I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions

Before I turned a year old, this picture was taken of me. If I look closely, I can still see the person I am today in that face. Mama had lovingly combed my hair in the baby style of the day, and I was obviously well fed and happy. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been if I had not believed that the entire world adored me and would protect me from any harm, because of the enormous outpouring of love I received from my doting parents and extended family.

I've learned that every seven years not one part of your body remains the same; everything is eventually replaced by new cells, even down to your bones, which are alive and continue to grow during your entire life. So who is that little person, really? Is it me? How do our memories and sense of self continue on through our lives? I know some people who say they can remember crawling and beginning to walk (although I have no memory of such things). Life is truly a mystery. That little person has now been reconstituted almost ten times, if you think about it.

But it's still me. And now as I begin a new year, along with all my friends and family, I've been pondering the need to make some resolutions. I'm sure that little baby had no need for them, but I sure do. There is always something that I feel needs to grow and change within me so that I can become a better person, and resolving to change something that needs changing is what some of us do at the beginning of a new year. This auspicious year, filled with ones and elevens, seems especially appropriate for thinking of changing a way of being in the world. I've decided to make my New Year's Resolution to be one word that I can bring into many aspects of my life: Mindfulness.

Being mindful means becoming aware or conscious of different aspects of my life. I have decided that the first step is to become more mindful of how I eat my food, sitting down and actually having a meal instead of making a hurried sandwich and gobbling it down while in front of the TV or computer. This should help me lose a pound or two, since I know that food is much more nourishing to body and soul when you pay attention to what you are eating. I'll try not to beat myself up too much if I don't adhere to this every day, but mindful attention is what I'm looking to achieve.

I want to be mindful of my blessings. The loss of my friend Emily so suddenly really knocked me for a loop, making me realize anew how precious life is, reminding me to be thankful in this moment for my partner and my family. My extended family, you, are also very important to me and provide the intellectual stimulation that would be missing from my life without you, without blogging, without the community of like-minded souls whose lives I share every day.

The idea of a one-word resolution comes from one of my blogging friends who chose the word "shed" last year and rid herself of many parts of her life that had become cumbersome. This year she chose "nourish" as a reminder to give herself the things that help her to grow in the ways she would like. It is so easy for me to drift along from day to day, following the same patterns of my daily life without conscious thought. I'd like to nourish my soul and maybe help others along the way.

It's easy to decide on a resolution but not so easy to figure out how to put it into practice. One way to begin is to state the intention, which I'm doing here, and then think of a concrete step  I can take every day to remind me (such as sitting down at the table for every meal), and then take it slow and steady. It takes about a month to change a habit, so the first few weeks will take some effort, but it should not be difficult to take small steps forward.

As I sit here in the dark, before the sun comes up on the second day of the new year, I look around the room at the environment I've created for myself: a laptop warming me as I sit propped up in bed, my partner softly breathing beside me, a cup of hot tea within arm's reach, a tapestry on the wall across from me that I brought back from some long-ago visit to a foreign country. A pervasive sense of peace steals across me. Gratitude is not hard to find in my life, but paying attention to it, becoming mindful of the present moment, is my resolution for the coming year.

24 comments:

Gigi said...

I think that is brilliant - choosing the one word as your resolution. And being mindful is a great one.

Happy New Year DJan; here's hoping it's a great one!

gigihawaii said...

Very interesting post. My new word for the new year would be SHED. I need to shed bad memories that continue to haunt me even 40-50 years after the fact.

I also need to shed my tendency to criticize myself. I must learn to be kind toward myself and to others.

I need to shed 50 lbs.

So much to shed before donning the new!

Whitney Lee said...

What a wonderful resolution. I think we could all benefit from some mindfulness. You're right, though, that it's difficult to attack that without some specific steps.

What a completely adorable picture! You had such a lot of hair, at least compared to my kids. Perhaps you were ill prepared for some of the realities of life. I believe that every child deserves some period of time in which they are unaware of much beyond love and laughter and the warm cocoon of their families. The knowledge of unconditional love is such a precious, and often fleeting, circumstance. How do you think you could have been made aware of what life often encompasses, to have been made more ready? Honestly, it is a question I have pondered when it comes to raising my children. Other than reading books to them that teach little lessons, or using the examples of other children they know, I don't know how to teach them that the world will not always be as kind as we would hope.

I hope you are having a wonderful Sunday!

Linda said...

I very much like this post. Very much. It's thought provoking. I'm going to give this some thought.

Mel said...

What a wonderful post. I too will borrow the word shed, it is very apt for the best way to improve my new year.
I love your baby photo. I have mine and my husband's hanging over our bed, and I look at them every day and marvel at the little people that became us. I wonder a lot about those times we cannot remember, wondering what forces shaped us into the people we are today. Without a doubt, the one constant we can be sure of is love. We were very loved little babies, just like you.
I'm going to remember what you wrote about being mindful about all I have to be grateful for. I wish you a peaceful and happy new year.

Lily Robinson said...

Lovely post. I think we should all be more mindful...

The Retired One said...

