The New Year - a time for propelling ourselves forward into the next twelve months armed with a fresh list of promises we’ve made to ourselves about what we intend to accomplish this year. It’s exciting to image recreating myself. I want to Be All That I Can Be! Seize the Moment! Just Do It!
Maybe some of you have decided not to have New Year’s resolutions. After all, who wants to end the year with another list of unkept promises to add to the emotional stack of disappointments we have to forgive ourselves for by December 31st. We’ve all been there, intending to lose twenty pounds and instead gaining ten, or continuing to hit the snooze on our alarms when we’ve vowed to get up when the alarm sounds. I can admit that for the past several years I have had the intention of giving up sugar and the white starches, and some years I have even succeeded short term. It usually goes something like this: “Day 1 - I don’t need sugar. It’s poison. I want to nourish my body I’ve got this! Day 4 - Damn, this is hard. Perhaps if I just satisfy the craving with one chocolate kiss, I will be satisfied. Maybe going cold turkey isn’t the key. Day 6 - Damn! Shouldn’t have eaten that entire bag of chocolate kisses. Why the hell did I keep it after Christmas? Well now it’s out of the house. It’s January 6th. I can start over. Who will know? I’ll make up for it tomorrow.” There have been times I have made it for several months without sugar, but there has always been a point where I reach a certain level of frustration and fall back into comfort eating. Change is hard. Sustaining change while navigating through life’s obstacle course is extremely hard.
I’ve seen the meme floating around Facebook that says “Life is short. Eat the cookie...” Whenever I see it making the rounds I always think “bad advice for a sugar addict.” Or is it?
Obviously the last several years of making this sugar avoidance resolution hasn’t worked well for me. Reading this it’s easy to assume that I’m a loser who has no self discipline. However, those who know me well, know that I am not the same person I was five years ago, or even one year ago. My journey has been wrought with positive changes. So, it occurred to me as I spent December 31st reviewing the past year, that maybe, just maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up about the resolutions that were abandoned throughout the year. Maybe it was time for a new tradition.
I made a decision at approximately 9:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 2015. I would make no more lists of resolutions to carry me into the new year. Instead I would make a list of all that I wanted to release along with 2015 (my addiction to sugar for one), and make a list of my (positive) intentions for my life for 2016 (I will take good care of myself, and nourish myself with health foods). I made a ritual out of it. I had never done any sort of ritual before. I’ve never made a dream board or a vision board, but I didn’t let that stop me. I made the list, and armed myself and at 11:00 p.m. central time I went outside into the full moon. I read the list of things I wanted to release by the light of my IPhone. I read it out loud, sending it out to the Universe and the Heavens. I contemplated each item. I took some deep breaths as I visualized myself releasing 2015 and then I read the list of my intentions for 2016, again contemplating each item. I then took the list and folded it, put it in a metal bowl which I had set on a little table in the middle of my backyard, and I lit it, sending its essence out into space. When it was nothing but ashes, I poured some water into the bowl then I poured the contents of the bowl onto the earth. I walked around the yard for about twenty minutes afterward, just being there, feeling the moment. I went to bed and slept soundly. I woke up feeling refreshed and revitalized.
The next morning, New Year’s Day, I woke up feeling great. It was then I realized that I’ve rarely had a moment in my life where I have truly been in the moment like I was that night. Just experiencing it without thinking or anticipating what I need to do next. I was flying by the seat of my pants and following my instincts. Then, suddenly, I GOT IT. I finally understood. I had read that meme dozens of times, and I thought I understood. Yeah, it means stop and smell the roses. Appreciate life. I knew what it meant. but I didn’t really KNOW it. I had never really taken it to the next step. I wondered how many other things have I read or seen that I thought I understood when I never really gave it my full attention or thought about it?
I’m always in a hurry. It’s the result of a lifetime of rushing about because when I was young, my parents were always in a rush and as an adult, I had kids to pick up from school or dinner to make or groceries to get, etc. I rushed through my kids’ childhoods and it was over in the blink of an eye. I only hope that they felt that I was there, in the present for them.
Back when I traveled locally on a daily basis for my job, I can remember several occasions when I arrived at my destination with no clear recollection of how I got there, my mind had been so full of thoughts about the upcoming appointments or where I needed to be next, what time I needed to be on my way to my next appointment, or what time I should be headed home by, and on and on. Always preoccupied. I don’t think I am alone in this. In fact I think it’s the norm in our society.
