Throughout this last year, I have found myself feeling heavy—not depressed, but weighed down.

The state of our country and world is likely the leading cause of this heaviness.

Wrapped in that, of course, is everything that has transpired with women regaining our voices in 2017. This is hugely awesome of course—the persistence and fierceness that we are wielding is awe-inspiring.

But to be head-on confronting this beast that’s been breathing fire in our faces for...well, forever—has made many of us realize just how heavy this weight has been, and how long we have carried it.

Under the weight of this load, my steps have grown lead-footed. My posture has slouched forward. My brow has furrowed.

We feel it as women and as mothers. We feel it at work and in our social circles. We feel it, perhaps most strongly, in how we think about and talk to ourselves. The doubt, the fear, the silence—it’s been so heavy.

But now that we’ve noticed it, we are doing the work to shed it.

The effort of women around the world—women that I have never met but that are fighting for me, women that I will never meet but plan to fight passionately for—is working.

Now I am ready to approach my life with gentleness.

Not weakness. Far from it. My storm has just begun—and it’s wild.

But gentleness.

Gentleness that comes from lifting this burden off my shoulders, stretching my arms up and being free.

Gentleness that comes from feeling strong and empowered for the first time in this society, maybe ever.

Gentleness that comes from welcoming my self-worth and value.

I think that gentleness is a form of confidence that comes from recognizing how forceful we actually are. We have the very real capacity to unleash that force with precision when need be. And we have the confidence to recognize our own flame, and tend to it with the loving care it deserves.

So in 2018—

I will be gentle on myself.

I am done trying to change myself. Because finally, over the course of the last year, I have stopped caring what other people think. I can stop spending my days making sure that everyone likes me and start spending them loving myself.

I will continue to be kind, I will continue to apologize when I make mistakes. But I will not continue to apologize for not fitting into a mold that was created for me, by someone I don’t even know.

I am good enough. As I am. In my natural state.

I will be gentle on my body.

For so long I have ignored my body—it’s been screaming at me, but I’ve tuned it out. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I’ve felt like it’s gotten in the way. Maybe because I’ve absorbed the message that in order to be ‘successful’ I have to power through the fatigue and discomfort. But I am tired.

So I am going to be gentle on my body by listening to it. I plotted out my schedule with less to do, to allow more room for to don’t.

When I am tired, I am going to sleep. Even if it’s at 9 p.m. every night that week.

When I am hungry, I am going to decide what my body needs to be fueled with, not what I can shovel in as fast as possible to fill the hunger void. As food educator Annemarie Cantrell says, “Sometimes it will need salads [way more than it gets now], but sometimes it will need a burger with fries.”

When I need to move, I will respond—not with “I’m far too busy to go to the gym” but with “Am I in the mood for yoga, Zumba, or a dance party with my kids?”

I will be gentle on my children.

I practice attachment parenting. I try so hard not to raise my voice, and I never use physical force with them. Still, too often, I rush through our days in a way that feels sharp or harsh. We scoot from one place to the next with my constant uttering of, “Come on guys, quick like bunnies, please!”

When I play with them, I am often scattered and thinking about all the things I am not doing but should be doing. Bedtime feels like a finish line, not a bonding time.

I am craving gentleness. The gentleness of a day spent in our pajamas reading books and building towers, with absolutely no agenda.

The gentleness of a movie that I watch with them, not put on so I can ‘get some stuff done.’

The gentleness of stopping to watch the “eagles” (they’re just seagulls) in the mall parking lot with them, and being equally as fascinated.

The gentleness of allowing them to drag out bedtime, even if it means me falling asleep in their beds next to them—and loving every second of it.

My word for 2017 was fierce. And I kinda nailed it ?—we all did. Because of that, it’s now time for gentleness.

My gentleness will look like:

Audacious self-acceptance
Relentless self-care
Radical love

And from that gentleness, my audacious, relentless, radical power will grow strong, and join with women around the world in raising this mighty movement that we have given birth to.