I gave up on New Year’s resolutions several years ago. You know the drill – you start off all enthusiastic and focused, and by March, the focus blurs and the enthusiasm withers. Once, when I realized that breast cancer wasn’t going to kill me after all, I resolved to lose the fifty pounds I’d gained through treatment. (Yes, I’m the one who, when told to make sure to eat and stay strong, figured that included fried chicken and ice cream. I didn’t end up in the ER or admitted for fluids, like so many cancer patients. I didn’t end up back in my old jeans, either.) So after eating all the Christmas fudge and mashed potatoes, I joined Weight Watchers that January, and by May, I’d lost almost sixty pounds. Imagine! I celebrated by trekking through Europe that summer with my family, and by the next May, many of those poor lost pounds had found their way home.
Now, I choose a word – a single word I hope will guide me through the following twelve months with clarity and grace. It’s not an easy choice, and I start thinking about it about the time I decorate the Christmas tree. The word needs staying power – through good days and bad, too much wine and not enough sleep, writing dry spells and long hugs with old friends. It needs to be a word I can stick on the bathroom mirror and wink at every morning and say, “Yeah, I know. I’m on it today.” And do it with focus, and without guilt. I like to believe the word winks back and says “Go get ‘em. I’ve got your back.”
Last year, the word broke forth with epiphany-like strength: healing. If you’ve read my stuff, you know the story. If you’ve not, just know that when the light shone on these seven letters, I said “Yes! Bring it on!” 2014 was my year to heal, to start over, tend wounds, find a new path. It was my year to gaze out over the ocean from my new little apartment and see whales breach and remember that the world keeps spinning. For the first time I can remember, I gave myself permission to give myself a break. Sometimes it takes fifty years to learn to do that, I guess, and I took every second of all fifty, and then a bit. I needed it. I breathed deeply and let the tears flow. I let the anger swell and over-flow, then watched in awe as it seeped through the floorboards and slowly disappeared. I let go – of things I no longer needed, relationships that no longer worked, beliefs I realized were flawed. I tried to listen more and talk less, reflect more and judge less. Of course, not every day worked out that way. But that was okay too. It was my year to give myself a break.
This morning, on the last day of my healing year, I sip my coffee and look out over the ocean hoping to see a whale breach, and know that, while scars remain, I am, indeed, healing. Those extra pounds still hang around, and there’s plenty I need to do, but I’m finally okay with it all. I can look in the mirror and wink at that word staring back at me and say “thanks, I’ve got this.”
Tomorrow, a new word goes up on that mirror. Healing doesn’t disappear, of course, because that’s not how this word thing works. It sticks around, in the background, something like a foundation maybe, but yields center-stage to its new partner. It has to work that way, I figure, because we remain a work in progress. Old scars still bleed occasionally, old beliefs come wandering back.
This year, there was no big epiphany moment. I kept pondering as I shopped, hung ornaments, actually got into the spirit of the season – a big improvement over last year, when I pretty much phoned it in. I thought about the work I want to do, the things I want to accomplish, the difference I want to make. I thought about my kids – my youngest now almost fifteen – and realized they’ll be out in the world before I’m ready. I thought about the stories that have gripped us – racial divides, violence, lost airliners, the beheadings of journalists just trying to tell a story. I focused on the chaos of a world in perpetual change, trying to make sense of it all, and trying to find my little place within it.
Finding calm in the chaos – that’s the dream, I think. Knowing when and where and on what to focus. Knowing how to adapt, simplify – and breathe. Breathe deep and let it out slowly, with thought and compassion and understanding.
And that’s when it came to me, much like standing under the mistletoe and being oblivious to its presence. It was there all along. I just needed to figure it out. Discipline.
Discipline goes up on the mirror tomorrow morning, taking the spot of Healing, who did its work and needs a rest. Discipline to meet my deadlines and keep my word. Discipline to listen and try to understand. Discipline to weed out what doesn’t matter and give my all to those things that do. And yes, even the discipline to forego the fried chicken and ice cream and get to the gym more.
I hope I roll out of bed and wink at it and say, “right! I’m on it.” (Right after I make my bed and fold the laundry.) Wish me luck.
Happy new year.
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