Setting Intentions For 2016

Happy New Year, Friends! Was 2015 not a wild ride?  However you experienced it, we can safely call the past year eventful, if nothing else.  The violence and the tenderness, the destruction and the connections—how can we hold it all at once?  I used to think myself an optimist, but now I often wonder if the world will actually end in my lifetime—whether we humans will obliterate one another in a rapid succession of escalating violence, or somehow see the light and work harder toward mutual understanding.  Nature will go on, though, with or without us.  I’m still an optimist, then—for the Earth, not necessarily for people…

This year I realized my body’s inevitable march toward menopause, a stark and sudden awareness. It came to me sometime in the spring, and I felt a keen jolt of motivation to prepare.   After 13 years of practice, I recognize two characteristics of women who suffer the least through this dramatic hormonal transition.

First, they accept it. They have made peace with this phase of life, letting go their reproductive years and embracing their elder position in our human tribal order.  They see menopause as a rite of experience and advancement, rather than a loss.  They move with confidence through this segment of life, and make the best of whatever happens.

Second, these women almost always have well-established habits of good health long before their hormone levels start dropping. Nutrition and physical activity come to mind first, but the practice of  ‘being at peace’ must also be included among the ‘habits.’  They have, whether innate or learned, effective mechanisms for overcoming adversity and maintaining balance—physical, mental, emotional, and relational—they are resilient.  I aspire to be like them.

So, until such time as humanity actually annihilates itself, I pledge to persist on the journey toward my best self. The more I read and share with contemplative friends, teachers, students, patients and others, the more I see how we make our lives out of small, daily choices.  As such, I propose below my intentions for the coming year.  I will fail, over and again, I know.  But as Ben Zander would say, these are not expectations to live up to.  They are possibilities to live into.

 

Choose to Train

I started working with Melissa, my trainer, in January of 2014. It was slow going that first year, with only a vague goal of exercising for its own sake, because I knew I ‘should.’  Now, my pursuit of fitness has much more meaning.  I have a finite amount of time to get in the best possible shape before ‘The Change.’  It’s an exhilarating challenge now.  How fit could this body get?  Every week since July, except for one, I have managed to exercise at least three times.  I set this goal on January 1, 2014, and it’s only since my Menopause Epiphany that I have truly owned it.  I think of myself as an athlete again, training for the ultimate marathon of living well in old age, by getting off my butt and moving, each and every day.

 

Choose to Fuel

*sigh*

I need to manage better what I put in my mouth. Eating is one of the hardest things for me to control.  I know exactly how much my patients struggle to include more vegetables, avoid sugar and starches, and eat less overall, because I fight the same battle every day.  After my daughter was born, at age 35, I successfully lost 25 pounds in nine months by simply cutting my portions in half, getting down to my wedding weight.  I had neither the time nor the interest to exercise, nor the energy to police my food choices.  Though I have kept the weight off for the most part, 7 years later I find myself wondering if I’m pre-diabetic.  I see every day how insidiously a persons’ glucose metabolism changes, and it’s ever clearer to me that ‘trying to eat healthy’ is not enough.  I need to set goals for eating, just like for exercise.  Is it food, or is it junk?  If it’s junk, is it at least junk that I really, really enjoy?  Will it be worth the cost to my body after eating it?  Does it align with my highest goals for health and a sustainable ecosystem?  Will it help me age well?  A body in training needs appropriate fuel.  The training piece feels established by now.  In 2016 I will strive to discern and allocate my energy resources better.

 

Choose Curiosity

It always amazes me, and scares me a little, how easily I slip into assumptions and negative storytelling about the people around me. I play old scripts in my head about other people’s intentions, based on my own fears and insecurities.  These thought patterns reinforce themselves over time, creating perceptive realities that are hard to distinguish from objective truths.  This phenomenon is well-described in psychology research, and contributes to misunderstanding at least, disconnection and isolation at worst.  My heroes Rosamund Stone Zander, Brené Brown, and Elizabeth Gilbert, all propose curiosity as the core antidote to assumptions, judgment, and alienation.  First, I can get curious about my emotions, whenever I feel triggered or agitated. What am I feeling? Where did it come from?  Then I can ask myself, “What story am I telling about this person, and what assumptions do I make about their thinking or perspective?”  If I can get this far, I’m already doing pretty well, and on a good day, I can take the next step, asking, “What other story can I tell, one that could cause me to suffer less?”  Last, I can always engage the other person from a place of vulnerability.  I can ask questions, confess my inner stories, and clarify what’s happening between us.  I’ve been practicing this for the past year, too, and it is hard.  But I’m getting better at it, and the results are well worth the effort.  Mutual understanding and deeper connections are only the beginning.  Curiosity may well be the best approach to world peace.

 

Choose My Family, My Tribe

We are each born into a family, for better or worse. And throughout a lifetime, we can also choose our connections, both inside and outside of our genetics.  I wrote recently about my friend Yakini.  My son had been to her daycare for months, and morning drop-offs were happy and smooth.  Then we went on vacation for a week, and when we came back, he was suddenly distraught every time I left him.  Immediately, Yakini knew what to do.  “We need to come to your home for a meal,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.  “He needs to know that we are part of your family, that we will take care of him the same as you,” she continued.  Of course, it was a no-brainer.  We had to validate the sacred contract, as she called it.  Her whole family came over with their guitar.  We ate, we sang, we bonded.  After that the boy was happier than ever to see them every morning.  We had officially claimed Yakini’s family as our own.

