Not Just Another New Year’s Resolution

 

images treeI LOVE the New Year holiday because we get to make whatever we want of it.

It’s the holiday that asks the bigger questions.

What do you want to make of this year?

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Okay, I stole that line from poet Mary Oliver).

New Year’s appeals to the list maker and the goal setter in me.

I was not always a goal setter.  For years I had vague and marvelous things I wanted to do on replay in my head, but never a plan.

I am an excellent dreamer.  I could dream with the best of them. And as other introverts know, there is plenty going on inside my head to keep me occupied for years.  Take action? But I am so very entertained right here inside my own noggin. 

This can be a bad thing, in case you didn’t know.  Without a plan that includes specific action steps and time limits I would be, well, dreamin’ my life away.

Then I started to have concrete goals and planned them out and what do ya know, when I take action things actually start to happen!

Why didn’t they teach me this in school? Oh wait- this is real life we are talking about here- it’s more like quantum physics than academia.

I like the ‘work backwards’ technique. What do I want to accomplish by the end of 2017? What would that require of me?  Then I break it down. What do I need to do on a weekly basis?  Daily? What time block? And I write it down.

Most of my own goals are writing ones, and are pretty easy to define,  but I think even broad, vague sounding goals such as “get healthy” or “enjoy life” can be broken down into specific actions if we get clear on what those goals mean to us.

Perhaps it should be called a New Year’s plan instead of a New Year’s resolution.  Maybe that makes all the difference.

So what do you want in 2017?

As the poet John Anster famously said:

 Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

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Moving Forward

Close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are. -Maxwell Maltz

Take action! An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention. -Dr. Steve Maraboli

 

There’s a crazy intersection in the city near where I live called Kelley Square. There is traffic coming and going from all directions, with no traffic light or signs whatsoever. This area is known for its absolute chaos; there is even a Facebook page called I survived Kelley Square.

The first time I drove through this intersection, I was sure I just hadn’t seen the traffic signs. Anxiety set in as I tried to stay focused on what was in front of me while simultaneously noticing the traffic at my rear and all around me, and keeping my eyes peeled for that elusive yield sign.

The second time I drove through, a week or so later, I felt my heart beating quickly as I approached the intersection. I held out hope that there actually were traffic rules here and that I would grasp what they were this time around. But the second time was just like the first.

After going through Kelley Square three or four times, I finally asked someone who lived in the city,  What are the rules for Kelley Square?

Answer: There are none. You just take your opening, and go for it. Keep moving if you can. Only hesitate if you have to.

And so it goes.

I have high hopes for this new year. Health and fitness and writing and reaching goals.

And I’m not gonna lie, I am just fine with the holidays being over.

They were fun!

Joyous!

And I’m so over them now.

Isn’t everyone?
Is anyone ever left wanting more?

I don’t know.

But I get a sprint in my step as I am packing up the Christmas tree.

I was just so ready for a regular old month. I love regular old months, because there is room for surprises, progress, stillness, ideas. Writing.

The start of a brand new year.

Moving forward.

It’s going to be a good year.

A lot is going to happen. A lot already has.

Our middle daughter got engaged!

My husband has a Fitbit.  If you have one, or live with someone who has one, then you know why this is news. It goes everywhere with him.  It even sleeps with us.

I learned to cross country ski. More accurately, I learned to get up after falling. But it was something new, and new is synonymous with forward motion.

I’m going to compete in the Moth Story GrandSLAM. I hear it’s going to take place in March, finally, one year after my story slam win, but I’m still waiting for confirmation. Also awaiting the theme.

The following month, I am going to speak at a convention for marriage and family therapists about my book!

I am finishing said book. This year. No excuses. Because life doesn’t go on forever, you know. It just keeps moving forward, with or without us.

I cannot say I’ve mastered Kelley Square, and in fact it still scares me. But I see it a little differently now. Instead of chaos, I see people moving forward whenever they can.  Every driver is responsible for herself, but with a keen awareness of others around her.

Maybe that’s not so crazy after all.

Happy 2016.

 

 

 

 

4 Areas to Clean up for the New Year

#1 Car: Your car symbolizes where you are going in life. Are you moving forward and navigating from one stage to another? Clean out any clutter in your car to invite clarity and overcome stagnation. You are in the driver’s seat; make it a good ride.

#2 Bedroom: Pick and choose what you allow in this room. This should be a sacred space of rejuvenation and intimacy. Clothes strewn about, a television in the room, and dust or clutter can all detract significantly from the atmosphere. Warm colors, soy candles, clean sheets and an organized closet can transform a bedroom. It will feel different, better. This is the one place you can truly count on being alone or with your partner. Don’t give it less attention than you’d give any other room. In fact, give it more.

