Kristin Armstrong Essay

Kristin Armstrong

Examining Our Interiors


by Kristin Armstrong
Illustration by Joy Gallagher

I love New Year’s resolutions. I love blank slates, do-overs, fresh starts, new chapters and comebacks. I love the idea that we wake up on January 1 — perhaps a little Champagne bubbly-headed — and get to begin again.

Every year, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I find time to get together with my brother, Jon. We have a standing annual appointment to make our resolutions. W e have been doing this for so long that I cannot recall when we first started. Perhaps in frozen Minnesota during our high school years? Or maybe in college, after our parents moved to Rye, New York? That year we trudged through snowdrifts to find some tiny hole-in-the-wall neighborhood bar and we wrote our resolutions on cocktail napkins. We’ve sat at sushi restaurants and tapas bars in Santa Barbara and dreamed about our futures over blood orange margaritas. We’ve logged some quality time in Austin at my beloved Donn’s Depot. In recent years, we have become more refined. Now we bring actual journals with us, as crinkled cocktail napkins can become cumbersome (and are easily left in a taxi).

We take turns, one of us thinks and talks and the other person writes it down. So I scribe his goals and he scribes mine. Of course this is not without considerable leeway because things get lost in translation and muddled in cocktails. Sometimes we have to stop for a bit to play pool, add songs on a jukebox, tell a story, or order some food. Jon’s handwriting is abysmal, left-handed, tiny, cramped chicken scratch, so my goals always look much messier than his do in my nice, neat, older sister handwriting.

My brother finds this hilarious because my tidiness has always annoyed him, ever since childhood days when we shared a basement playroom in Michigan and I put a line of masking tape down the middle to divide my orderly side from his pigpen. He chuckles to himself as he writes down my resolutions, and I can tell he is adding his own commentary and side notes. There are often barely legible addendums and asides, subsets, arrows, sorry sketch illustrations, and parenthetical snarkiness. Let’s be honest, no one knows me like my brother. We share DNA and a past, and our filterless brand of sibling humor is divinely wicked.

Sometimes it isn’t until June when I review my mid-year progress (or lack thereof) that I laugh out loud at something he added to my goals. It’s typically either something totally inappropriate or a zinger with surgical accuracy followed by a crooked penciled smiley face. “Haha, love you too, buddy.”

The best thing about this tradition is that we keep it — and each other — real.

Jon adds a measure of lightheartedness to a process I grant substantial weight. Taking time out of the holiday bliss, buzz and bustle to pay attention to where we’ve been and where we’re going is an oddly beautiful way to be totally present. He peers inside with me as I examine my own interiors. “Don’t go in there alone!” a humorous therapist friend once said to me. Jon knows where I strive, where I struggle, where I excel, and where I play small. His sidebar commentary in my journal always reminds me that I often make jokes when I need to be serious, and I am often too serious when I need to lighten up. He simultaneously grounds me and cuts me loose.

The new year is upon us. As we look ahead, to the blank slate of 2016, let’s appraise our own interiors. We can make surface goals pertaining to ego, appearance, status, travel, or materialism, or we can go deeper.

Who do I want to become this year? How can I be more loving, open, authentic, and present? How can I be a clearer conduit of grace and compassion? W ho do I need to forgive? How can I better use my blessings to bless? What beliefs about myself do I need to change? How can I show up in new ways in my relationships? W hat do I need to let go of? How can I deepen and fortify my integrity? How can I generate less frenzy and more flow? How can I live more consciously, mindfully, faithfully, generously, and intentionally? When we focus on our process and trust that the outcomes will unfold, we walk into our new year wholehearted, grateful, inspired and free.


Read more from the Interiors Issue | January 2016


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