I don’t know where the days are going. I wake up and it’s Christmas. Again. Now we’re on the brink of another New Year. You live long enough and the days start to blend and blur and you feel as if you’re trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.
But a New Year makes us pause. For better or worse, it is the flashing yellow light in our lives, reminding us to slow down and reflect on what we’ve done the past year and what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year.
I detest the word “resolutions” because so many of us “resolve” and fail and it becomes another reason to beat up on ourselves, something many of us are already too good at.
Instead, I like the word “notion.” The dictionary defines it as “an idea about doing something.” So, here are eight notions for the New Year of 2016 with the hope they gently invite us forward and inward.
1. LIFE IS HARD. Accept that fact. Life is also good. Accept that, too. Know that both are part of the heroine’s and hero’s journey (with deference to mythologist Joseph Campbell). Life for me was hard in many ways in 2015, helping care for dad. But it was also good, in seeing his face light up when I came into the room; in laughing with a friend because of a stupid joke until I couldn’t breathe and snot ran down my nose; in scratching the belly of a little doggie who lives in the present and only wants to play, play, play.
2. LOSING WEIGHT. Forget it. It’s everyone’s New Year’s resolution. I’m still wearing what writer Anne Lamott calls my “forgiving” pants and after this past week of Christmas feasting, the pants will have to be especially forgiving. Instead, I choose to be healthy and will make each day the start of doing that, not just January 1. This also helps: Thousands of people in our world go hungry every night, even children in our own country. No, my eating less or more healthful doesn’t help them, but it reminds me that I do have enough to sustain myself so I need to be thankful. And yes, if I can donate to a cause that helps hunger or volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen, I’ll do that.
3. HEALTH. See number two. Yes, there have been some minor issues this past year and they make me more aware that as I age I want to maintain good health so I can go about the work — whatever that is (see number four below) — I’ve been given to do here on Planet Earth. So I’ll be more mindful of what I put into this body, which truly is some kind of genius-amazing-Divine-self-repairing gift when you think about it. Exercise? Yes. Whether it’s a brief walk or yoga.
4. LIFE PURPOSE. What the heck is it anyway? It seems that I’ve been focusing on this particular notion for many years. Here’s what I believe — it’s always evolving. There may never be a “ta-da” moment but perhaps a series of small steps, like bread crumbs, that not only lead the way to “whatever” it is I am called to be and do here, but ARE the way. I know. Sounds all spiritual and stuff, but the truth is, perhaps life purpose is as simple as loving a partner or spouse or child, cooking a good meal, delighting in a sunrise or sunset, or splashing in ocean waves. Perhaps being human is purpose enough. Because, refer to number one, life is hard. But it’s also good.
5. GRATITUDE. I’ve worked a lot on this over the years. I really learned it in earnest after dad had the stroke. I don’t like what happened to dad not one bit, but when I can be thankful to a Divine creator for giving me this opportunity to serve and love, for a chance for my soul and heart to swell and grow, well, that’s a lot to be grateful for. I’ve heard and read about many people who were deeply thankful after a critical, painful experience. They say it was life changing and without it, they would not have become the people they were meant to be.
6. LAUGHTER. Truth time here. People who are highly spiritual laugh a lot. I may be sunk with this one. I need a lot more laughter in my life. A Yiddish proverb says: “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” My soul may be in need of some bubbly suds right now. But there’s also a time and a season for every purpose under the heavens, and it’s been sad watching dad decline. Hopefully, some day, laughter will return in waves. Or, perhaps I need to spend more time with my friend, the one who tells the stupid jokes. See number one again.
7. KINDNESS. I wanted to say BE LOVING at this point. But sometimes it’s hard to be loving. Pure, sacrificial love can demand too much of us on any given day. We get grouchy in traffic or at the supermarket or at the person in the same room with us. So, I’m going to continue to try to be kind in the smallest of ways. Like asking the turnpike toll booth person the other day if she was ready for Christmas and what kind of day she was having. That kind of thing. She beamed. It made her happy and me, too.
8. BEING. Ah. Here’s the crux of it. Being in the present moment and allowing and accepting all that is, as it is. Phew. This is hefty on my life’s plate and way too much for simply one New Year. I am always learning — how to be human, how to be spiritual. How to be. Period. It’s a lifelong process for me. And that’s a good thing. We are always growing and evolving and we are in good company with each other along this life’s journey. So, if we don’t begin any of the above on January 1st, fear not. Each moment is as the first. We can begin now.
Still, if we are wise, we learn from the past. So I reflected on 2015. Sad, sad, sad. And as often as my heart sank, hearing about wars, terrorists, refugees and our lack of love for each other — my heart also rose in joy at seeing the goodness around me, in those who are indeed loving, themselves and others.
Those who are helping and feeding the hungry and homeless; those working for peace and justice; those struggling and praying to bring light into the darkness. Those who are simply being good and decent people, at home, at work, in their daily lives.
I hope I can share some of these “stories for the journey” this coming year.
And my deepest wish for 2016 is that we are blessed with peace in our hearts and in our world. I believe that this “notion” is entirely possible. If we work at it. Together.