New Year, New You

As one year comes to an end, as holiday decorations come down and walls are washed, talk begins of new beginnings and, inevitably, resolutions. The dictionary definition of the word “resolution” is “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” To make a resolution is to begin a new year from a position of strength, some may say, through firm commitments.

Then, February or March arrives, and all the chatter about resolutions dissolves into guilt: the “not-enoughs.” When we fail to live up to our own high expectations, we feel less-than. And instead of becoming healthier, we become discouraged instead.

The problem with resolutions, I find, is that we often make them in an effort to be more perfect, rather than more human. Resolutions, with their firm and uncompromising edges, are sought to make us skinnier, more efficient, more contained, more successful, but what about more wholehearted?

2019 has been a peculiar year in my life. I finished grad school, only to find myself buried under an avalanche of new, not-yet-considered questions. I moved clear across the country only to move into a house and then out of the house within a matter of a few days. I have been waiting for a new life to begin, in a new state and a new home, with new people and new surroundings. But it hasn’t begun. Or at least, for the majority of the year, it has not felt like I’ve really moved forward.

I’ve instead been in limbo, which has lasted for months. I’ve applied to jobs and pitched essays for publication, drafted articles about contemplative theology, looked at other graduate programs, applied to other graduate programs, signed up for a week-long restorative yoga training… all while weighing other questions. Do I still want to live in California? Do I want to pursue writing seriously? What would that even require of me? Do I want to be a therapist? Is that my calling? Why do I live with so much anxiety? 

I could make concrete resolutions this year, something like “pitch three articles every month,” or “do Pilates 5x per week,” or “apply to five therapy training programs or ten jobs.” As I have strived and pushed this year, commuting and writing, packing and unpacking and repacking and waiting, I have realized that life is not something to figure out. We cannot think our way to a new life, we have to feel and stretch toward a new life, the way trees reach toward the sun.

What I need this year is permission, from myself, to change and begin again, as needed. Instead of pushing, softening. Instead of covering over, opening up. Because the “resolution” to be more fully human, to be softer, means life will look more like unfurling and less like a resume. It will mean healthy, good change. It will mean that becoming looks more like wholeness and less like perfection.

I came across this quotation from a writer named Madalyn Beck last week that I feel may be helpful to us all as we move into this new year, “Start over, my darling. Be brave enough to find the life you want and courageous enough to chase it. Then start over and love yourself the way you were always meant to.”

It will be a new decade and yet just another Wednesday and yet just another morning when the sun rises like it always does and shines on every living thing. And yet… life feels fresh with possibility, enlivened by hope.

Happy New Year.