[I’m going through old drafts, and finding lots of posts that I quite like but never quite finished and published. Some, I’m going to put the final touches to and then publish. Some, like this one, I’ll just publish as they stand.]
I often don’t do New Year’s resolutions. What happens instead is, as spring comes around and my spirit starts getting into gear for action and productivity, I notice patterns. Or more often, breaks in patterns. I suddenly do something I wouldn’t have done a year ago. I respond in a way I wouldn’t have responded. I notice my thoughts trending… differently.
And when I see this shift in an old pattern, I think, “Huh. Yes, that works. I like where that trend will take me.” And then I make it into a resolution, of sorts. I start to encourage that pattern and remind myself to do it in other relevant situations.
I learned a long time ago that forcing myself into the mold of the person I thought I should be doesn’t work. I can usually do it, because my willpower is strong, but it disconnects me from myself. Instead of genuine growth and change I learn to put on the costume and mannerisms of the person I’m trying to be, but it’s never quite right. It never filters down to my instinctive thoughts and feelings, and so I lose touch with them while the outward show becomes more and more work to keep up. And sometimes it turns out I was wrong about the direction I should be changing in in the first place.
So I’ve been taking this different approach, which feels more like noticing growth, and feeding it. It’s like I’m a plant putting out new shoots, and after a bit of reflection I decide that yes, this is a branch worth growing, so I send energy to it.
What I’ve learned is that if I reflect on the triumphs and failures of the recent past (which I can’t not do) and keep people around me who hold me up and call out the best in me, growth happens naturally. I don’t have to force it or organize it. I can just notice and encourage it.
This year so far I have noticed two little shoots of growth, that I am pleased by and want to encourage.
1 – Reach after my desires. I have always felt like I needed to wait for good things to come to me, especially big things like lovers and friends and jobs. I have felt like if something isn’t happening, then it’s not for me. I’ve often taken an excessively stoic approach, insisting (to myself most of all) that I’m fine with whatever comes, because I don’t feel that I can affect the big things in my life.
Now suddenly I’ve started to imagine that I could think about what I really want, what would make me the happiest — and then reach for it. Actually put myself forward and take steps toward making it happen. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t… if it doesn’t, that could mean many things but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have tried. That I was somehow foolish or out of line for even asking.
I realize this is something many people have done their whole lives, but to me it feels foreign and a little bit like magic. I’m still stunned with wonder that a big wish I made –and actively pursued — a few weeks ago came true. Like, wait, you mean I’m allowed to ask for what I want, and not only will I not be stricken down for presumption, but sometimes it will even happen? (There are lots of other reasons I’m stunned with wonder. More about that later, maybe.)
It’s a big development and it’s giving me Notions about what kind of future might be possible for me in a world where I’m allowed to actually protag in my own life.
2 – Don’t apologize when I’m not responsible. This comic was kind of a lightning bolt for me, of the terrific kind that joins and illuminates several unconnected thoughts. I struggle to respond to other people’s “I’m sorry I’m such a burden” type statements (because most of the time, I don’t feel that way, so I have to awkwardly tend to their feelings of being burdensome while trying to convey that I don’t see them that way.)
And I also get so, so tired of apologizing for the same things in myself over and over (usually “sorry I’m late” and “sorry I left the dishes undone” and such things.) It feels hollow to say sorry about something I know, from long experience, is going to change slowly if at all, but I don’t just want to let the thing pass without acknowledgement either. So. Thank you. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for listening. Thank you for putting up with a messier house than you would prefer. Thank you for valuing me enough to not mind the ways in which I’m imperfect.
(In case it’s not clear, “thank you” would be a pretty crappy response if the person I’m talking to was expressing their upset at my lateness or messiness. I’m talking about cases where I’m apologizing compulsively and habitually without the other person actually expressing unhappiness… as the cartoon says, apologizing for existing.)