The one that always appealed to me when I was a drug and alcohol counselor in rough-and-tumble Lawrence, Massachusetts was “Easy Does It.”
While we are a gifted, smart, entrepreneurial, creative, innovative and resourceful people, we are more than often incredibly unkind and rough with ourselves and our souls. This happens when we perceive ourselves to be a failure, to be average, to be less than perfect. It occurs when we make mistakes both big and small. It also happens when we feel that we don’t measure up—when we don’t follow through or “get it right”.
That’s some kind of pressure.
The first of the year can be a pressure cooker with all the goals we have before us.
But I forgot to factor in that I wasn’t getting to bed early enough, that the cats would awaken me at insane times or that concerns about my aging father would wash over me at 3:08 a.m. When the luscious harp alarm sounded, I felt about as happy as the “grumpy cat” meme on the internet. So I fell back to sleep (sort of). “Sort of” because I was going over everything that was wrong. You should have gone to bed in the back room. You should have gotten to bed earlier. You shouldn’t have watched those Netflix movies. You shouldn’t have dilly-dallied with the TED talks on your laptop. So, why don’t you just get up? GET UP! Things won’t get checked off your list if you don’t. You know that you are going to be upset and disappointed with yourself if you don’t. Yada, yada, yada…
You know the story.
But there is a choice and a way to handle these internal threats and thunderstorms.
Intentions, resolutions, goals (or whatever you call them at the start of the New Year) are not ultimatums. There is no way that we can or should beat ourselves into our best selves or better selves. (Oh, but you don’t know me, Lee Ann. I need structure, regimentation, threats…I need tough love to get myself going. Really! I need a dictator to get my sorry you-know-what going.) Yay, I do know you because we aren’t very different from one another.
Here’s what I suggest we do: Put the little dictator in his/her place…preferably an island somewhere out in the ocean without any kind of communication possibilities, not even Morse code. Pull out a gentle companion for the trip, say a genie or fairy godmother who will not threaten, cajole or trick you into submission.
The intentions we have set for ourselves for 2014 are bold, beautiful, creative, ambitious and lovely. We want to be our best selves. Maybe we want to be sugar-free, gluten-free, alcohol-free, healthy, wealthy and wise. Maybe we want to write our story, build a house, buy a farm, be our own boss, act on stage, conduct a band, create community, bring peace to our world or volunteer at the homeless shelter.
We are good people wanting good things from ourselves and our world.
Good things don’t come from harangue, threats or setting ourselves up for failure, but from coaxing, from laughter, from lightness…from love. That means that we need to focus on what we want to feel each and every day. That means that we take small steps toward our goals. That means we are easy with ourselves.
We aren’t that different from the teens I worked with at the treatment center. Things progressed only in small increments, with focus, kindness and gentleness. Easy does it. First things first. One day at a time.
Be here in the present. Right now. Not last night. Not in the next hour. But now. This is the only time and place where our growth can happen. Just for this moment, be the person you want to be…even if it is only a picture in your mind. Hold that positive picture and smile.
Every day, every moment we start over, we begin again with our intentions. We let go of small infractions or mistakes. We forgive our imperfections and get back to the present. We must be easy with ourselves as we live into our new life.
Go gently. See what you can do, just for today.