I am looking forward to Saturday night. Last New Year’s I spent meditating with a local group in San Jose; last New Year’s I remember was colored by the tsunami that had just occurred; last New Year’s had a somber air. Sitting in meditative silence, surrounded by candles, and breathing toward the alleviation of suffering, seemed not just appropriate, but somehow necessary.
This year a friend of mine, along with her boyfriend, is coming to visit from the east coast. We’ll be indulging in long conversations fueled by a sauna and champagne at my apartment. I have quite a bit to reflect on, and even more to look forward to, and I know S and I have hours of life to discuss.
But this is not what I meant to write about.
What I meant to write about was the phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions. Last year I adopted what then seemed like a good policy: I was determined to have none. My resolution was to accept myself just as I was. I knew, then, that I had a long way to go. I knew, then, that my life was far from perfect. I knew then that I had all manner of changes to make. I also knew, though, that hunting around for those parts of my personality and lifestyle that were wrong, and that needed to be righted, or that were flawed, and that needed to be fixed, was precisely the wrong way to go about it.
What I needed then was acceptance. Setting up some goal that I had to make, and that I might possibly fail at, would have just provided me with fodder for self-abuse, and while at that point I was recovered enough not to worry too much about relapsing, the danger was there. I knew the downward spiral of criticism all too well. And so I resolved to love myself, and to want no changes.
I think that might have been one of the most difficult resolutions of my life. Luckily I had already been practicing for a while.
Now, a year later, I’ve attained more than I ever would have allowed myself. It’s a little humbling; I know if I’d laid out a set of goals a year ago, or if I’d been asked where I saw myself – and even where I hoped to see myself – in twelve months, I’d be nowhere near the level at which I’m currently living. It’s more than a little humbling; it’s unbelievable.
This year, though, I’m torn. I don’t feel I need such kid gloved treatment. I think I’d be fine with setting up a series of even challenging resolutions. I can set a direction and set goals and harbor expectations without worrying that I’ll somehow fail to support myself if they turn out to have been too ambitious. Still, I’m torn. On the one hand, the overwhelming effectiveness of this project of self-acceptance is undeniable to me. The changes that happened over the past year seemed less demanded as they did merely necessary: they happened in spite of myself, because they were right, and because I could see no other way.
(These changes included, just to keep a list: finding a new full time job as a writer; getting into graduate school; moving into a new apartment in a different town; buying a new car; opening a coaching practice; maintaining a long-term-and-distance relationship; and all manner of small habits such as daily running and meditation, weight lifting, a healthy diet, and so on.)
And so, given this, I feel that it would be logical to set the same resolution for this year.
On the other, I am feeling the need, or at least I’m aware of the desire, to direct my life a little more. This is partly because I find myself suddenly in the midst of a bizarre spurt of extreme energy and enthusiasm and curiosity about life, and my own in particular. It’s a strange situation to be in – feeling at once that my days are filled to capacity with for-now satisfying activities, yet at the same time feeling puppyishly eager to cast myself into some amazing future that I can sense but not quite see.
The desire to shape this future, or at least to think it out, is admittedly strong. I want to start setting out particular goals. I want to start actively moving toward something more ambitious than my degree, my practice. There are these things, to be sure, and while they feel right, even necessary, they don’t quite feel sufficient. I’m hungry for more, but I’m worried only that I have no idea as to the scope of this call. What specific goals do I set? What do I look for?
But this is getting silly. I went from New Year’s resolutions to major life goals. It’s late; I’m getting sloppy. I think this writing, though, has helped something. I’m holding last year’s non-resolution and adding a rider: being open to the most absurdly grand possibilities.
And being open, too,
to laughing uproariously at my own fantastically naive ambition.