“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

 Joan Didion

Where do I even start? Maybe I should tell you all about how 2022 was a challenging year. Wait, I have already. I’ve been singing the same song over and over all year long. I purposefully chose the word “challenging” even though I first wrote “bad” and then deleted it. I don’t want to say “bad” because it’s all about perception, right? And I am a person whose glass is half full. So it was challenging. 

And then the last two months of 2022 were extremely challenging, like cry-every-other-day-in-the-middle-of-the-street challenging. Like i-think-i-am-going-to-break-down challenging. Like what-the-hell-is-going-on-am-I-cursed-or something challenging. 

I would very much like to let you in on every little thing that happened, but it’s an ongoing process, so I won’t just yet. Not until I am looking at this situation in the rear view mirror, pressing the gas pedal of my happy, peaceful life to the floor and screaming “Adios, muchachos!” or, since I live in Germany, “Tschüssi, Leute!”

Yesterday I found myself thinking both about the year that passed and the year ahead, as one always does while cutting three kilos worth of ingredients for Olivier salad — that’s New Year Russian-style. Or maybe New Year Russian-style is bombing a neighboring country on the 31st of December. I don’t know anymore. I only know that it’s the strangest thing to see Moscow all lit up, decorated for holidays and Kyiv with no lights, buildings destroyed in drone attacks. To see a photo of a Russian influencer watching fireworks at midnight, followed by a photo of a Ukrainian man standing next to his wife who was killed on New Year’s Eve. 

I read the news, pause for a minute, then go back to looking for meaning in the past year and setting goals for the next. Is it insensitive? Probably. Do I go on living nonetheless? I somehow do.

I think of every little good thing that happened, because if 2022 taught me anything it is to consciously dig out precious jewels of joy and happiness out of the mundane soil of everyday life. A new phrase from my 3-year-old? Write it down. A toothless smile from my baby? Take a mental picture. And an actual picture too, for good measure. 

2022 was the year when my husband and I realized that we really love Hamburg. We weren’t sure at first, we had doubts. We gave ourselves a year before making the final decision to stay or to move again, but when the time came, in August, we all but forgot that decisions had to be made. 

It was the year when I finally saw my parents; my dad after three years apart. The summer was one of the best summers ever, complete with swimming in the sea, eating tons of berries, and even traveling, something I thought was a thing of the past.

But above all, it was the year when my second son was born. And therefore it will always be a good year for me. I once wrote about Nuremberg, our first home in Germany, and how I struggled to really feel at home there. Until my elder son was born. In a single day Nuremberg turned from a city we had to move to into a city where my son was born. I will be forever grateful to that city. And so I am grateful to 2022 too. 

I am yet to make a wish list for 2023. I have been making those for the past ten years. But it’s only in the past three years that I started to also choose one word for the year ahead. The first time I did it in 2021, the word was “intuition”. I still love it and still think of it.

2022 was actually 4 words. “Breath in, breath out.” I looked at those words on the wall of my bedroom a lot. 

The word for 2023 is “create”. I even started re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear as the first book of the year.

Ever since Kroshka was born I have put my creative plans on pause, only doing the bare minimum. And I’d like to tell you that this year everything is going to change and I will concentrate on my writing, but I still haven’t figured out how exactly I am going to do this. Because I have twice more kids and still no help. 

Some people say you should just do it. No excuses. This hustle mentality is something I was fond of when I was 20. But I am 34 now and my physical and mental health are important to me. In order to pursue their passion most people sacrifice sleep, working into the wee hours of the morning. But I have sacrificed sleep three years ago when I had my first son. What do I sacrifice now? Health? Did that too as my first pregnancy triggered an autoimmune disease

I am torn between the desire, nay, the need, to take care of myself and the enormous wish to live my best creative life. How to combine the two is what I’ve been contemplating in the first days of the new year. 

I read Big Magic multiple times before and quoted it on more than one occasion in this blog. The book is about the magic of creative living, but the book itself is magic too. It helped me to overcome the fear of writing in a foreign language when I started this blog seven years ago. It helped me to realize that I cannot demand success and money from my writing when I had a mini-crisis two years ago. And this time, when I decided that I simply don’t have time to create, Elizabeth Gilbert found the words to convince me otherwise:

“I had read an interview with John Updike where he said that some of the best novels you’ve ever read were written in an hour a day; I figured I could always carve out at least thirty minutes somewhere to dedicate myself to my work, no matter what else was going on or how badly I believed the work was going.”

And also this:

“Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage (a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Even if you only have fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it. Go hide in that stairwell and make out with your art… Sneak off and have an affair with your most creative self.”

What I wouldn’t give to have hours to write in a coffee shop while drinking my cappuccino prepared with single-origin beans roasted in-house. You might think I love coffee more than I love writing. I just love rituals: walking to the coffee shop early morning, ordering the same exact drink, sitting down near the window and taking the first sip before I open my laptop. Maybe one day I’ll do that again, but in 2023 it’s all about making out with my art in a stairwell. Let’s see where this affair leads me by the end of the year.

P.S. It’s been 14 hours since I finished this post and one phrase I wrote stuck with me: “Ever since Kroshka was born I have put my creative plans on pause, only doing the bare minimum.” The part about doing the bare minimum is correct. But while I’ve been writing less and less in the past three years, it is only after having my kids — obviously — that I started writing about motherhood. And my posts on motherhood are some of the best I wrote on this blog. The most vulnerable and the most creative, the most inspired and the most relatable. Something to think about.