What words encircle your consciousness this year?
Maybe you don’t roll with words? What ideas, feelings, sounds, or other sensations, then?
When you get still, where does your energy settle, and what aspirations arise?
I share some of mine here; I’d love to read some of yours in the comments!
“Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself”
As I get older, I reach for larger, stronger mental shovels to evict certain voices from my mind. “New Year’s resolutions are useless, don’t bother” (see evidence to the contrary). “Get up early and write in the morning, it’s the only way.” Do this, do that, think this, feel that. I’ve internalized enough societal standards and constraints, some helpful, many not. Every year of adulthood also solidifies my own core values and goals, which themselves drive me forcefully—not enough, never enough, must be better, always more. In the end all the ‘Shoulds’, both external and internal, can feel heavy. I know who I am, I know what’s important to me. I’m a lifelong learner. I progress because it’s my nature. I do what I need to do and I’m good at it; I am enough.
Competence and Confidence
So many recurring challenges—this past year especially, but just generally in life, right? When I look back only at the past weeks or months, it’s too easy to judge myself harshly and wonder, am I really enough? Look at all the mistakes I keep making, over and again! But when I breathe slowly and deeply, looking back farther on the long arc of learning, I see unequivocal progress. “If it’s important, it will be repeated,” they always told us in medical school. Life lessons always seem to come around again just when I need them. With every iteration, when I can be fully present, tame my feral emotions, and call forth skills already learned, my ability deepens, even shines. Every such instance prepares me for the next trial. This is the benefit of mid-life: seeing clear evidence of advancing competence, and feeling the confidence to own it.
Transform the Story
The first and most important lesson I learned from coaching was to recognize the stories I tell. All of our perceptions are, in very large proportion, formed in advance by our past experiences, biases, and expectations. “Reality”, how we make meaning, is far more subjective than we realize (ha!) or admit, and I’m convinced that most human conflict arises when we deny awareness and acceptance of this. I’ve gotten pretty good at noticing and moderating the stories I tell in new and low stakes encounters. But in longstanding, intimate relationships and high stakes situations, I am often still chained to my deep, often negative, and ultimately self-defeating stories. Ironically they are stories about others which, when I’m honest, are actually projections of my own concealed wounds. How fascinating…and worthy of the work to disassemble, to free myself and my loved ones from these abstract cages of invented being.
Lightly, Lightly, Ever Lightly
It’s all so much, this work, this drive, this constant striving in potential and possibility. There is a role and a place for the Shoulds; the challenges all make me stronger; and the old stories all served a purpose once. To grow is to shed, break, and deconstruct, and also to synthesize, integrate, and reform, ad infinitum. It can and does often feel pretty heavy. But now, this year, I choose lightness instead. I have only this one life, yes, and it is finite. There is only so much I can do… And that’s still a lot, and I’m still young yet! I’ got time, I’ got this; and even if I don’t, damn, I’ve done a fair bit already. If it all ended today, of course I would have serious regrets. And I’ve done my best; I’ve never stopped trying. What more could I ask of myself?
Any and every moment can carry all hope, could make or break everything (really?), and could have nothing to do with anything–who knows in that moment? I’m learning and doing every day anyway; why apply unnecessary pressure? No, I’d rather have more fun in this time that I have. So I’ll keep doing what needs doing. I just don’t have to take it all (or myself) so damn seriously.
Oh and ODOMOBaaT, of course. That just goes without saying.