I seriously hate New Year’s. It comes in second only to the Fourth of July as my most despised holiday. Traditionally, a time to look back at the year ending and determine where we’ve screwed up and fallen short and then make a hollow pledge to be somehow “better” as of January first. And then there’s the parties. Even in my younger, wilder days, going out on New Year’s was what everyone else did. The few times that I spent the evening at a club with friends, it was underwhelming at best, and full of desperation at worst. I’d much rather pour myself a glass of pink champagne in the comfort of my own home and go to bed.
I am nothing if not introspective, perhaps, even, to a fault. My “inner life” is pretty darn active. I spend a lot of time in my head. I watch and observe a lot. As a writer, this is an important skill to hone. For myself, personally, it can sometimes drive me crazy. But inevitably, what it does create is a life that is lived with eyes wide open. Not a perfect life, mind you, devoid of mistakes and regrets and unfortunate fateful interference, but one that is pretty damn deliberate. The life that I live is one that I have chosen and created. And here’s the thing:
I am exactly the person that I want to be.
New Year’s Day is no longer a day on which I berate myself for being less than exactly who I am. Trust me, I spent decades doing just that. A quick glance in any of the volumes of journals I kept as a younger woman is clear evidence of this. “Get off your fat ass and exercise, fatso!” was not an unusual entry. (And this, when my percentage of body fat hovered in the single digits.) Do better! Be more! Weigh less! Stop screwing around and accomplish something! My New Year’s resolutions weren’t exactly full of compassion, but rather a means to shame myself into being “better.”
Shaming doesn’t work. At least not for long.
Once I began teaching yoga and became immersed in the greater yoga community, no one talked about New Year’s resolutions any more. The wording cleverly changed to New Year’s intentions. Granted, it is a kinder word, one that is not necessarily attached to results. Breaking an intention is a bit more nebulous than breaking a resolution, you see. Failure is more vague. But after spending so many years talking about intentions in New Year’s Day yoga workshops, I’ve come to realize it is just one more way to tell ourselves that we are not enough as we are. And I think that’s bullshit.
(Now, I’m not talking about those folks who careen through life like a train wreck. Those people who allow their life to sweep them up like an out-of-control tsunami and deposit them hither and yon along the shoreline, only to wake up and wonder how the hell they got there. Obviously, those folks could benefit from a bit more introspection. Obviously.)
Most of us are not like that. Most of us have dreams and goals and ideals and some of us reach them and many of us do not. We mess up, make bad choices, take too long before making better ones. We get depressed and spend a few days (or more) brooding and eating Cheetos and feeling sorry for ourselves. At our core, though, we are kind and loving. We are human and flawed. And far too many of us get so embroiled and invested in our imperfections that we fail to recognize the sheer beauty of the variegated composite that our imperfections create. Just take a look at the headlines on any women’s magazine cover in January: “New Year, New YOU!” A well-known manufacturer of yoga clothes has their “inspirational” manifesto printed on their shopping bags. Quotes like “Do it now, do it now, do it now!” and “Do one thing a day that scares you” are not inherently bad ideas, but quite frankly, reading them all exhausts me. “Be better! Do more!” This is our battle cry.
I don’t do that anymore.
Not doing that anymore does not translate to life of apathy and ennui, mind you. It translates to a life embraced and lived fully, without feeling like I am somehow perpetually falling short. A life of radical and unadulterated self-acceptance.
It’s a good way to live.
So on this first day of 2013 I will tell you exactly how I will continue to live my life:
I will spend time with people who embrace me because of my quirks and idiosyncrasies, not just in spite of them. I will be kind. I will create things that only I can create. I will see lots and lots and lots of live music with friends who are provocative and make me smile. I will play my ukulele badly and sing loudly. I will allow myself be drawn to whatever mysteriously draws me in. I will spend time with teachers who inspire, rather than berate. I will look in the mirror and see beauty and life and then look at others and see the same. I will cry when I need to. I will love the people in my life and tell them so. I will say yes to that which delights me and I will say no, without guilt, to that which does not. I will drink red wine in the winter and tequila in the summer, and at times, too much of each. I will screw up royally and fall far, far short of perfection. A lot. And then I will forgive myself. And I will forgive others.
Go ahead, call it intention, hell–even call it a resolution, but to me, it’s just me.
And I am exactly the person that I want to be.