Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year's Resolutions

The new year is a time of reflection. For most of us, that means reviewing the year that has passed and planning for what we want to achieve in the coming year. As I've mentioned before, I keep a special new year's journal that I only write in once each year. (Except for 2011, but that is a whole other story.) I use this journal to express my thoughts about the past year and write my new year's resolutions.

On New Year's Eve, or sometimes on New Year's Day, I pull out my journal and read the entry from the year before. Then I go through my resolutions to see which ones I've kept and which ones I let slip away. It is just a snapshot in time, but it always helps me to gain a broader perspective on my life that I can't get from reading through my daily or weekly journal entries.

New year's resolutions are similar to setting an intention in my yoga practice. Except that when I set an intention in yoga class, it is usually something I am seeking from the universe. Whereas, when I write my new year's resolutions, they are usually something that I intend to do myself.

For the past several years, I've always had big changes that I wanted to make in my life around the new year. But this year feels different. Other than losing five pounds, there is nothing major that I want to change about my life. I love my job. I am in a happy relationship. I like where I live. Basically, I wish for all of these things to continue in 2018. 

That feeling of contentment with my life is not something I have experienced before, at least not on this level. It seems like I have always been striving for something. Now I am finally able to be happy with things as they are. 

It's not that I haven't had times in my life where I've been happy. I have been happy, at least with certain parts of my life. But until now I never felt like I was where I was meant to be or doing what I was meant to do. I have never truly enjoyed every aspect of my life. It is a wonderful feeling.

And yet, contentment does not mean that my life is perfect. I am still experiencing grief from losing my Dad. And in two weeks, I will be having surgery to remove skin cancer from my face. Of course, I would prefer that neither of those things had to happen. But those things are not within my control. And they are not things I can make a resolution to fix. 

Despite those challenges, which are a part of life, I still feel content. I feel like I am finally where I belong and that I am investing my energy in the things that are meaningful to me. I am not being wasteful or decadent in my spending. I am grateful for everything I have. I am deeply loved and I am able to deeply love another person in return.

As I contemplated my new year's resolutions for this year, I started thinking about where I was five years ago. Or ten years ago. And I wondered why I wasn't able to make these changes sooner, even though I had a pretty good idea back then about what I wanted (or at least what I didn't want) in my life. Why did I stay in jobs that didn't make me happy? Why did I stay in or keep going back to relationships with people who I did not love and who didn't truly love me?

Of course, the answers to those questions can be very complicated or very simple, depending on how you look at it. The complicated answer encompasses all of the excuses, expectations and false beliefs about myself that I held for years. The complicated answer involves a laundry list of fears, worries and doubts. The complicated answer includes the opinions and priorities of so many other people that I had mistakenly adopted as my own.

The simple answer is that I was not ready. I was not ready to see what I needed to see. I was not ready to learn what I needed to know in order to make my life be the way I knew that I wanted it to be. 

The codependent person in me wants to share everything I have learned in the hopes that it might inspire someone else to make the changes that they want to make in their life. But I know that is not how it works. Everyone has to evolve at their own pace. And I am continuing to evolve. It's not like I have everything figured out. There are always surprises in life that can change things, even when we don't want them to change. Life is constantly in motion.

That said, I was thinking about this quote today:

We don't know how much time we have on this earth. We hope that it will be a long time, but no one knows for sure. I have been trying to live my life in the present moment. Not worrying too much about the future and not focusing too much on the past. It is not always easy to do that. My mind likes to wander to all sorts of interesting places.

I think a lot about a conversation I had with my Dad before he passed away. I told him that I was happy in my life and that I was so grateful that he got to see me this way. It was so hard to lose my Dad, but I think about how much harder it would have been if I was working 10 hour days at a job that made me miserable. It would have been a devastating wake up call to remind me that life is short and I should do whatever makes me happy.

At least right now I am doing it. And I am so grateful. Of course, that does not stop me from making my new year's resolutions. Aside from dealing with those pesky five pounds, I ended up with a very different list of resolutions this year. 

Instead of focusing on things I want to do, I am focusing on how I want to be. As I was writing in my journal on New Year's Day, I came up with a list of words that inspire me. They represent the attitudes, behaviors and feelings I would like to experience in my life and reflect in my interactions with other people.  

Here are just a few of my words for 2018: Kindness, Compassion, Gratitude, Authenticity, Peace, Joy, Love and Service. For some reason, the word service really stands out for me this year. I wonder how I can be of service to others. 

Two years ago, I set an intention to make a living as a writer, but that did not make me a writer. My intention had to line up with the intention of the universe. While I acknowledge that I did a lot of the work to get myself here, I also recognize that I could not be living this life (working at home in my yoga pants, for example) if it wasn't for all of the people who helped me along the way. Ultimately, I am here to be of service to them. 

I took all of the words from my journal and I typed them onto a page, all in different fonts. I hung it up in a few strategic places around our apartment. It is just one small way of connecting with my resolutions for this year and keeping myself grounded in the things that I value most.

Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you a very happy and peaceful new year. I hope that you find whatever it is that you are seeking.

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