Wednesday, December 31, 2014
To a New Year
2014 will go down in the books as one of our hardest years yet. And while a new year brings promises of hope and a fresh start, experience has told me that a simple passing of time doesn't usually change things.
That's what the New Year is really about, people wanting to change. If I'm cynical about anything, it's the idea that truly changing who we are, for the better mind you, is a near impossible feat. Getting rid of anything from small bad habits to raging, controlling addictions (controlling behavior?) and all those unpleasant negative things that are intertwined so deep within our bones and blood can feel so very overwhelming. Sometimes so overwhelming we don't even try.
But the cynic in me is starting to wear away, so if I may, I'd like to make a suggestion. I'm not suggesting an actual resolution but rather perhaps a vehicle to help make your resolution possible.
Be kinder to yourself. I know... total new age, hippy-dippy stuff. But really, be kind to yourself. If you would never tell a friend that she's fat, ugly, a bad mom, a terrible wife or even that her pain doesn't matter because "she doesn't have it that bad"... then don't to it to yourself either. And if you are the kind of person who would say that to a friend, well then you've got some bigger problems and this post is probably not for you. Most of you don't know me in person, but if you did what you might find out is that I can be hard on other people. I guess you could say I have high expectations. But what you might not realize is that as hard as I can be on other people, I'm even harder on myself. And as you might already know, beating yourself up doesn't actually foster any long lasting positive change. Anyone can white knuckle it for a while--sometimes a long while!--but real change demands growth, which demands complete transparency, which begs for compassion. It's not always easy to look in the nooks and crannies of our inner self but I find when I do so without judgement and give myself the room to just be, I can actually breathe a little easier and make some better choices about how I want to think, act and feel in the future. Thoughts and words are powerful, and for some reason it's taken me a long time to realize the thoughts and words I think and say to myself are among the most powerful I will ever hear.
This is certainly not a revolutionary idea, but perhaps like me hearing it a little differently, at this time in your life, for the umpteenth time will somehow feel fresh and new like something you need to actually try. My lovely friend Erin taught me this little trick, that I have probably shared before, but I'd like to tell you again today, also because I need to hear it myself again today. When you have a negative thought--about anyone really, but especially about yourself--immediately replace it with it's positive and true opposite. For example, maybe you yelled at one of your kids today... instead of beating yourself up and telling yourself you're a bad mom and once again you've failed, tell yourself, "I'd do anything for my kids." While it may seems counterintuitive to remind ourselves of our goodness even when we've acted otherwise, I have found that when I do this I am more likely to replace anger with patience, frustration with compassion and annoyance with gratitude.
So remind yourself of the patience, kindness, goodness and love within yourself. Do it because it's true, and do it because just like any living thing we can only subsist on the nutrition given to us both physically and spiritually. Whoever nurtured you when you were little is no longer your primary caregiver and you've got to take over those nurturing duties, for others maybe, but for yourself definitely.
This puts a whole new twist on the saying, kindness begins with me. Yes kindness should begin with us, not just the kindness we dole out to others, but for the kindness so needed to ourselves. But for all I know that was the intention all along because you can't give what you don't have.
Happy, Happy New Year.