I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Goals

Sankalpa

heart-of-gold-2-shannon-grissom

May I Be Open

Thank God Christmas is over! Too much food, too many people, too much to do. The austerity of cold and bracing January beckons. Hunker down and resolve to achieve. After all, disciplined effort is where I excel.

Funny though, how all those years of new year’s resolutions haven’t made me happier. I am still the same person at my core. Intense, curious, anxious, becoming happier, more relaxed, more generous and loving and confident. My cuticle-picking has improved slightly. (Good God, I remember resolving to not pick my nails back in college. I’m DONE with that resolution!) I don’t need to lose weight (disciplined effort is where I excel), and I’ve cut out all the meat I’m going to cut out.

So, what’s on deck for 2016? Goals? Teach more yoga! Become a Reiki Master! Take my blog to the next level! Meditate, every day! Learn to sing a new song every month! Write more thank you notes! Yes, good goals. I will work towards them. But they are still outward-facing, achievement-oriented goals with tasks attached.

What if, instead of deprivational lifestyle changes or ambitious goals that imply I am not good enough or have not achieved enough, I started with the premise that I am good enough? Just as I am? Perfect in my imperfection? What would I do?

What if you are good enough, just as you are? What would you do?

Maybe I would smile more. Laugh more. Be more open and inviting to other people. Worry and complain less. Judge less. Compete less. Say Thank You more. Forgive.

Maybe I wouldn’t need to gossip or provoke other people to gossip in order to feel good about myself. Maybe I could simply accept other people for who they are and where they are on their journey, right now, instead of wishing they were different or would change. Because maybe they are good enough just as they are. Imperfectly perfect.

What a relief!

There is a fragile moment of choice before acting. It’s a choice between being open and shutting down. Making eye contact or looking straight ahead. Saying yes or saying no. Choosing to scorn with judgment or empathize with compassion. We rely on habitual patterns of behavior and thought and expectations of what we should do or should think. But what if, at that moment of choice before acting, I checked in with my heart and gut and listened. Choosing compassion, honesty, joy, love. To decide to do the right thing, for me, not the expected thing.

There is a girl. She is painfully introverted and socially awkward. I see her walking in her bubble with her earbuds. She’s odd. Perhaps her parents are odd. It’s easy to judge, to laugh, to scorn. I’ve been that girl. With the odd parents. Afraid to make eye contact. Hoping no one notices me. They will think I’m weird! Maybe they are dangerous! How much happier I would have been if I had worried less, feared less, and smiled more, greeting my fellow humans with openness. When I put myself in her shoes, I want to smile and wave, somehow convey to her that she is okay. But she looks down and I keep my safe distance.

There is a yoga concept, Sankalpa. It means to make a promise to yourself. To resolve to act. Act on your most innermost desire, according to your life purpose. It honors that you are imperfectly perfect just as you are. That you will make mistakes. Like meditation and yoga, you will come back to the breath and try again. While it might involve breaking a negative habit, like nail-picking, or creating a new habit, like meditating daily, it comes from a deeper place of resolve from within, to love and be your best you. You need to be very still and listen to your soul to determine your sankalpa.

So, this year, instead of wishing I were something other than I am, I will pause in that fragile moment. Remember that I have a choice. I will listen to me, not what I think others expect. I will reach out to others more and worry about myself less.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is as simple as what my friend posted about what she has learned from her dog. (Thank you Kirsten.)

Life Lessons from Beau

Wake up each morning convinced it’s going to be the best day EVER. Become giddy with excitement each time someone you love enters the room. Go for as many walks as possible. But don’t growl at the cat, because that’s not nice.

Oh, and when I forget, I will be kind. Kind to myself, kind to others, kind to my family. (It’s so easy to forget to be kind to one’s family – when really, we should greet them with giddy excitement every time we see them, like Beau.) And when I forget, I will try again.

Credit:  Heart of Gold 2, by Shannon Grissom

Choosing Laughter

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Choosing to be Happy

I embrace the austere clarity and hope that is January.  I long ago gave up impossible-to-achieve, all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions (Stop picking cuticles!  Ashtanga every day!  No meat!  and my annual favorite:  Stop procrastinating!)  in favor of gentler incremental changes working towards unmasking my true self and living authentically.  My disciplined, achievement-oriented self finds it impossible to refrain from setting goals.  Indeed, goals and dreams are valuable for staying focused on what matters to you and not getting side-tracked by what matters to someone else.  As I reflected on last year’s goals and my genuine progress towards realizing them, I deliberated on where to focus my heart this year.  Last year’s list still resonates – how shall I deepen it?  After trying on several goals, I settled on one guiding intention for my year:  choose laughter.

At first, it was “laugh more.”  But this seemed vague and not really representative of my intention, and so I added the word “choose.”  To choose to laugh means to pause before reacting in order to decide to respond with thought and purpose.  It is a habit for me to complain, to worry, to be tired, to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  The mind can choose to be happy.  Can I break out of my old patterns and choose to laugh and be happy?

When heavy snow arrives, preventing my obligatory on-site presence in the office, can I choose to be grateful for the day at home with my family instead of worrying that I “should” be in the office?  My children are thrilled with the surprise of nature and laugh joyfully.  How can I learn from them?

When a colleague shows up at my office door, can I choose to smile at them welcomingly instead of scowling at them with how busy I am? 

When it’s time to undecorate from Christmas, can I choose to reflect on what a warm and relaxing holiday it was instead of feeling burdened by the work of cleaning up and depressed about the work of returning to work?

When several newbie yoga students show up to class in January, as part of their new year’s resolutions, can I make them feel comfortable instead of worrying about whether I can modify my class properly for a larger group?

When my children suggest an activity, can I say “Yes!” instead of “Not now, I need to do the laundry.”

My inclination toward laughter and delight has been suppressed all my life.  By a mother who hovered and worried, pegging me as sensitive and shy.  By a father who judged and withheld love and praise in favor of intellect and duty.  Resulting in an anxious perfectionist who chose solitary achievement over social laughter.

No more.

Choosing laughter means changing habitual behavior that no longer serves me.  Choosing to embrace what is and not wishing for it to be different.  Choosing a lighter response over a darker heavier, more judgmental emotion.  Choosing to be social.  After all, you need other people to really laugh out loud. 

My family has rallied behind this “resolution” with great zeal.  We’ve decided to have family joke night at our family dinner on Sundays where each person tells a joke.  I love this because I realize that women historically have not been encouraged to be joke-tellers resulting in the stereotype of the woman who can’t remember the punchline or tell a joke well.  I will pick one joke a week that makes me laugh out loud (no judgment!) and share it with my family (and tweet it that evening).

When my daughter cracks up uncontrollably, she closes her eyes and is overcome with the funniness.  She’s been sharing this side of herself more and nothing makes me happier than seeing her laugh.  Perhaps if I laugh more, she will too.

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