Silk’s Post #67 — Like my 5writer friends, and apparently many other bloggers I read, I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. And yet here we all are making lists that we take pains to describe as “not resolutions.”
I think this whole concept of a picking a random day – January first – to represent a kind of annual life re-set button must be pretty powerful. The urge to look in the mirror, critique ourselves, and vow to change what we aren’t satisfied with (there’s always something, isn’t there?) seems to be built in to our DNA. I think we all long for renewal of the spirit, a fresh start.
You might suppose we’re just following traditions established by a thousands-of-years-old agrarian calendar. A ritual to chase the shadows from a long winter’s night. If that were the case, though, we’d start the “new year” on the day after winter solstice, when lifegiving daylight hours begin to lengthen again, by a few minutes each dawn. But I think there’s something more going on here.
The universe may run on in an endless cycle, but people do not. Our time on Earth is finite, and perhaps that’s taught us to measure things. One of the first things we teach children is how to tell time. After all, we only have so much of it, and the only thing we really have control of in this world is how we spend it.
Maybe that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions evaporate so quickly. We make wish lists of ideals with a sense of wild optimism about what we can change through sheer willpower. “Love is all you need” is a beautiful truth, but it doesn’t really help you lose weight. Believe me. If it did, there would be a lot more svelte women.
Everything we achieve has a cost, and the only real currency we have in life to pay for these things is time, attention and energy. These are in our control, if we’re lucky. Other things, not so much. We pay attention. We spend time. We expend energy. But they’re all finite – we have only so much of them. Every year I become more aware of this.
What we choose to do with this capital defines our lives. This may seem ridiculously self-evident, but knowing something intellectually, and feeling it in your bones, are two entirely different things. I’m finally ‘getting’ how critical it is to invest in the things that are truly important to me. It makes me want to kick myself when I think of how much of this capital I’ve blown over the years on the penny candy of wasted time, mindless distractions, hopeless or unworthy causes.
All the things that make us human – feelings and thoughts, creativity and passion, courage and curiosity, imagination and resolve, strength and compassion – amount to nothing but intent if we don’t give them shape and substance by investing the time, attention and energy to put them into action. In other words, wishing doesn’t make things happen.
Still with me? Sorry for the somewhat dark digression. But after my long philosophical side trip I’m back, full circle, to New Year’s resolutions.
My new theory about fresh starts is that it’s best to to free them from the dictatorship of measured goals. My new goals are measured in mindfulness.
I know, I know. I can hear the groans of the 1000-words-a-day people, the lose-20-pounds-by-summer people, the closet-cleaners, the strategists and the strivers among you. I can hear myself screaming … Nooo-o-o-o-o! … and feel my head rotating 360 degrees while my eyeballs pop out of my skull. I NEED GOALS! I get nothing done without a goal! What kind of blasphemy is this, anyway?
It’s true. We all need goals, and I’m not planning to skip off into a field of daisies without a destination. But I want to set a different kind of goal – one that helps me invest my time, attention and energy in the right direction … without defining the outcome in quantified, pass/fail terms. You’ve heard of yo-yo dieting? It’s got a lot in common with broken New Year’s resolutions. So if I have one “resolution” this year, it’s that I don’t want to spend my time anymore on yo-yo anything.
Here’s my top 10 list of things I want to invest more time, attention and energy into in 2014. I don’t know what will come of it or where it will take me, but I expect I’ll encounter, and hopefully achieve, some goals along the way that have been on my list for a long time. I may even find some new ones. Who knows? What I’m sure of, though, is that I won’t be wasting my capital.
1. My head
I want to learn some new stuff. Listen more and talk less. Read. Study. Fill boredom with challenge instead of escape. Get out of my comfort zone more often. As Elon Musk recommends: “just sit and think until my brain hurts.”
I want to be a better friend, partner, colleague, citizen. Pay more attention to people I care about. Give them my time. Get to know more, and more about, people outside my own orbit. Do something to help make this a civil, healthy, hopeful, peaceful society. Do something generous that no one will ever know about.
I want to spend more time out in it. Let it do its magic in my soul. Take care of it better.
4. My heart
I want to look into it again, the way I used to when I was young and every heartbeat rang in my ears. Open the boxes and bins that haven’t been seen in years. Tend to the sore spots, shine a light in the dark spots, wake up my sense of joy.
5. My health
That thing I said about people? I’m one of those people I want to be a better friend to. Take care of. Spend more energy on. Be more mindful of. Be generous to.
6. My work
I want to re-learn the discipline that drove me through 35 years of hard work on behalf of others, and apply it to hard work on behalf of me. I’ve earned that. To write because I love to write. It’s a calling. Period.
7. My stuff
I want to honour the icons that matter, value and take loving care of the things I choose to surround myself with, and unburden myself of the lifetime of meaningless debris I’ve accumulated. Give some things away. Polish other things. Let nothing I own, own me.
8. My soul
I want to remember it’s there – that spiritual being inside – and get to know it again. Souls need a lot of attention, like any living, growing thing. I need to fertilize mine. And water it more.
9. My artist
I want to free my inner artist from the bonds of daily practicality. Listen to her when she insists that functionality is insufficient. Live more creatively. Pay attention to beauty. Make things with my hands. Embellish. Sing. Knit. Paint. Imagine.
10. My sense of occasion
I want to make more moments special. Observe rituals that feed the heart and the memory. Pay attention to fun. Bake cakes. Wrap presents prettily. Make somethings out of nothings. Laugh more. Remember how to celebrate. Take play more seriously.
Happy New Year everyone!