We go through life in a daze and a blur of tasks and responsibilities and plans and hopes and dreams and events and occurrences, with our minds always racing, thinking, anticipating what we need to do next, or trying to figure out what or when or how or why. We think it’s living, surviving. And it is, but we are also letting life pass us by. We hurry from one moment to the next with a hundred things on our minds and time slips away. The older we get, the faster it seems to go.
If you can relate, then I hope you will take some time to contemplate and decide to join me in the intention to slow down and be present in life. Be present in the moment. Allow yourself time to just experience what’s going on. Experience your feelings. Experience what the person who is talking to you is saying, and hear them. Without thought to what you want to say next. Without thought to what else you have to do today or where you have to be or anything else that is a distraction which is robbing you of the moment you are in right now. Breathe the air. Feel the sunshine, or the rain. Appreciate the sunrise. Acknowledge the sunset. Feel your emotions and release the ones that need to be released, and savor the ones that you want to remember.
Come on. Eat the cookie.
Happy New Year!
“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
I woke up this morning with this song on my mind. It brought back a flood of memories from childhood. I am sure many of you grew up singing this song in church. Today I started thinking about what these words really mean… “let it begin with me.”
If you are tuned in to social media, (you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't) there are more disgruntled people around than ever and even more reasons why people become annoyed, frustrated or angry. There are posts put out there for all to see on a daily basis that others find inflammatory, degrading, hostile or just plain stupid. Any of these reasons seem like reason enough for some to blow a gasket and then the fight is on. The level of hostility in the world seems to be at an all time high. We live in a society that has evolved into one that allows us to express any thought, feeling or opinion we have at any moment, for better or worse.
So, I starting thinking about how I might contribute to this “social hostility”. I asked myself, do I entertain annoyances, frustration or anger at others on a regular basis based on something I have read, heard or experienced? Honestly, yes, as much as I hate to admit it. So think about it. Do you have road rage? If the car in front of you stops when the light is just turning yellow, do you spew profanities? What about the guy who just went from the far left lane on I-24 to the far right lane, where you happen to be, so that he could cut you off and take the exit you are taking? Do you become annoyed at the woman in front of you in Kroger because she is taking too long to find the change in the bottom of her purse? Or how about the young woman with three small children piled into or hanging from her cart, one of which is screaming at the top of their lungs? Or the person in the express lane with 12 items? One of my biggest frustrations is calling a business and getting stuck on the hamster wheel of choosing options in a desperate attempt to hear an actual live voice.
I won’t even get started with all the possible annoyances about what is posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and whatever else. Add to that the stresses of work or home life where any day could potentially erupt into chaos, panic and disorder and it’s no wonder the line at Starbucks is so long and the bars in town are never going to go out of business.
So many things contribute to our hostility level on any given day. So what can we do about it?
How about this? B-R-E-A-T-H-E, and ask yourself, does this really matter? Is this hurting me or someone I love? Let’s face it. People are allowed to have opinions that are different from our own and even if their opinion is one that we consider to be profoundly stupid, it’s not hurting us now, is it?
I recently took a voluntary break from social media and news. It ended up lasting several days and now that I am “back” I can see how it affects me. It was a real eye opener. I am not suggesting anyone move to a cabin in the woods and give up internet and I will certainly never do that. I like hot water and flush toilets and Netflix and my Ipad and ebooks.
What I realized this morning when I started thinking about peace is that it is highly unlikely that I can be a peaceful being - that I can feel at peace and be an example of peace and harmony for anyone else as long as I am exposing myself to such hostility on a daily basis and contributing to it with my negative reactions. Imagine the harsh vibrations coming off of all of us at any given moment, all collecting into a gigantic cloud of anger and frustration, building and growing. This is what we live with every day, and I don’t want to contribute any more toxic energy to the world.
I am going to work on how much exposure I have to senseless negativity and most importantly I am going to stop reacting to things that really don’t matter in the larger scheme of things. If something is not going to negatively affect my life for more than a few seconds or minutes, it’s a very small thing and tolerance and patience go a long way in dealing with life’s little annoyances. Care to join me in bringing more peace into our lives? I hope you will!
I’m Teresa West. I’m the mother of 3 amazing and now grown children, mother-in-law to an amazing guy and mom and grandmom to a host of energetic and exuberant dogs, and cats. My family is the center of my world. We’re close, a little quirky, and best of all, we’re friends.