#3 Bathroom: A bathroom should be clean with hints of vitality: plants, a splash of color, simplicity. Reconsider those fuzzy toilet covers that are one more thing to launder, as well as any overflow of toiletries. Get rid of unnecessary makeup items; decide what looks best on you and toss the rest. It’s a relief to simplify the options. For example, Clinique Black Honey lipstick looks good on everyone, and if you want a cheaper option, the Revlon equivalent is Fig Jam. Maybe there is one color of eye shadow that looks best on you-why hold on to the others?20141228_140338(0)

#4 Mind: This is perhaps the most difficult space to declutter. Most people are absolutely addicted to thinking. We are constantly telling ourselves stories, critiquing, thinking of the past or the future. But we all can recall moments when we are truly present, in our bodies, and free from the mind chatter. This is pure magic, the elixir of life. Maybe we recognize this state of pure consciousness while meditating, practicing yoga, dancing, running, delving into a mindful hobby, or writing. For some, classical music does the trick. Find whatever it is that tames your monkey mind and do it often!

Midlife and Miracles

I’ve decided to begin my New Year’s resolutions early this year. The idea of a fresh year and new possibilities thrills me each and every January. What I really love about this time are the miracles we get to create. What better month to prepare for miracles than December?

Miracles are the epitome of Christmas. Sure there is the festivity, the giving and unwrapping; family time and holiday music and the possibility of glistening snow. The joy! But the spirit of Christmas, at least for me, is also about the magic I feel when I put love and clarity and moving forward, being better, at the top of my agenda. It is an internal thing.

I love mid-life for the opportunities that come with the wisdom of hindsight and experience. I like the deeper appreciation of time that is cultivated when you realize it is not endless. I love this stage of life for the self-knowledge; when you finally really know yourself- strengths, weaknesses, desires and aversions, you are better able to create an increasingly authentic life.

It becomes so obvious that choices are being made continuously, in every moment, and that self-effacy is a damn good path to personal freedom. I mean, when we look at where we are today, though there were some things out of our control, don’t we mostly recognize a series of choices that brought us here?

Once we’re at midlife, there is no excuse for our choices to be shots in the dark. The consequence to each and every one, big and small, is a lot clearer in the light of experience.

So I’m creating my list of resolutions, or goals, or call- them-what- you- will, early. I want to have built up some momentum by the time Christmas is here, so that the great spirit of the holiday, of life itself, can find an open vessel in me. I want to breathe in the magic, so I’m meeting it halfway. If all goes well, I will be able to greet the first day of January with the confidence that my resolutions are already sticking, that my goals will be met.

I may appear to be doing less this year- less shopping, less baking, maybe even less decorating. But I know what I want, this month and in the year ahead, and it won’t come wrapped or delivered to my doorstop. It’ll be a gift, a miracle, that I invite because I know what I need to do and what I need to not do, and alas I know the difference, without question.

I know which goals or dreams are outdated and which ones are meant for now. With midlife, the ego has shrunk enough to learn from mistakes while the heart has swelled enough to forgive them. If we are good this year, whatever that means for us, we really will get what we want. I believe that. It probably won’t be easy. In fact, it may be very difficult, depending on what it is.

So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Heck, Happy almost New Year. Soon we will have 365 new days of new moments, each one full of potential. Here’s to midlife and to miracles. They are one and the same.

 

Happiest New Year

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Happy 2014! I love New Year’s Day. It’s the perfect time for setting intentions for the year ahead. No matter what people’s resolutions are, the purpose of them is always the same. To be happier. To live better, feel better, be better.  An old friend texted me a couple of days ago out of the blue:  Have you read the Happiness Project? It reminds me of you so much!  And the thought of that book, which my sister had given me a couple years ago as a gift, came back to mind.  The author, Gretchen Rubin, spent a year journaling her process of doing all things that she thought would make her happier.  Based on studies and theories about how to be happier, plus her own intuition, she spent the year trying  out her happiness project.  When I first read the book, my thought was what a great idea.  I love stunt journalism and this has such a purpose.   Everyone wants to be happy!

But what I really like about her book, which became an instant New York Times bestseller, is that Rubin jumped in to her happiness project wholeheartedly. She awakened to the fact that she had midlife malaise, and she made a firm decision to change that.  There are no half measures when you are determined and passionate about a change.  Rubin tackled all areas of her life, not just one or two. She didn’t just eat better, get more exercise, spend time in quiet, clean out her closets and get organized. She did all of those plus played more, slept more, loved more and pursued a passion. Any one of these things has been shown to boost happiness, but each area compliments the others.

I’m all for moderation in a lot of things, but when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I say go all out. Harness your passion for happiness, your conviction that you are willing to make some changes, and do it with resolve. I happen to think that the reason so many resolutions fail is because they are made only with the head. I’m a believer in wholehearted commitments.  Life is too short for tentative steps. No dipping your toe in the water.  Become a runner if that’s what you know you need.  If you want to organize, never mind cleaning out one little shelf at a time.  At that pace, you’ll still be drowning in your clutter in 2015. Refuse to stop until you’ve eliminated everything that is in your way.   Obsess over a project that makes you happy.  Let the momentum carry you into more and more happiness, better-ness, healthier-ness, authentically-you-ness until you can hardly believe how great 2014 feels.

Most of us already know what we need to be happier.  If we just talk about it, think about it, analyze it, and pick one thing that we “will start tomorrow”, it’s difficult. The failure rate is high.  But if we commit on a bigger scale, with heart, with passion and conviction, that this is our life after all, then it’s simple.  So jump in with both feet, head and heart, and decide it’s going to be your best year yet!  Make happy happen.