I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m after something more positive, more empowering, and more liberating!
Sleepless in Virginia
Less than two weeks ago—not long after all my holiday guests had left to go home—I woke up in the wee hours of the morning in a cold sweat.
Tossing and turning, my mind racing, every time I looked at the clock it was only a few minutes later than the last time I had looked at it.
My stomach was in knots of anxiety, and the self-talk of my racing mind was judgment, judgment, judgment.
“You haven’t written anything in three weeks. You’re not really a writer; you’re a fraud.”
“When are you going to finish that devotional?”
“When are you going to do that year-end Treasurer’s report?”
“When are you going to get those tax numbers to the accountant?”
“If you don’t get some sleep, you know how terrible you’ll feel. You should be sleeping.”
“Did you remember to return that phone call?”
“Is that spot on my skin just an age spot or is it cancer?”
“You’re reading spiritual books, but what good are they if you’re not out doing things for others?”
My mind threw up names of shut-ins I hadn’t been to visit, volunteer jobs I had declined, world problems I hadn’t solved.
STOP the crazy self-talk! Just stop…
I slid out of bed as quietly as I could, determined to stop the craziness in my head without waking up John. Slipping on my soft fleece robe and bedroom slippers, I crept downstairs, clicked on a light or two, and punched the button to start the flames in our new gas fireplace. The peaceful glow settled and grounded me, and of course, just being up and awake pushed back the shadows and mostly silenced the negative chatter in my head. I immersed myself in the comforting routines of the morning: inspirational reading, journaling, thinking, and praying.
By the time my husband came downstairs several hours later, I was settled down, but the heaviness of too little sleep must have been evident on my face because I could see his concern. I thought I was fine until he gently inquired about my well-being and I began to cry.
“I just feel so worthless! I’m overwhelmed! Something’s got to give.”
Thankfully, 46 years of loving me have taught him some things. He calmly reminded me that I’d been sick for two weeks and needed to take it easy until I was back on track. He gently reassured me that I was the most worthwhile person he knows, and he enumerated some things he would do for me to get them off my plate. Then he wisely insisted that I take the phone off the hook and go back to bed.
Sure enough, when I emerged several hours later, after sleeping soundly, I was a different person — mostly feeling like myself again.
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
My three intentions for 2019
In recent years, I’ve avoided the kind of New Year’s resolutions that felt like burdens. You know the kind I mean—they only last a few weeks before they’re forgotten. For 2019, I’m setting three intentions instead:
1. I will practice self-care because self-care is not selfish
I’ve written about this before: “Self is not a dirty word.” For 2019, I will practice self-care to ensure my one earthly body is able to serve me and whatever I am called to do. This will involve healthy choices around moving, eating, and sleeping. It will also include making space—physical space, mental space, and spiritual space—so I can breathe and be open. As Laura West loves to remind me, “Say No more often and Yes more fully.” We take care of our car engine so it will get us where we want to go. We need to take care of our bodies with the same commitment.
2. When facing a decision or a reaction, I will ask this question: is it in my control or not?
The Stoics (and St. Francis) were right: we shouldn’t worry about what is out of our control. In my recent immersion into the ideas of the ancient, but surprisingly contemporary, philosophy of Stoicism, one of the core principles of living one’s best life is to identify those things beyond your control and let them go. You can’t control them. You can only control what you do about them. Then embrace those things you can control and do them as well as you possibly can: with love, with intention, and with integrity.
3. I will be the best me I can possibly be
I have realized that self-judgment runs most rampant when my ego is trying to tell me I have to be a certain way or else (or else someone will disapprove…or else I’ll be criticized…or else I’ll be letting someone down…or else…). These three quotes really call to me right now:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.” ~ Attributed to many different people.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare’s character Polonius
Let the harmful bubbles float away
After I was rested and began to revisit the crazy accusations my mind had thrown at me during the night, I found they had lost the power to make me miserable. Like soap bubbles blown from a child’s bubble wand, I released all the ones I could and let them float harmlessly away.
For 2019, I will try to take care of myself, let go of things I can’t control, and be the best me I can possibly be. If I can do that, I’ll look back on this year as the best year yet.
Here’s what I believe
There’s one thing I believe with all my heart: every day I’m alive will bring opportunities to love and serve, and isn’t that what life is all about?
What are your intentions for the coming year? I’d love to hear them in the comments below. If you need some accountability, let me know so I can check back with you later in the year.