My family of origin has its complexities. Culture, generation, and sibling rivalry have all contributed to my repeating scripts and stories.  I have learned with age that these patterns can and do change, and it serves all of us to hold space for the evolution.  I can practice curiosity, allow myself to be vulnerable, and choose deeper connections to the people I might otherwise take for granted or let drift away.  My siblings and I have also chosen our spouses.  We need also, then, to acknowledge each of their families of origin, their patterns, scripts, and stories.  I feel very lucky that my husband and my brothers-in-law all seem to accept our family’s quirks and dysfunctions—I can certainly learn from their example.

Lastly, in 2016, I intend to continue nurturing my ties to my tribe. These are the other family members I have chosen over the years, my friends.  They come from all stages and places of my life, and all offer unique perspective.  They accept my imbalances and love me anyway, and always challenge me to live in my integrity.  They hold me up on my quest for self-actualization.  They invite me to do the same for them, and together I honestly believe we make the world better.

2015 comes to a jumbled end for me, full of intensity, volume, texture, and possibility. I’m grateful for this blogging platform to explore and share ideas.  Thank you for reading to the end of this, I think my longest post yet.  I look forward to more growth and exploration in the coming year.  Nothing matters more than our relationships, first with ourselves and then with one another.  Let us cultivate connections that promote peace, love, and harmony, this year and beyond.

 

19 thoughts on “Setting Intentions For 2016

  1. Happy New Year, Cathy! I could write heaps in response (and agreement) to your list of “intentions” (a much better word than “resolutions”) but I’ll focus on two thoughts. First — and highly coincidental — I’ve been thinking about menopause too and realizing how woefully unprepared I am. Any books on the subject that you’d recommend?

    Secondly, one of my favorite books on healthy eating is _Clean Cuisine_. Are you familiar with it? I think it would appeal to you. I’m not a perfect practitioner, though I’m proud of my progress on the nutrition front…and now it’s time for the exercise front to catch up. 🙂 Since exercise is my top intention for 2016, I love the idea of being an “athlete” who’s “training for the ultimate marathon of living well in old age.” That’s a great mantra. I will let your success at making exercise a regular part of each week inspire me to do the same this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nancy!! I will definitely check out this book, I think I really need it! And Woooo hooooo! 😄 you inspir my eating while I inspire your moving, and we will both be healthier for it this time next year!! YAAAAY 😄 xoxo

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    • Oh and no, I have no book recommendations on menopause. Maybe I should start collecting the wisdom if these women I know… It really feels like this is one if those things, like pregnancy, that the tribal elders are best for, rather than books and manuals and statistics… 😏

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      • I loved Dr. Sears’ books on child-raising and would love a similar book on getting through menopause with optimal grace, health & humor. But the “wisdom of tribal elders” is another great angle too. Maybe finding a memoir or two. And yes, sounds like you’re in a perfect position to collect insights & stories that aren’t written down w/ your clinical background and your people skills. No pressure, but would love a post or two on this topic in the coming year. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Catherine, thank you for a lovely and inspiring post. I completely agree with Nancy that “intentions” is a much more positive word than “resolutions,” and better reflects the gentle, gradual growth that leads to meaningful change. I can relate to so many of your intentions (nutrition, exercise, curiosity, tribe…). I was one of the fortunate ones for whom menopause was smooth sailing all the way. It never occurred to me that it could be otherwise. Thank you for sharing your optimism and cultivating the world you envision. I look forward to more in the year ahead. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year, Donna!
      Thank you for your encouraging comments. And why am I not surprised about your experience with menopause? Knowing your open and curious approach to life, it makes perfect sense to me. 😊 “It never occurred to me that it could be otherwise.” Of course!
      *sigh*
      So happy to count you as a tribal sister! Write on! 😊😘😁

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Life Is A Journey,
    But My Best Wishes Are The Milestones
    That Will Give You Hope
    And Motivation To Move On.
    Am Wishing You A Joyous New Year!
    With warmth, love and blessings from MiddleMe to you and your readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful comments on menopause. I’m sure that you have the right of it. Here’s to continuing to make those better choices and making it healthier to be happier in the skin we’re in! Happy new year!

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  5. Happy New Year Catherine! I was so happy to see your words again. They are always inspiring to me. I haven’t done resolutions for a while, but I like your term intention. That is something I can wrap myself around. It also need not be an annual event, but daily, which is how I tend now to live life. Best wishes on realizing all your intentions…and gentle journey to you through menopause. I’m on the other side of that transition, though I can’t say that I entered it with as much preparation and forethought as you. But I do have to say…it’s lovely over here. Life in all its stages is a good good thing! 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Kat! 😊 Daily intentions, *exactly*!! Each day is a new chance to start again, aim again at the target and see how far I can get. It’s all a practice, life–a journey. How nice to look around every day and appreciate the scenery, whatever it looks like! Have a great day! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Resolutions and Intentions and Tendencies, Oh My! | Practically Wise

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