A very wonderful aspiring resolution. That baby picture is ADORABLE. Your face is positively shining. I think we all need to look harder at every baby's face to remember to look at the world in wonder the way they always do.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Mindfulness is a wonderful resolution. It has great reach, because when we stop and think and feel the moment, we become aware of what might need to be addressed. Which gives us the opportunity we might otherwise miss. I might have to copy your idea!

Donna B said...

Fantastic and inspiring post. I visited Sas and am going to follow her blog. I can so relate to both of her words, 'shed' and 'nourish'. Being the Gemini I am, I cannot select just one word...I must have at least two: 'purge' and 'challenge' are two which spring to my mind immediately.

Letting go of many of the old and familiar things I no longer pay any attention to other than occasionally dusting. To feel the fear and to it anyway, taking on new challenges I have avoided with excuses...

I actually started in our bedroom yesterday, creating a space of comfort and peace to help me get the nightly sleep I so need...

Today, it is my office. No doubt I will be here for a few weeks...sorting and eliminating books, paperwork, folders, drawers stuffed with who knows what...

I feel full of energy today (thanks to a great nights sleep) and am signing off now to get busy!!!

sas said...

mindfulness is perfect. for me, gratitude and the presence that comes with being truly conscious makes me happier than anything else. not a laugh out loud happiness - but a pervasive sense of peace somewhere down deep.
I have been reading a little from Sonja Lyubomirsky (search for the greatergoodscience network on youtube) she uses evidentiary research to explain the science of gratitude. I think she would be offended to be called a 'self-help guru' (which is my opinion makes her worth listening to!), her book is very pragmatic and helpful :)
Happy new year!
x

Buz said...

Thanks for this post, Jan. An ongoing mindfulness is a very worthy goal; one that we could all benefit from.

I changed my diet again yesterday, and I'm contemplating an exercise routine and some intellectual undertakings, but I'm trying not to think of these changes in terms of New Year's resolution because that very phrase connotes (for me) a temporary aspect I need to keep out of my thoughts.

But since, in reality, my changes in direction really are the result of resolutions, I have to say I'm intrigued by this idea of focusing on a single word, and now I'm thinking I must have chosen my word already, without realizing it. I read a novel recently in which the main character decided to disassociate himself from food, in order to lose weight. That's my word: disassociate. That word has been popping into my head each time I think about food, candy, chocolate, and I'm amazed by the somehow comforting effect this little word is having on me. I simply think the word (i.e. my personal goal) and I'm immediately able to shut down the cravings and redirect my thoughts. Of course, there are other things (mostly bad habits) from which I need to disassociate myself as I move into this year of new beginnings, but I also don't want to tempt fate by trying to change too many things at once.

Would it be cheating to throw in a little mindfulness, too?

gayle said...

Last year I noticed that several people came up with words for the year! I didn't last year but I would like to this year. Have to give it some thought! Love your word!

Retired English Teacher said...

Mindful, and living in the present, words of wisdom for me...

Linda Reeder said...

As I contemplate what one word I could choose to improve myself and my life, I come up with "outreach". I have become very comfortable in my life style, but I don't interact enough with other people: old friends, family members, possible new friends. I need to find a way to share my life more with others. I need to get out of my comfort zone.

Bragger said...

I think my word for 2011 will be "Share". Share my happiness, share my blessings, share my knowledge, share my resources. That's not me, so it will be a challenge, but I'm willing to embrace it.

Happy New Year!

#1Nana said...

Brilliant! I like the focus on one word. I resist resolutions...so much so that I've been struggling over my new year's post for several days. Now I'm going to think about what word is seeking me out.

Happy New Year DJan. I wish you all the best.
Jann

Kathryn said...

This was an intriguing post - the idea of simplifying and condensing down to one word. Mine would have to be, "Incremental".
I have an all-or-nothing personality: if I don't have a whole hour in which to exercise, I don't do any at all. If I don't have a few spare hours to work on a project - I do nothing. I could get so much more done if I could just learn to sieze little bits of time here and there. Geting more done would help with the negative self-talk about how I got nothing done on any particular day. Sigh.
So, incremental it is.
Bit by bit, day by day.
Happy New Year, and thank-you.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I have done the shed thing in the past and deleted lots of blog posts. Started over again.

Linda Myers said...

Well, I've seen this "one word" in several blogs, but nothing occurred to me until I read your post.

Mine will be "release" - as in letting go of useless habits and overplanning. I've been a risk-averse person all my life, and I'd like to do less of the keeping-safe thing. If I release my plans and expectations I suspect life will open up.

Grandmother said...

I love your younger self photo and remember the same finger curl on top of the head in mine. I like the word "wholehearted" as a good one word resolution for this year.

Robert the Skeptic said...

My only regret is that these lovely days seem to be passing at a greater pace than before. I need to stop looking forward and appreciate the time of NOW while it is here.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Your baby photo is beautiful..I think it is those eyes..I think they might have had quite a sparkle in them.
I am having a hard time focusing on any kind of resolution or even one word intention this year.
I think mindfulness suits you well for this year, one day at a time:)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wonderful post, DJan! I love the idea of choosing one word or phrase as a resolution. I'm going to try that, since I still haven't come up with any resolutions!

Jo said...

What a wonderful post...! And it has given me so much to think about, as we start the new year. What word would I choose? Hmmmm....

Hope!

What a gorgeous baby you were -- and still are...! :-)