I love New Year’s Resolutions. I love the possibility of a fresh start. A new chance at a new me. THIS will finally be the year when I lose the weight, meditate and do yoga every single day, stop yelling, and become a New York Times bestselling author. This is the year when I finally get my proverbial shit together. No, really. It will be.
I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with resolutions, until you read between the lines. That’s where things get sticky. The implicit message underlying each resolution is that I’m just not good enough the way I am, but if I work hard enough, I will finally become the person I want to be, the person I have decided I should be.
What I have been learning over the course of this year, both from my own meditation practice and from some of the amazing writers I have been reading lately (including Brene Brown, Anne Lamott, and Pema Chodron) is that it doesn’t do me any good to start from a place of not good enough, of hustling for worthiness, of beating myself up for every minor and major infraction I commit, real or perceived. The reality that I have carefully and studiously tried to avoid for several years now is that I am human being, and therefore, I will never achieve perfection. Even if I finally lose the baby weight (yes, I know my youngest child is 3 and 1/2 years old, but I still insist that it’s baby weight I’m carrying, so zip it) or write a bestseller, I will still be a human being.
Which means, by definition, I will still be a mess. No matter what else happens.
Which brings me to my one and only New Year’s Resolution for 2014: I want to embrace the mess, with kindness and gratitude and compassion and a healthy dose of laughter. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year, but I can promise you this: it’s going to be awesome and it’s going to be terrible. A few things will go right, a lot of things will go wrong, and the universe will do it’s best to throw me off course and keep me guessing.
In the past, I would have attempted to steel myself for every eventuality. If I just exercise enough and write enough and stick to my resolutions and my schedule and achieve my goals, I will be able to emerge from it all, completely untouched, and perhaps even a better version of myself because I was disciplined, damnit!
What a crock.
Every year I emerge from the past 12 months a little more broken in some places, a little stronger in others, with more than a few bumps and bruises on my body and my heart. My hair gets a little grayer, a few more lines appear around my eyes, and I get just a little softer around the middle. And every year I disparage myself for it, and promise to do better. I buy the eye cream and the exercise video and declare that this is the year I’m finally going to kick my own ass.
Not any more. I’m done with all that. Life beats me–and all of us–up enough; I don’t need to step in and help her out. I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I’ve been working at it for a few months now, and it seems to involve a fair amount of patience, forgiveness, and compassion, a healthy tolerance for mess, and a whole lot of laughing at myself. (Sounds like a pretty good plan for parenting, now that I think about it!) I’m trying to be just a little bit nicer and a bit more supportive in the ways in which I understand myself and talk to myself. I’m no longer trying to insulate myself from the mess, because it’s going to happen whether I like it or not.
Instead, I want to embrace it and live it. I want to become a compassionate mess.