A New Day: Respond vs. React
Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.
– Henepola Gunaratana
Happy New Year! We made it. Whereas it feels really good to mark a new year with a clean slate and endless possibilities (so I keep being reminded of through Instagram feeds and my inbox) I must say, I’ve gotten a slow start to 2017 accompanied by a slew of contradictory emotions: relief, excitement, lethargy, longing, confusion, and tons of heightened expectations. What about you?
There are a zillion blogs out there. I read a handful of them and I write merely one of them. What I hope you will find different or inviting about mine is a certain level of transparency and vulnerability. I like stories as opposed to “how to’s.” It makes me cringe when I think of following zippy blog trends entitled: “three foolproof resolutions for your best year”, and “how to attract your soul mate in less than a month”, or my favorite siren, “Your extreme makeover starts here!”
I’m not digging on the dedicated and brilliant bloggers out there who offer hope to thousands through this approach, Lord knows I’ve been wowed often. However, with each passing year, as I show up for myself and my community, I’m learning something invaluable: extreme quick fixes are often just detours. Connection is king.
In light of this, the “slow start” to 2017 I mentioned earliermay not be so bad after all. In fact, perhaps grace, self-compassion, and connection are bleeding through the imperfect, jagged little edges of these young days . Writing’s slowed down, work outs lightly sprinkled in, family laughter and Netflix watching heavy, carb and sugar consumption strong, and goals/intentions for 2017, still a bit foggy. Strangely though, a newfound waft of acceptance and presence rises up through the air like the inviting smell of freshly baked bread.
You see, I love extremes, or have loved I should say. As a youngster, I was super particular, giving my sweet, saint of a mother hell if my pony tail wasn’t perfect. It had to be just so. Sensitive beyond words, I carried the unbearable weight of desperately wanting to be liked and accepted by peers and teachers at every turn. I was hard on myself. I didn’t much like myself either, learning to hustle big time to gain entry into the rooms I longed to set foot in. One of the byproducts of this premature shame was a pretty hard-core eating disorder in high school. What started off wanting to feel better about myself through running and healthy eating turned into a voracious and life-threatening battle with anorexia.
This is not a sketch of that journey; a different story for a different day, and a hopeful one at that. This is encouragement for the weary soul or two out there who don’t want to buy into a billion dollar industry that tells us we need to change and we need to change FAST. I’ve got nothing against new year’s resolutions and change for that matter, that is, if they serve you well. In my experience, they always end like a hot and heavy, short-lived relationship. I like to call them “whoosh” relationships: they promise the sun, moon, and stars, and then Bam! Like a cotton candy sugar rush they crash and burn when the lights go up and the curtain closes. It’s like the jerk of whip-lash, the “whoosh” of a cold whip of wind. I spent my 20’s learning all about that situation—not a good look.
Interestingly enough, I think humans find extremes far easier than balance. We like to react out of fear instead of respond out of desire. Marketing exploits this behavior big time, and anyway you slice it, they’re clever. They know that people go off the rails a bit over the holidays and wake up January 1 with a foggy head and a few extra pounds. Swooping in, they save the day with their slashed gym membership prices and 30-day cleanse program promising a new you in just one month.
We’ve been hooked. When those dollars are spent and the motivation trails off the next afternoon, we go looking for another option, or some leftover toffee, whichever comes quicker. The shame cycle’s begun again. Perhaps I’m cynical, or perhaps I’ve had LOTS of practice reacting out of fear and manipulation rather that choosing what will truly satisfy from a place of mindfulness and connection.
If you jump on my website, you’ll see a logo and the story behind it on the home page. My approach to therapy and coaching is built on relationship as I believe when we begin to soften and mend our inner dialog, healing our relationship with self, external pieces of life follow suit and eventually thrive as well. It’s not magic, it’s a journey and one I’m very much still on.
Today, I want to invite you into deeper connection with you by asking four questions that will lay some groundwork for the edits and goals you may have this year. These are adapted from one of my favorite podcasts “The Accidental Creative”—so good I had to share! Being mindful of desires, feelings, and curiosities will take us much further than stringent rules and regimens we place on ourselves. Without the “why” the “how” is obsolete.
Let this be a journal prompt for you this week, one you come back to over and over either to realign with or tweak.
- What do you want to feel in 2017? (i.e. energized, awake, confident, accepted)
- Where do you want to go in 2017? (This can be figurative or literal. i.e. I want to explore a new city, yoga class, or I want to go from full-time to part-time at work so I can spend more time writing)
- What do you want to learn in 2017? (i.e. I want to learn to play drums or I want to learn to meditate)
- What do you want to change in 2017? (Reminder: this is desire driven, NOT fear driven! Approach this from a place of “I’m enough” rather than insecurity. i.e. I’d like to build in more margin for rest and play into my life.)
Please please share your feedback from this exercise! When we give voice to this stuff, it solidifies a bit more. I hope you will join me as I ease into 2017, listening, noticing, and responding to it’s inviting call to action. If you’d like some extra light for the journey ahead, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Love & Gratitude,