Present

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore, for a few reasons.  

One, when I recognize something in my life that I want to change, I’m way too impatient to wait until Jan 1 to change it.  Two, the last thing my personality type needs is to set more unrealistic goals for myself that I fail to achieve, then feel guilty for failing at – I do quite enough of that to myself the other 364 days a year, thank you very much. Three, I love the sense of freedom and possibility that the New Year brings, the sense of the unknown and that anything can happen- I don’t want to spoil that whimsical, magical feeling by trying to wrestle the future to the ground and control it on my own terms [again, I do that on my own just fine, thanks.]

A few years ago I read a blog post that talked about re-claiming the whole New Year’s Resolutions nonsense and instead setting New Year’s “Intentions,” picking a word or two that you want to focus on in the coming year, that are meaningful to you.  This resonated with me, so I’ve been doing that the last few years.

My words for 2018 were Learn, Love and Risk – and as I reflect on the past year and all that’s happened, turns out those words actually describe 2018 pretty well.  I learned a lot – at work, in relationships, in new experiences. And I tried – as I always do – to love the people around me well.  I found new depths of love for the people closest to me, and found some new people to love – new babies, new friends, my Girls on the Run girls.  I took some risks stepping out of my comfort zone, challenging my own ways of thinking about the parameters I’ve set up for my life. I broke my own rules, and I learned in fresh ways what love and grace actually mean.  I screwed up and asked for forgiveness. I pushed the boundaries of my faith, and learned that God is more than big enough to hold all sorts of questions and doubts, ambiguity and unanswered prayers, in His arms of love.

As I think about the words I want to define 2019, the one that keeps coming up is Present. I want 2019 to be a year where I am fully present to my life.  I worry as a recreational sport [I thought about going pro, but I want to maintain my amateur status so I can compete in the 2020 worry olympics].  Because my default mental mode is worry, I spend about 60% of my time going through potential future disaster scenarios – “What’s going to happen in that meeting tomorrow? What if I don’t have time to go to the grocery store today and I don’t have enough kale, what am I going to have for lunch tomorrow?  What if I get injured and I can’t run and then I get stressed and out of shape and it takes me months to recover? What if something happens to my mom?” If being inside my head sounds freaking exhausting, you’re not wrong. Oh, I also spend another ~20% of my time thinking about what’s already happened in the past and worrying about that, so that only leaves about 20% of my time to actually experience my life in real time – which is pretty lame.

So, my word for 2019 is present – I just want to be present to my life.  I want to experience things in real time, to fully experience the moments of  joy and sorrow and boredom and hilarity and sweetness and awkwardness and the mundane that actually come my way in day to day life. It sounds so simple, but it’s actually really hard – for me, and based on my conversations with friends, probably hard for a lot of us.

I had an experience recently that gave me a taste of what it’s like to be fully present.  It was Christmas Eve, and my mom and I were at the candlelight service at my church. I looked around the room and it felt like a Sunday morning – except it was a Monday night and everyone was dressed up.  The kiddos were in their Christmas dresses and hair bows and cozy Christmas sweaters. One sweet baby was in red and white striped candy cane footie pajamas and a matching beanie – my heart could barely handle it.  At the end of the service, they turned off all the lights and our pastors lit a candle, and passed it down the aisle. We sang “Silent Night” as friends and strangers leaned close to each other, hands cupped around the candle and passed it down the aisle, lighting the room.  As we sang the last chorus a cappella, I looked around the room and took in the scene – faces aglow in warm candlelight, the children momentarily hushed and mesmerized by the magic of their glowing candle. As I sang, for the first time I really paid attention, and I savored every syllable-  I could feel the roundness of the “mmm” at the end of “all is calm” and the crispness of the “t” in “all is bright.” I could taste the words. I was fully present in that moment – not worrying about the future or dwelling in the past, and it felt really great, like I was fully experiencing my life.  I’m realizing as I type this it kind of sounds like I was stoned “Duuuuude, I could taste the music.” I wasn’t, but I’m realizing this may be why some people take mind-altering drugs. For me, the sober alternative of fully experiencing my real life is radical enough – plus, no side effects 🙂

I’m subscribed to get these daily emails based on my Enneagram Type [2 wing 1, holla!], and today’s made me laugh out loud when I read it, as I always do when God loses His subtle and hammers a point home.  “This New Year’s Eve you can lay the groundwork for continued growth without making any resolutions except one—to let go of the past, connect with yourself, to Wake Up, and be Present.”

Be present – got it.

As the calendar year turns to 2019, I have no resolutions expect one – to be present.  And I already know how it’s going to go. I’m going to try – and fail. And probably forget for awhile.  And then try again. But I’m going to give myself grace when I fail, and keep trying. Because it’s hard to retrain your brain to think differently – worry is a well-worn groove in my mind, and being present is the road less travelled, unchartered territory.  But I also know that the very best things in life are hard, and it’s more than worth it. Besides, as I told my Girls on the Run girls over and over this Fall, if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s this – we can do hard things.


Happy New Year!

A Little Magic

I saw Mary Poppins Returns the other day, and I found myself tearing up unexpectedly several times throughout the film.  It wasn’t just basking in the glow of Lin-Manuel Miranda..well, existing, or the beautiful cinematography or the sweetness of the kiddos sitting around me, excited faces lit by the warm glow of the movie screen.

No, it was the realization that my life has been decidedly short of magic lately, and the reminder that believing in magical, impossible things -like dancing penguins and nannies that fly – is really, really good for the soul.

There is a sharp contrast in the film between the open-hearted wonder and readiness to believe of the children, and the responsible, black and white, closed off minds and hearts of the adults.

Watching the film made me realize how disconnected I’ve become lately from that sense of wonder – that wide open, heart open sense that anything and everything can happen.  That joy-readiness.

As I reflect on 2018, I realize how heavy this year has been.  In the concentric circles of life, the “out there” news cycle has been punishing, brutal, unrelenting.  Mass shootings, migrant families torn apart, new sexual harassment and assault stories breaking constantly, the Kavanaugh hearings, the California wildfires – it has been a steady stream of injustice and pain and human suffering filling up my social media feed and inbox and quite literally the air I breathe.

In my immediate circles, people I dearly love are watching their children battle cancer, longing for children and not knowing if they can get pregnant, navigating divorce and broken relationships, losing their jobs and their health and their faith.

It’s no wonder, I suppose, that I’d lost sight of wonder, of joy, of childlike awe.  The cares and worries and pain of the world have been so loud this year, so in your face, 24/7 blaring, that there was no room for hope’s still, small voice to be made out in the crowd.

As this year winds down, I’m slowing down, too, and turning down the volume on some of the 24/7 despair, so I can hear hope’s still, small voice.  I’m calibrating and resetting my mind and heart so I can tune in more crisply to the sound of hope, cutting through the static of despair.

I’m realizing that the hope and joy has always been there – in the faces of the kiddos I love, in the smell of the ocean or a freshly cut Christmas tree, in the taste of warm mulled wine and the sounds of the laughter of my best friends.  I just need to slow down, open my eyes and pay better attention, lest I lose the things that make life possible, even in the darkest of times.

That joy, that wonder, that awe, is the only thing that keeps me going in the midst of the darkness and grief of the world.  Because that grief is real, and to pretend it’s not is to to a disservice to the real pain of real people who are worth caring for and embracing in their time of need.

The pain is real but the joy is real too.  The wonder, the awe, the laughter, the magic of the season.  Hope is just as real as the pain, and as we approach 2019 I want to open my heart to both, no matter what the year may bring.