A New Year’s Prescription for 2015
I love this time of year when we move beyond the busyness of the holidays and have a chance to stop and reflect before the New Year, New You, lose weight, set goals, ‘get-your-act-together’ energy descends upon us.
I went for a long walk today to mull over 2014. As I trekked up and down the hills around our neighborhood, I thought about lessons learned and the challenges that made me grow.
Then, on the final stretch, I made a mental list of what I enjoyed most. When I came home, I sat down and wrote a prescription for 2015.
Rather than set new goals or make resolutions, I decided to build on what’s working already.
Here are some of the guidelines I want to use in 2015.
I’d love to hear yours…
Stop worrying about doing what’s right and do more of what makes you happy.
Be willing to open your heart and home to people you don’t know very well because they often deliver wonderful surprises.
The moment you feel stuck and indecisive, do something – anything. Don’t waste emotional energy going back and forth, in and out, up and down. Just make a choice and take action.
Schedule more adventures. Don’t play it safe. When you catch yourself feeling excited about doing something new and trying to talk yourself out of it because you feel nervous, let those conflicting feelings be a sign to go for it.
Keep moving your body every day.
Trust your gut even when it tells you to do something silly or strange. Remember: Your intuition works.
When you’re struggling and you don’t know what to do, answer the following question to determine your next step:
What could I do to love myself more?
Because when all else fails, love won’t.
“How we spend our days,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timelessly beautiful meditation on presence over productivity, “is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life — in the city, high on the cult of productivity, where we floakt past each other, past the buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone earbuds and solipsism. And yet: “The art of seeing has to be learned,” Marguerite Duras reverberates — and it can be learned, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz invites us to believe in her breathlessly wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (public library) — a record of her quest to walk around a city block with eleven different “experts,” from an artist to a geologist to a dog, and emerge with fresh eyes mesmerized by the previously unseen fascinations of a familiar world.
But a Yuletide in one’s own company isn’t always quite as disheartening as it seems.
A few years ago, I spent the big day unaccompanied – albeit not quite by design. I had planned to be in New York with friends, until a Christmas Eve snowstorm led to a cancelled flight and scuppered plans. Back home alone, the day passed by in an air of non-conformity – not wholly unpleasant. For once, the TV remote was unilaterally mine. There was no need to shave. The turkey dinner (never a favourite) was supplanted by a more preferable Indian takeaway. When my flight for the US finally departed two days later, I was able to reflect on a tranquil holiday.
Of course, reasons for spending the festive season alone – or any day or event, for that matter – vary from person to person.
One cold winter night, the fox loses her way in the forest and stumbles into a village. Kicked away by the grownups — those strange beings chronically paralyzed by their fear of the unfamiliar — she finds refuge in a shut-down greenhouse, where she gives birth to a litter of baby foxes.
A curious and warmhearted little boy, full of children’s inherent openness to experience, follows her and offers a small gift — a beautiful gesture bespeaking the transformative power of acknowledging the rejected and making mindful room in one’s heart for those outcast by the mindless majority.
“I have to create a circle of reading for myself: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Pascal, The New Testament. This is also necessary for all people.”
So he set out to compile “a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people” — a florilegium five centuries after the golden age of florilegia and a Tumblr a century and a half before the golden age of Tumblr, a collection of famous words on the meaning of life long before the concept had become a cultural trope. The following year, he wrote to his assistant, describing the project:
“I know that it gives one great inner force, calmness, and happiness to communicate with such great thinkers as Socrates, Epictetus, Arnold, Parker. … They tell us about what is most important for humanity, about the meaning of life and about virtue. … I would like to create a book … in which I could tell a person about his life, and about the Good Way of Life.”