It was a good year, 2008. There were some curve balls, and times of worry, but so many good things, too. My daughter was granted the diagnosis that has opened doors and smoothed her path through school, my baby boy is thriving in kindergarten, and... I opened a yarn business! Seven skeins back in the spring, and look at it now. Life is good.
As 2008 winds down, I've been giving considerable thought to the matter of resolutions (the kids, on the other hand, have been giving considerable thought to strategies for staying up 'til midnight.)
My 2009 resolution has been percolating insistently for some time, yet I'm finding it unusually difficult to articulate. I'm not sure even now that it makes sense to anyone but myself, but I think it's coming around close to what I mean, and it boils down to this: Making the world a better place by giving myself permission to focus on small things.
A little background: Coming from multiple generations of "world savers," I grew up immersed in the belief (both implied and explicit) that one must do great deeds at a vast distance from one's culture of origin in order to be truly Good Enough. "Charity begins at home" was a platitude for cop-outs, a convenient excuse for those too attached to worldly comforts to make a contribution of any real substance. From my earliest recollection, I knew I would dedicate my life to "real helping," medicine being the obvious choice. I soon discovered though, that the easily dispensed nuts and bolts of medical care were frequently the least of my patients' needs, and more often than not what they truly craved, what would make a real and substantive difference to their suffering, were things like hope, dignity, comfort, wisdom, companionship, and self esteem. As a dedicated helper, I did my best: time (and more and more time), words of comfort and earnest advice, hope and belief willed into them with every fibre of my being. It would be wrong to say that it was all ineffectual, but as the years went by and burnout set in, I found I was increasingly speaking words I no longer believed, trying to bestow things I didn't possess, and the moral hypocrisy of that discrepancy became intolerable. I was left hollow and exhausted, with a guilty sense of failure: still wanting to make a difference but no longer sure I had anything of substance to contribute.
Which is all a rather dark and heavy way of explaining why I'm finally ready to start over, why I need to think so hard about such a simple idea: that beginning with me, doing small things, could be a valid way to make a positive difference in the world. I suppose it could be like an experiment, a hypothesis: what would happen if these were my only resolutions?
- I resolve to stay centred in the very smallest moment of all: the present.
- I resolve to practice contagious happiness, particularly when the obstacles to such are trivial. There is time enough for real loss and sorrow - I resolve not to fritter away opportunities for joy.
- I resolve to practice personal optimism - to choose not to propogate the present insidious climate of gloom.
- I resolve to be patient (especially with my kids) - not by gritting my teeth, but by choosing to be at peace.
- I resolve to stand up straight, dress with care and attention and smile in public. (Perhaps even on camera.)
There are larger lists and plans, of course - things I'd like to learn and do this year, strategies for parenting, goals for business - all of which will ebb and flow and reconfigure around the bumps and obstacles of daily life .... but these resolutions are what I truly hope to hold fast to.
Happy New Year's, everyone!