I have made New Years Resolutions.
One was to write thank yous to all the people who sent me Christmas cards, another was to write thank yous for the beautiful presents; a third was to finish mailing the Christmas gifts that didn't make it into my car for the long trek East and North. I hope you might understand why I have not posted since my stranding off the Turnpike in New Jersey.
The rest of the trip was lovely and peaceful. I have discovered that really any amount of driving above four hours is slightly addling, but to do it without distraction is to enter a different state. NPR kept me company sometimes, I listened to some CDs, but by and large, I just... drove. 5,500 miles later, 4,750 of which were alone, I feel no epic new kinships (though I have certainly refreshed some friendships, which feels amazing). I feel no aversion nor any greater affinity towards my car, though the affection with which I look at it has apparently increased. Before this trip, I was not unable to spend time alone or with myself. But, I am aware that I feel more able to think and certainly more able to not think without the distraction of multimedia. Perhaps it's the Quakers and perhaps not, but I found myself stretching the happy, empty space in my mind over many miles. Mindful wanderings through thoughts that might have been mine and sometimes weren't have been filtered through many kinds of trees.
It was good.
I made some other resolutions: listen to the things I am dimly aware of; be kind; be kind to myself, but keep personal standards high; go to the gym a few times a week; get serious with a doctor about what's going on with my back; get on the bone marrow donor list; go to Spain; be quieter; bring my peace out into the world, but be careful of it, too; donate blood more consistently; call my brothers more often; be more intentional about who I spend my time with and what we do; focus on tasks to completion; learn to clear my mind in Meeting; don't waste heat; lock my windows; either get a dog or volunteer at the shelter near my house; write more; apply to grad school; let myself let go of things that aren't good for me; see the poison when I see wheat; don't combine spontaneous affection and alcohol; practice more yoga; learn French.
So far, so good. I'm writing, I've pulled my hip flexor out of whack from a super intense gym class, I'm finishing projects mostly on time, I've applied to grad school, I have a pile of stuff to put in the mail -- look out; my windows are locked; I bought my ticket to Spain; I've seen a doctor about my back; I'm watching the West Wing with French subtitles.
It's been good. The thing is, these resolutions and these behavior changes don't feel that much different from my life before the New Year. I was making these kinds of resolutions all the time, working on them daily, taking up new ones and putting down old ones as I checked in with myself at the end of the week. I wasn't always rigorous about looking into every aspect of myself -- as one is at the turning of the year -- but I feel like I was keeping up a decent habit of exploring a vein of self-work for a while before 2011 came upon me.
I understand why people want to go to the gym after the holidays -- there's a lot of food still clinging to the hips and grease in the pores, it's true. I remember a time when I had a lot of pent up energy after coming home from the holiday vacation; that's not true this time. I remember, too, wanting to go to the gym for aesthetic reasons, and I remember wanting to go for the sake of the habit. Not one of those apply right now.
I feel this nebulous rock of positivity sitting in the middle of my chest. It gets heavier -- in a good way -- when I express my enthusiasm by waving my arms and legs about in a cardio class. I like the feeling I get after a workout; I'm not all that interested in any of the other immediate effects. My affection for my body and self grows every day; I feel like sending myself a really nice thank you card, and to me, that feels like going to the gym. I like it.
As fr the rest of my resolutions, I've made a few mistakes. That's okay. I have tomorrow to fix them; they'll still be there.
I was talking to a friend about New Years and mentioned that I don't find a lot of meaning to it; I do this every week, and I think it's silly that we, as a culture, get really drunk and then in the morning we resolve (as one does after a binge) to NEVER EVER do that again, none of those things [insert resolution here]. This really sets one up for failure. I mean, you're starting the year with a terrible hangover and a set of habits to break or learn. Not a good place to start from. I mean, you've been eating for like two weeks straight, probably you've been on vacation, you're hanging out with people you don't usually see and doing things you don't normally do and then you wake up one morning maybe still tipsy from the night before and you're supposed to be in a good place to fundamentally change your life?
Habits take time. The work is slow. We have to do it collectively, regularly. Well, I have to do it collectively and regularly. Checking in and resolving should be a weekly event. Why do we think it happens once a year?
This friend I was talking to smiled. He said that he took my point, and that my feelings about New Years were pretty analogous to how he feels about Christmas and Thanksgiving -- why wait til twice a year to gather the clan, eat, and give thanks for all that is good in our lives? Why not do that every week?
It was a good point.
Dear friends who made resolutions which have been broken already: try again, one day at a time. Habits are slow in coming and slower in leaving. Dear friends who are lucky enough to have not yet broken the resolutions you made in your drunken revels/hung over stupor: wow. I'm really impressed. How did you do it?
I think massive, cathartic episodes of reflection -- supersized versions of weekly traditions -- are joyous and useful. I want to have dinner with my family every week; it would make Christmas and Thanksgiving that much better. Reflecting on how I'm different in light of the things I want to change in 2011 was useful to me. But my favorite thing about the last few weeks is this: good things happen slow as breathing. Miles slide steadily behind you; rest stops are profitable things; eat and drink and be merry, regularly; and, if you're anything like me, a big rock of happy is sitting somewhere in your stomach. Do the things that make it heavier. It'll lighten the load.
Happy New Year, dear friends. I hope to see you again soon. Pardon the proselytizing.