By the time I finished writing my final words of 2015, I didn’t feel ready to take on resolving things for 2016. I’d just listed all the ways 2015 didn’t go as I’d intended, let alone dreamed. Why would I ever spend time again declaring things about the future? Clearly, that illusive bitch (I say that in the most endearing way you can imagine) is out of my control. God knows, I’ve been chasing her long enough. You’d think I’d have figured it out by now. Maybe the year, my dear priest friend gave me a crystal ball for Christmas was a decent hint that I’d spent too much time talking about how much I wanted to know what was going to happen. It took until 2015 for me to finally accept – with just a slight hint of bitterness and a fleeting whiff of despair – that I didn’t have a whole lot of luck resolving the ways things would be months from now. I decided my time would be better spent cleaning the kitchen.
My tradition every January 1st is to wake up early and drive to Leo Carrillo beach. It’s the end of Los Angeles, the last beach in Malibu. To me, it’s my garden of Eden – a sacred, beautiful, life affirming combination of ocean and sky and rocks and sand. It’s where I go to grieve and to celebrate and especially, to contemplate.
Friday morning, the first day of a new year, it was as beautiful as ever. Empty, save a few paddle boarders far off the shore. I walked the rocks to the point where the road disappeared and found a place to sit. I looked then I listened letting the sounds of the present take over the racing voices from the preceding days, months – hell, let’s face it, years. Once I’d been quiet for a while, I took out my little tan Field Notes book and wrote down the question that I couldn’t get out of my head:
What will you bring to this new year?
At first the answer came tumbling out in a weird assortment of specific details (schedule a trip with my friend, Dar, FaceTime with Jack once a week), desired habits (knit and read more), self recriminations (less TV and alcohol) and grand desires (finish your book and spend more time with the people you love). As I let these things emerge on the page without too much editing or comment, I enjoyed the mismatches. There was something sweet about the messiness. Once I’d filled in a couple of pages, I looked back over my list of messy non-resolutions and I saw that for as fragmented as it seemed, there was a fundamental connectedness underlying the thoughts. All these big and little things lived inside seven actions: pray, write, gratitude, connect, create, steward and finish.
These words weren’t all that new or different from previous years and even more important, they didn’t depart from the core values that have guided (some times better than others) me over the last few years. While I liked the seven actions, they didn’t change my jaundiced view of resolutions. Seeing them did make me think twice about what I was bringing into 2016. Was I setting myself up the right way, putting systems and rituals in place to support more of how I wanted to spend time and energy and money? Was top of mind whatever was at the top of my email inbox or was there intention to my attention? What responsibility was I taking today for the time I had?
That last question was the one that hit me the hardest. My always worried about, predicting, imagining, wanting something for the future self sucked a lot of energy out of the present. By the end of 2015, I was so out of margin that I only had enough energy to deal in the present. Survival mode does that. And, it’s not a bad thing sometimes. As my body rested into the rhythm of the waves and the wind cleared my mind, the angst of survival mode dissipated a little. I was okay. Not perfect or entirely whole but I’d more than survived. I was dealing and had dealt with hard things, hard work. There was space for some new as long as it was small. What will I bring to this new year? What can I bring to each day? What small things can I attend to that will bring more goodness and mercy and grace to this world and to my work and to my words? Resolutions are still too big to contemplate but I can bring these small actions to this new year:
Pray – My life is unapologetically grounded in deep faith in a wholly devoted, loving God. Love God, love neighbor – that’s what we’re here to learn how to do. And, the order counts on that commandment. One precedes the other for a reason and prayer is the way of both.
Gratitude – I’d started a practice in 2015 where I wrote down a few things every day that I was grateful for. It worked really well. It did exactly what everyone from Brene Brown to Gretchen Rubin to my good friends at Gramr promised it would do. I still haven’t figured out why I stopped it. Radical laziness is my best guess. I pulled out a spiffy new black Field Notes book and started a new gratitude book right there on the beach.
Write – Oh how I struggle with the words. We’re best friends and mortal enemies all in the matter of a minute. It’s worse than middle school girl clique shifts – and faster too. Regardless of how we feel about each other. I’m going to try and write every day. If we can’t find a truce, at least we can get used to the fight.
Connect – Facebook is great but I need more. We all need more. Every day, I want to be sure I spend some time giving someone real attention – seeing and hearing them.
Create – For me this is knitting or coloring or both. Making stuff is delightful. The kind of delight that belongs in every day.
Steward – Where does the time go? Where does the money go? Why? I abdicate responsibility for these things in small ways. What does it look like to be a more intentional and responsible steward of the resources I’ve been given?
Finish – This is the overarching theme for 2016. Complete it or let it go. There are too many things that I am long overdue to be finished with. While this definitely applies to projects and the never ending book. It’s also as applicable to resentments and hurts and regrets. I’m going to try and finish something every day.
That’s it. No resolutions. No grand future visions. The chance to practice seven small words three hundred and sixty five times. What are you bringing to this new year?