Monday, December 16, 2013

Rethinking the New Year's Resolution

I'm not rushing Christmas, really. No, really, I'm not. I'm one of this Christmas fanatics that counts down the days til next Christmas starting the day after Christmas.
Only 364 more to go, people. 

I'm the person that decorates for Christmas the first week of November and listens to Christmas songs in the summer for no reason other than because it puts me in a good mood. I'm one of "those" Christmas people. So believe me, I am not trying to rush past Christmas to get to New Year's (a holiday I don't particularly like), I am just trying to be a bit more introspective about New Year's this year.

I've decided that resolutions are not for me. I've usually abandoned them by January 2 if I've even made any at all. Which I think says something about my relationship with resolutions. Why make something I have no intention of keeping?

Intention... that reminds me.

Last year, a few days before NYE, I read about Jason Mraz and his long running tradition of bringing in the New Year. As the ball drops, SeƱor Mraz sets an intention for the year to come. A New Year's theme, if you will. An overarching idea that Mraz uses to guide his life for that year. In 2011, he wanted "to create a year of firsts, filled with radical doings, and all around awesomeness" so "F*** Yeah!" was his obvious choice of theme. (BTW, I love that theme!)

It seemed to me that it was kind of like a personal mantra for the year, a reminder of what he wanted more of in his life. I remembered the ring I bought with the words "Love Life" inscribed on the outside of the band. When the ring comes off, the inside band reads "Be Brave." Is it a coincidence that that's the way I felt I had been living life since our decision to teach abroad and raise our family in the Dominican Republic?

Hmmm... as opposed to setting a resolution I had no intention of following through on, maybe I'd set an intention that would guide my year. Was Mr. Mraz on to something?

The English teacher in me was very curious, after all, what English teacher doesn't love a good theme?

I shared this with Husband in hopes that he would get as excited about it as I was.
Maybe we could each have a New Year's Theme? Maybe a family one? This is going to be awesome!  
He liked the idea, he did, but I think with NYE only a few days away, a pregnant wife, and a one-year-old, it was a bit too much to ask someone what they thought their whooooole year's theme should be. So we forgot about it... 

* * *

In January, a few weeks after bringing in the new year, I was fortunate enough to go away on a Yoga Retreat Weekend with some of the very fabulous ladies that I call friends. I came away with that experience calmer, quieter, and more positive and I wrote this post, Excelsior

What was funny, which I hadn't realized then, or if I had it was quite subconscious, was that this idea of "excelsior" unknowingly became my theme of 2013. (Having then recently seen Silver Linings Playbook, "excelsior" refers to Bradley Coopers character trying to find the positive - the silver lining - in his current situation, what he calls "excelsior.")

* * * 

When we were amidst looking for a new apartment in Santo Domingo - a long, frustrating process due to a stipend that doesn't match the city's increasing going rate for rentals, and a frustrating process exasperated by my being pregnant and even more pregnant as the weeks passed - I found myself wanting to choke someone. Anyone would do. It was hard to see the positive in such an infuriating situation. As I drove around the city's blocks over and over, day after day, sometimes I would say to myself: 
Excelsior, Jen. At least you get a stipend towards housing. Excelsior, at least you have a place to live.  
Sometimes when I was pregnantly large and exponentially exhausted, I would want to hog tie my daughter's legs together, and would remind myself, 
Excelsior, at least your daughter can run and jump. She's healthy and vibrant.
Other times I would be talking to Husband on the phone, bitching about something else, and would jokingly add "excelsior" to the conversation as a source of lightening up the situation. 
"Can you believe I wasn't invited? Excelsior, I don't have to buy a present."
I wouldn't even preface my thought with a formal sentence. No "well the silver lining is..." I would just abruptly say, "Excelsior!" as if my negative thoughts needed a sudden smack in the face. The more I think about it, the more I realize that "excelsior" became a part of me, a part of my vocabulary, but more than that, it became a part of my life. Even Husband started to use "Excelsior."

Whether in seriousness or in jest, "excelsior" had become my mantra for 2013. "Excelsior" helped me to remind myself to look for the silver linings in moments that normally might have been replaced with annoyance and complaint. And that was much more helpful to me than any "remember to exercise" resolution.

* * * 

Looking back at that post from Jason Mraz, that was his invitation to us, an invitation to think bigger, to think grander than a resolution. To think about what you want to live instead of what you want to change:
"...I invite you to consider a theme for 2013; something that will surpass your resolutions and stick with you for the entirety of the year, uplifting and inspiring you to be the person you always dreamed you'd be..."
 So now, with 2014 approaching, I invite you to think about the person you dream of being. And then be it.

What would your intention, your theme, your mantra be?

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