This is the year. No, really! This time is going to be different. This time, you're going to lose weight, write the great American novel, find your true love... all starting on January 1st!
Each new year brings hope, optimism, and another round of productivity gurus with awesome, appealing, alliterative slogans on making New Year's resolutions. Yet, according to a 2012 Statistic Brain report, only 8 percent of us are successful at keeping our resolutions. This year, instead of giving into the pressure to improve or increase, resolve to just be.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Can you identify this quote? Does it sound like something from Thich Naht Hahn, Tony Robbins, or Iyanla Vanzant? This advice may seem downright un-American and out of keeping with the Protestant work ethic that drives many of us to prize hard work and thrift. In fact, the quotation is taken from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.
We both come from a long line of good Christian women who are world-class do-ers. They are Marthas in the epic false dichotomy that is the Martha vs. Mary battle. Women who never sit down except in church or with work to do in their laps -- shelling peas, combing hair, or knitting sweaters. They can stretch leftovers into meals, turn scraps into quilts, and generally "make a way out of no way." They uphold the myth of the "strong Black woman" as a stoic, self-sacrificing caregiver who, like the suffering Jesus, "never said a mumblin' word."
We have inherited this rich tradition of doing. We are grateful for these women who demonstrate love in action. Yet, we are mindful of the dangerous ways in which this tradition supports overwork and undernourishment of the soul. Therefore, this New Year's Eve, we aim to try something new. In order to combat the habit of over doing, we resolve to just be for 5 minutes every day.
That's it. No expensive Ayurvedic spa treatments. No elaborate recipes for carb-heavy pastries. No complex meditation rituals. Breathe and be. Call it a pause, a time out, or whatever you like. The work, the deadline, the family, the pressure -- they will all still be there in five minutes.
In that five minutes, appreciate who you are. Love yourself for a little while. Not 100 pounds or 10 pounds from now. Right now with back fat and all. Appreciate the people who are in your life. Not the future spouse/partner or child but those people who are a part of your current journey. Consider how they have helped you to become the person you are now. Appreciate what you have. Not the alternate universe that you have created on Pinterest or Facebook or what you plan to buy when you pay off your student loans. Just affirm what you have now.
This type of advice can be misconstrued to seem to support passivity or navel-gazing. We are not advocating a defeatist pie-in-the sky helplessness, which can be as dangerous and extreme as all of the "New Year, New You" language. Certainly, we acknowledge that you can create change and take positive steps to improve your life and the lives of those around you. We are just encouraging you to time out for yourself.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes his disciples, "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." We have trouble today, and there will probably be new trouble tomorrow. So, take a moment for yourself now. Just be.
We have decades of practice and lots of examples of over-doing. Sitting still will be new for us. Nevertheless, we hope to encourage new traditions and patterns for ourselves and other chronic over-do-ers. It's only 5 minutes. Inhale. Exhale. Try a new approach to the new year.
Will you join us?