Oh the New Year and its tradition! I'm not sure about you, but I opted out of this torturous game of self-degradation and disappointment many years ago. I never understood why (and yet did it over and over) I would make commitments only to break them (of course!) inevitably sending me into a spiral of shame and beating myself up about how horrible I was that I couldn't keep these simple promises to myself. Well, truth be told, they were never "simple", as hoping to change ones life, being or large aspects of it in a few promises never is. For a while I have been contemplating why I was always so hopeful about this ritual and why even after years of evidence highlighting its shortcomings, it took me so long to accept that it never "got me back on track" but usually took me further away from where or who I wanted to be.
There are many thoughts that I came up with in my contemplation of my relationship with this ritual but the 5 that have stayed with me and ground my new practice today are the following:
1. Flexibility. If you can't do the splits today, you're not going to be able to do them tomorrow. Just like if you're not a runner, don't expect to be doing 45-minutes out of the gate! Be gentle and flexible allowing time for transition (start a new routine gradually), adjustment (tweak the frequency, duration), evaluation (is this working for me?), and changes in your schedule which simply don't allow the time to do it without stressing yourself out huge!
2. Accept who you are. For years I made resolutions based on what I thought I "should" do instead of what I wanted. I treated them as a way to whip myself into shape without any regard or consideration of who I actually was and what was important to me. It took me many a January 18th of feeling like an "exercise failure" before I finally admitted to myself that I hate formal exercise! Why am I forcing myself to do something that I hate?! If it isn't rooted in pleasure you can count me out! Gym, no freakin way, ever. Joyful movement such as a dance class, stretching or a walk in nature, name the time and place! I love this quote by Carl R. Rogers that highlights this, "the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change". Once I accepted who I was I was able to move on and find something that worked for me.
3. Pleasure, love and care need to be our compass. How often do we commit to something out of fear, punishment or loathing ourselves? Change rooted in criticism and motivated by shame and guilt will get you focused for a short period of time but, from personal experience, it's not the shit the long game is won on (and it just makes us feel like more shit). Pleasure is what I look to and ask advice from when I'm looking to make choices that are rooted in love and care for myself (of course, sometimes having hard conversations that are an act of self-love aren't pleasurable in the moment but nonetheless need tending and may bring about more pleasure in the long run). We are taught that pleasure is indulgent and naughty, its not. Just as we use pain to help signal what to move away from we can use pleasure to signal what to move towards. Both are equally integral to survival and the old adage, "no pain no gain", is complete and utter bullshit if you ask me.
4. Ways of Being and Relating vs Doing. So after all my contemplating around resolutions, being honest with myself about who I was and what I wanted I have decided that instead of making resolutions I will make gestures and themes. For me this looks like taking time at the end of December to sit with myself and contemplate all that has been meaningful in the past year (desired and undesired, expected and unexpected) and choose a few things that I want to focus on to make the upcoming one meaningful as well. Gestures for me are ways of being. Ways of showing up and relating to myself and those around me. Things like patience, empathy, compassion, active listening. These don't add time to my day but rather enhance all the moments in them (that I can remember and be mindful of these gestures). I will post reminders, get tattoos, buy a crystal to carry around or come up with a phrase, "what would empathy do?, that I can use in moments where these gestures are not my "natural" or "instinctual" way of being at that time (because someone set me off and I'm seeing red!).
5. Keep it Simple. I pick one word and one gesture (and sometimes they are the same!). That's it. For the year. For real.
All these years that you have spent in your body here on Earth are valuable and meaningful. We don't need to wipe out who we were or are in order to become who we want. This is not an all or nothing and talking negatively to ourselves and suppressing or altering our unique characteristics is not how we become the best version of ourselves but rather how we become someone else. Denying our past, our story, our body, and our wild qualities takes us further away from ourselves and the freedom and love we want to experience.
When we think in dualistic terms (then and now or now and when) we miss all the nuances. We aren't one or the other but rather all of it, like a blackberry bush (love nature references!) for example. The roots, branches, leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit are all different expressions and aspects of this one whole being. The roots are not frowned upon by the berry because they are damp, dark, dirty, inedible, less visible and vibrant. Rather, they are deeply respected, loved and honoured because without them, the fruit could not exist.
Be who you are, not who you think you should be or who others want you to be. Yes, the glitz and glam of a "new you" can be pretty intoxicating and alluring but never underestimate the value, worth, importance and beauty of the silent and strong roots. Where you have been is not a mistake and who you are is not wrong. Take it all with you as you embark on this new beginning (we all know it finds us eventually anyway)!
Shine on Wild Ones, this is your time!
Your Wild Warrior,