A new year turns our minds to change, renewal, a re-do. It turns our minds to the idealism of being more, and less: more successful, more active, more healthy, more productive, more organized; less fat, less selfish, less self-indulgent, less slothful, less distracted by meaningless endeavors.
We each have our resolutions. And at the transition point from one year to the next, with the natural reflective time of the holidays and winter, we feel all the more motivated to get motivated: to make it right.
It’s not a bad thing, certainly, to reflect. Unfortunately these days most of us tell ourselves we don’t have time for reflection, and perhaps we think we’ve lost the ability, or at least misplaced it. As a society we are reflection-impaired—unless you’re talking about mirror reflections, in which case we are quite focused, feeling the need to whiten our teeth, dye our graying hair, lift our faces and various other sagging parts, laser our vision, sculpt our physiques, and otherwise buffer ourselves from the appearance of impending old age and death.
It’s easy to believe our collective delusion that life is an upward climb of increasing, productivity, self-improvement, and, well, perfection. The life I know, however, is layers of circles, some looping into one another, and others dead-ending. There is wisdom to be found along the way, but it is not an unimpeded trajectory of increased “success.”
No, there are wayward moments, even years. There are decades that can feel like labyrinths you should already know the way through. There are times for success and times for failure, times for being fatter and times for being thinner.
A few years ago, a series of events beyond my control made me very, very ill—not flu ill, but the kind of ill that lasts for two years. I stopped being able to exercise—my happy place. I stopped being able to eat normally—another happy place. I couldn’t get to the grocery store, socialize, email, read. Some days, the driven athletic “intense” person previously known as me was too frail and tired to get out of bed. Friends said, we’ll bring over dvds to watch with you, and I thought, “I am too tired to watch anything.” Fact was, I was too tired to speak audibly. Mostly what I could do was sit, sleep, sleep, and sit. No, it wasn’t depression, though my circumstances made me sad, and terribly frightened.
I got better incrementally, month by month, day by day, hour by hour. Sometimes getting better meant taking two steps forward and three steps back. During those times, I had no idea I would ever get well, and I was losing my memory of the robust, driven, talented person I had been.
But indeed I did get well again, ever so slowly. And part of getting well meant getting slightly fat after being too thin and accepting that my “work” for a time was healing and nothing more. I was off the highway of life. I was “boring.” I was “out of shape.” I did not fit any classic contemporary American definition of “successful.” I was just (barely) alive and struggling to be well, something rarely discussed in those life circles we all move through.
My partner calls this time of my life my great hibernation. I like that. I imagine myself a bear surviving a very deep long winter.
Whatever resolution you feel you need to make, try to honor where you are in your circle. And on the first days of 2013, here are some Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes to consider:
- “[S]he has seen but half the universe who never has been shown the house of Pain.”
- “Character is that which can do without success.”
- “We acquire the strength we have overcome.”
- “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
- “Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.”
- “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”
- ”Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”
- “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self.”
Image by Jan.