"Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." (Leonard Cohen)
It seems, for the most part, that "New Year's resolutions" don't have a great track record. I was having a discussion about this with a few friends and we wondered why that might be. We tossed around the idea that maybe it was the word "resolutions" itself that was a bit off-putting. We decided we liked the whole concept of 'intentions for the coming year" a lot better. "Intentions" had more of a "leaning in" kind of feel, a working toward, a desire for -- a "taking steps in the direction of" well thought-out goals. Less of the old paradigm of a laundry list of rules to obey (lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, stop being late, swear less, etc.) and more of a conscious decision to "become more of the person you want to be" by making an intention in that direction. Maybe it's just one thing. "Be more kind," someone in our conversation said. "I just want to be less judgmental," they continued. Most of us nodded in agreement, wishing the same for ourselves. In 2014 it seems to me we have evolved to a place where pondering what we might want for ourselves in the upcoming year is more about an inner transformation that brings about the outer changes we have been longing for. If shows like "The Biggest Loser" have taught us anything, it is that an inner transformation -- a revolutionary mental shift -- a kind of deep healing has to occur before the weight can come off. That is the type of thing I am talking about as we all face the new year ahead. Making a list of rules for ourselves to keep, no matter how valid that list might be, might only serve to continue a cycle of failure that only makes us feel worse about ourselves. And I, for one, am done with that. Here's what I'm thinking...
As this year began to wrap up I had the most shockingly depressing revelation about myself. I am for the most part incapable of continued personal discipline. It makes me want to throw up just writing that sentence. How could this be? What kind of person does that make me?? Useless, discardable, unlovable -- what the heck? Here, in a nutshell, is what I realized. I back off when it's time to really sweat. I mean that metaphorically (and in regard to exercising for me, literally). You see, I came down with a bad case of panic disorder in my teens, and by the time I was in my 20s I had set up a deep inward picture of myself as weak. Now, let me be clear, that doesn't mean I don't take care of responsibilities, especially as a mother. I'm pretty genius at that stuff if I do say so myself. But following through on personal disciplines... not so much. And it's cost me a lot. It makes me sad and is the one area of my life where I can get really down on myself and feel depressed about. All of which still doesn't change that behavior. It is so deeply ingrained over years of brokenness and wrong thinking and a certain type of indulgence, it almost seems impossible to tackle. So what's a person to do if I don't want to carry this dysfunction (that keeps me from too many of my dreams!) all throughout the coming new year, or the rest of my life? Here's my plan so far.
You notice I use the word plan rather than resolution. A plan may take a little time to execute. It requires my participation, not just an iron will anchored in shifting sand. Which is good, because as I was explaining, I don't have an iron will. More like a bending reed in the direction of what feels good -- or more precisely for me, what feels safe. So for starters, I have begun to pull out pieces of the comfortable nest I have made for myself in this regard. Piece by piece, motivated by the revelation that it just doesn't serve me anymore. The truth is I've outgrown it, and it doesn't really keep me safe anyway. That is an illusion. A far bigger truth for me, a line out of the mouth of Anne Lamottt from her new book "Stitches" that literally jumped out from the page at me is, "Discipline, I have learned, leads to freedom." That immediately went on a precious list I have of tattoos I would get, if I ever got one. I see it in pretty script, somewhere that I could could easily read it every day. Everything on my tattoo list is like that. Reminders of what is seriously important to me these days, of something I want to live -- before it's too late. That is what I mean by setting an intention for the new year. Not some self-imposed, impossible to keep, overloaded list of things I don't want to do -- but rather one or two things I want to implement in my life that will change me from the inside out and will naturally affect my behavior for the better all the way around. In my fifties I think I am actually beginning to really grow up. It's about time, "Now or Never" right? (does that go on the tattoo list? Not sure, I'm very particular) but I do know that in the deepest parts of me I want to do whatever it takes, face what needs to be faced, and tell my "inner self" (and those closest to me) the whole truth -- oh, that's hard. But not as hard as leaving undone what is really important to me in 2014. I'm hungry for the freedom that comes from discipline. Like in the movie "What About Bob," I'm taking "baby steps," and I am beginning to push myself in ways I have been afraid to. So much of what keeps us from our goals, our dreams, our best selves, year after year, has to do with fear.
Something else on my "tattoo list" are the words "No Fear." Covers a whole lot don't you think? What would we do if we didn't give in to our fears? As a beloved friend of mine always says, "You don't experience the magic unless you go past your comfort zone." I am committed to the magic in 2014. And for me that means venturing way out beyond my many self-protecting comfort zones, which is going to take a lot. Probably more than I've got-ha! But let's go. The truth is that there is a lot to fear in the future, so much is unstable, globally, monetarily, the over all well being of humanity feels at stake to me these days, but I have to get my eyes off of what is potentially scary and onto what I can do in my world to bring more love, kindness and necessary change into it. The turning year begins with me. And you. And others committed to the magic.