It’s Turning 2017 (I really think so)

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So, it’s a new year. A lot of people take the new year as a chance to start anew. I feel decidedly mixed about this.

On the one hand, I love the sense of possibility that comes from new planners, blank books, and the feeling of turning over a new leaf. I imagine how organized, or creative, or both, I’ll be after I purchase a new book to write or draw in. (I can’t count the number of blank books I’ve purchased and either only wrote in the first few pages, because I couldn’t maintain the discipline I envisioned, or never wrote in at all, because I didn’t want to ruin the feeling of possibility.)

On the other hand, it’s just another day in winter. (Or summer, in the other hemisphere.) There’s nothing inherently new about January 1 as compared to December 31. Nothing will change if we don’t try to change, nothing will grow if we don’t plant the seeds.

A lot of people make resolutions at the new year to be different, to make changes, to be more organized or athletic or creative or somehow better. I feel mixed about this too. On the one hand, change won’t come if we don’t put intention and effort behind it. On the other hand, I personally hate the feeling that there’s something wrong with me that needs to be changed.

My best changes have come from following the things that make me feel good – aligned, alive, joyous and free. Not necessarily feel good as in it tastes good or feels soft on my skin, but feel good as in stronger, more myself, more content. Which means I’ve lost some weight. But if I went into the new year saying I am wrong for being the weight I am and I need to lose some weight in order to be acceptable, I would resist like a kid resists brushing teeth. No way are you putting that thing in my mouth lady!

Still, I can’t say the tendency to spend winter in contemplation of the past and planning the future is bad. We all need those fallow seasons where we are not actively planting or harvesting, where we let new ideas marinate til they are soft and ready to apply. Reviewing the year may be artificial, as opposed to reviewing the project that comes to a close, but it’s still better than not looking at it at all. It’s hard to learn from experience if we never look at the experience we have.

So I wish you all a very happy new year, and hope this season gives you greater understanding of the past and hope for the future.

New Years Resolutions

I don’t like New Years Resolutions. They sound too much like there’s something wrong with me the way I am. I’ve spent too much of my life feeling like I’m inadequate, and I don’t need to make myself feel that way now. But I do like the idea of taking stock and remembering what’s important to me, and what I can do to make those important things have more prominence in my life. So I’m writing up a list of reminders. Things like:

1. I exercise because it makes me feel good, physically and mentally. (Not because my doctor told me to, or to lose weight. Because it makes me feel good. Period.)

2. I pay attention to my feelings because they have information for me. (Ignoring how I feel works for a while, but eventually something goes wrong. Noticing I feel bad but just trying to make myself feel better works sometimes, but not every time. Figuring out what I feel and why can help me act in a way that feels consistent with my better self and work through the feelings faster.)

3. I strive to be honest with myself and my loved ones. (This is related to #2. I need to have the courage to be honest with myself to really feel my feelings, and I need to trust that honesty at home is healthier long term than lies, even well-intentioned ones.)

A friend mentioned this one for himself, and I liked it so much I adopted it: 4. Being open about my feelings increases intimacy. (It’s easy to assume that no one wants to hear about it if I’m mad, so I keep a lid on it. But then there’s a wall up, and the other person reacts to the wall, and soon we’re all in little bricked-up prisons unable to connect and miserably lonely. In reality, when I’m open in a gentle, kind, and honest way, even if I’m mad, it increases the connection between me and the other person.)

5. I’m willing to work hard for the things that matter to me. (It’s easy to want to be lazy. But when I’ve worked hard for something I care about, it has felt good. The trick is to pay attention to what matters to me, since those are the things I’m more intrinsically motivated to do. But this is a good reminder that hard work isn’t distasteful when done for the right reason, and if I’m hating the work, maybe what I’m working on doesn’t matter enough to me.)

I think that’s enough for now. Other people have their own – the friend mentioned above wanted to play an instrument more often. He was thinking in terms of having a resolution to play more. For me, it feels better to remind oneself that playing the instrument feels good. It matters, and thus is worth making time for. To me, a resolution is a “should” and I avoid “shoulds” as much as possible. But a “want to” is different. I hope I write in this blog more often in 2014. But I hope I do it because I want to do it, not because I think I should.

Happy New Year to you, and may you find your own path this year that feels right to you!