Thursday, December 31, 2009

A year is too short

A year is too short. I don't know about you, but it takes me decades to change. Yet here we are at the end of the year, hearing everyone chirp on about their resolutions. And I am thinking, a year is too short.

At some level, four or five years ago, I decided I was ready to start becoming me. And when I consider the last few years, I can see I have moved in that direction. But the changes are gradual, incremental. I may have made lots of steps forwards, but I've taken almost as many back. And so the very idea of a new year's resolution leaves me cold. It sets me up for failure and self-blame, yet another area in my life where I can judge myself harshly.

On the other hand, having an ongoing commitment to become myself, to explore my capabilities, and to discover new things: now that has possibility. It doesn't rely on adherence to a policy or principle, and I can't stuff it up too badly. The worst I can say of a decision is that I should have trusted my instinct, and perhaps I can do better next time. This approach is about freedom and openings, rather than achievements and obedience. And it's borne all kinds of fruit.

Where once I was brittle, I am becoming tender. Once I shied away from babies, and turned down all offers to hold them; now I cuddle them for hours. If I can't hold my own, I hold someone else's.

From never singing, I now sing with other people often. I have discovered I can hold a tune, even an alto part in a choir. I sing to my children and teach them rounds, I sing as we walk to school, I sing late at night as I ride my bike through the dark streets. I have quite literally found my voice.

Once I felt weak. Now I visit the gym regularly. It's made me physically strong; and it's made me more confident and sure of myself in other areas of life. It's even changed my appetite so that I want to eat the sort of food new year's resolutions are made of.

I thought I was lousy with little kids. Now twenty of them crowd around me when I walk into a classroom, stroking my arms and telling me stories; my eyes fill with tears of gratitude.

I've been teaching myself to draw, craft and write, with satisfying results. I can sketch a recognisable portrait; I can make an Advent calendar; I can write a blog.

I don't know what's next. I have no ambition, no plans. The last few years have been so joy-filled in all their random areas of growth that I am content to stay on this track, with all its shuffling forward and stumbling back.

But it's good to discover that in so many areas where I thought I was hopeless, in so many areas I never explored - well, it seems my teachers underestimated me.

Perhaps they underestimated thee, too. And maybe that's the opportunity of the new year: to reflect and explore. But instead of resolving to avoid this or do that, reflect on ways of being, ways of becoming. Find a loose approach that is open to mystery and surprise. What calls you? What lies dormant but longs for expression? What is that gentle voice whispering now, what are its thyme-scented suggestions? What hope swirls in on the sea breeze and cuts through the stuffy house like a knife? Draw a deep breath. Relax. Listen.

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