Ok, it’s the second week of January and I have not made any resolutions. After reading several articles about the looming year, it seems my strategy might be in vogue. Resolutions are passe. Lists are out of fashion. Wanting to accomplish something might be better accomplished by not focusing on the actual work of doing it, but on the intention or mindset you adopt for the rest of the new year. I am wondering how this will work. Should I pick a mindset and allow tasks to flow organically from that choice? Or must I merely land on a vague intention and allow whatever will be…be?
Looking back to last year’s list, I see a gaping hole in accomplishment. I was on it pretty hard in January. Even February and March. By the time spring came, I was off finding better (and easier, more enjoyable) stuff to do. An actual list can be demeaning. It sets a high bar for getting things done and when the items are not completed in the timeframe chosen, it makes you feel like something of a failure. It makes you realize that even with a hired assistant and the threat of consequences, you can’t finish the tasks toward your goal to save your life. So that task and goal get abandoned, which you finally acknowledge somewhere around December 27th, with the thought that slapping down a few reasonable goals for the coming year might be just as futile as last year’s attempt. I didn’t learn to knit, or build an addition to my house or finally get rid of that pile of crap on the dining room table. My lists from previous years eerily resemble each other. I am happy to abandon planning for a bunch of specific year-long goals. I am going to try choosing a mindset AND setting some vague intentions, which sounds a bit like a list, but isn’t.
My theme and guiding principle for 2023 is BALANCE. Or at least I thought it was. It sounds nice and yogic, but also lame and somewhat vague. Yes, I should strive for balance between work and play, healthy food and ice cream, expending high energy and getting adequate rest. But, I have to admit it, I’m a proper rest enthusiast already. That’s probably why I didn’t accomplish last year’s goals. I’ll gleefully ditch step 2 of any endeavor for a satisfying afternoon nap. Don’t I already have balance in the areas most people envision when they hear the word? What would living in balance mean beyond the ideas one usually associates with balance? I couldn’t answer these questions, so I left mulling this over for another day and considered some vague intentions instead.
So, without specifically naming things, I settled on LEARNING in 2023. I am open to any and all suggestions, not giving any actual desire to specific learning experiences. I will look for learning opportunities everywhere and every day. Now, when I say learn, I mean to exclude the following types of learning: 1)The hard way, 2) Too late, 3) Who my friends are and 4) Computer coding. I’m pretty much open to almost everything else.
Learning falls into a couple of distinct categories. There’s the esoteric type of learning such as Who you are, Where you belong, How many angels can dance on the head of a pin and, the ever-useful…The meaning of life. All these things are worth pursuing in one’s quest for knowledge. The other type of learning is just as enjoyable yet more concrete. Here are some examples of things that can be learned, ones that I have no specific plans to pursue: Furniture upholstery, piloting a small plane, bird identification, tango dancing, cake decorating, industrial maintenance, basket weaving, stone masonry, standup paddle boarding. As opportunities arise during the new year, I hope I can identify them as such and be decisive about jumping on the chances to increase the holdings in my warehouse of knowledge. I love learning new things, so this should be an easy one for me, whatever turns up.
Now back to balance. The word is both a noun and a verb. Your books can have balance or you can balance books on your head. The verb seems to be the way one thinks of creating equal proportions of the actions of our day in order to bring about the noun, which means equilibrium. But the noun has a more poetic meaning if one practices to achieve a pleasing or suitable arrangement of parts (Merriam-Webster). Sometimes this requires not an even or equal proportioning of our daily practices, but finding just the right amount of each endeavor in order to bring about harmony. When practicing Vrksasana (Tree Pose) in our yoga routine, our lower limbs are not held similarly, yet we achieve a balance by means of subtle muscle adjustments, pressing into the standing foot and lifting our energy upward while also relaxing muscle energy where it is not required. This is the kind of balance I need to bring into all aspects of my life in the new year. Adjusting here, letting go there, lifting up and allowing the perfect flow of energy to manifest perfect harmony. In a circular path, I return to learning.
We could spend a lifetime working on gaining knowledge of balance. But first, one must be awake to the possibilities and recognize when disharmony is crushing us. We should be learning how to constantly adjust, especially when…to put it bluntly…shit happens. Because if the past three years are any example, it happens. I wanted to choose balance as a guiding theme for 2023 because it’s open to my own interpretation, it’s a constant learning experience which ebbs and flows–always in flux, and requires no specific goals. I’m sure I’ll forget all about it by next Friday, when I’m deep in all that other stuff I might be learning, so I’ll make myself a reminder to keep my theme alive. I’ll make a poster.
Meanwhile, as 2023 starts chugging away at the days, and I am sparked by something I wish to learn, I’ll go back to lists. One goal at a time. I’m still me! There’s a tiny accountant in there along with that yoga teacher and she is a list-maker. But for 2023, once I latch onto an idea for a learning experience, I’ll make a list of doable steps toward that goal, post it on the wall next to my balance poster and check off my progress one step at a time. The writer/artist SARK calls it micro-steps. Going to write a letter? Take out the paper and put it on your desk. Next day, find a pen. Third step, organize your thoughts and onward til it’s done. Eventually, the task will be finished. It may be long past the time in which the letter was required (e.g. an IRS appeal), but it gets done and you can feel accomplished. I use this method a lot as it can apply to almost anything I want to do or learn and it is, boastfully, one step above procrastination.
So there it is! Balance and learning in 2023. May we all get things done this year. Things that deliver joy and feelings of jobs well-done, times of action and moments of rest, days shared with friends and in solitude. Whatever comes our way, may we use it to learn how to bring balance and harmony into our lives…or whatever guiding theme you are working on in this new year.
The quote of the week (in the menu above) is my favorite new year’s resolution.