Be kind to yourself
Nicole Law offers a guide to manageable and effective resolutions.
I am not fond of making resolutions. It sets me up for unrealistic expectations and I ride the ‘high’ of the new year all too briefly – most of my high-minded ideas come crashing to earth and languish in the corner of broken promises come mid January.
So what is the significance of the new year? A simple stepping over the threshold of time? Or an uneventful rendition of Auld Lang Syne?
Despite my cynicism when it comes to resolutions, I believe in the agency and autonomy of the individual. Regardless of what has transpired in the previous year, with its difficulties and pain, the new year still presents a fresh opportunity to start again and to proceed differently, beckoning in as it does the hope of new projects, new social connections and new possibilities. The ability to start anew does not apply only to the first days of the new year – it reminds me that regardless of circumstance, we always possess the ability to adjust our approach and our perspective.
Newness is terrifying for some of us – it means breaking away from our old way of doing things, old patterns of behaviour and trying something with no certain results.
It can mean launching out into the deep far from the shore’s safety.
We tend to conceive of newness as a groundbreaking, earth-shattering change impacting on our lives. Yet, there is a lot of beauty in the newness of the small decisions to do, or not do, something.
In the new year, for me, it means waking up a bit earlier to journal or do some light reading. As simple as that. So, no, I am not trying a new diet or taking up a new exercise regime. No, I am not moving to a new city or learning a new language. I am doing something small for myself that feels new – a greater awareness of the necessity of allowing myself time and space to rest amidst the demands made on me.
Newness pushes us into unfamiliar territory – we break cycles and patterns by looking more carefully at our relationships with others. I have a fondness for psychology texts and have learned much about how our reactions to situations can be explained by entrenched ways of thinking.
In the new year, I will not claim to be Brene Brown or Esther Perel. Instead, I will approach my relationships with greater authenticity and honesty. It is difficult to show up as we are – we are constantly trying to be what our bosses, spouses, friends and family want us to be. Yet, it is also immensely liberating to finally embrace who we are – the core that has remained despite the bruises and incursions by societal pressure.
Newness is also about taking risks and learning to communicate one’s needs for affection and closeness and appreciating theirs.
So maybe it’s time I started telling people that I love them? And no, I am not acting out a scene from the rom-com Love Actually!
Newness might also involve seeing people with new eyes, letting them out of the prison of prejudice we have locked them in. Maybe there is more good to them than we realise. Or, at least, if we knew them a bit better, we might excuse some of their actions. Newness, then, might not be a new situation but a new way of seeing.
Likewise, newness in our dealings with others could simply be a new effort, giving another chance, trying to be a bit more understanding, the resolve to work harder at our relations – including marriage – to make them work. The newness is in learning that, however big the defects in the other might be, I could and perhaps should try harder.
Newness can feel lonely sometimes – especially when we choose differently from the pre-set choices laid out by society. It might mean leaving behind a secure and well-paying job to pursue your passion; or leaving a friendship that has turned toxic. It might mean staying in on the weekend to rest and recharge instead of accepting a friend’s invitation for coffee. It might mean tuning yourself out of the gossip and melodrama and pruning your social circle…
It feels lonely because sometimes newness requires us to stand apart from the crowd to see more clearly.
In the new year for me it means being ready to re-evaluate my priorities and social connections and to assess whether they align with my personal principles. I need to look anew at my fundamental values to see if I am being faithful to them.
Maybe this new year doesn’t feel so intimidating after all – it’s just a season of newness – one which we have active control over, while still leaving just enough space for the unexpected!
May the new year ahead present the whole spectrum of emotion and experience. Let’s learn to drink deeply of life and to live in a way that makes these tired bones feel alive again.
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