exemplify these values and put them to work in our community. I am proud to participate with the chapter and I have grown as I have connected with the members of the group. As I have traveled less for work, I have been able to spend more time with my family. I’ve had more real conversations with members of my family in the past year than I have in several years prior. Obstacles of busyness and apathy showed to be illusions, where I was hiding from interactions due to hidden and limiting mental models. I am working to express myself with authenticity, responsibility, openness, and creativity. 2021 has helped me to see my own hypocrisies and to not be afraid of facing them.
Fishing and writing are merging into a pathway that helps me clear my mind, ease my stress, and express my thoughts and feelings. Writing is becoming as important as fishing to me as a creative and stress relief outlet. Together they help me settle myself and find my voice.
Being intentional with my time also has helped me be present to my children and listen to what they are saying and not just waiting to hear the things I want them to say. Understanding my agency also helps me to see my emotions as temporal and situational. That mindset shift has given me responsibility over my reactions, and I do not have to be overtaken by them.
I can see how 2021 has also changed my fishing. I’ve given myself flexibility and learned more control and connection to the flies. Through lessons learned on guided trips, commitment to practice and mindfulness, I am less likely to revert to bad habits and lazy decisions. Through repetition I can make transitions between rigs faster with better knots.
I have started to break down the built-in excuses that limited my success on the river. There is always lots to learn and many skills to grow, which is one of the best things about fly fishing. I’m lucky that it spills over into so many other areas of my life. Even though plans continue to change, the pandemic feels never ending, and stress is a constant companion, I am thankful for all of the lessons 2021 has taught me off and on the water. Building up ourselves, our communities, and our families is the best intention of all.