Thursday, January 22, 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed, etc., etc.

"In each of us there is internal knowledge, a gentle voice, beckoning us
toward well-being. It tells us to let go, to stay in the river of present experience, not to dam up our lives by worrying about potential futures or bemoaning past mistakes.” 

I thought I was doing a good job of staying in the present, my intention for the year.  I was working diligently to stay focused, in the here and now. Then Paris happened.  And the incessant news coverage, the constant reminder that the world is not safe.  That terrorists can surface anywhere and anytime. I was glued to CNN for hours, even as I was aware that I was watching the same interview, the same shots again and again.  My best intentions blowing in the wind.

Before I realized it, I was overwhelmed by worry for the future and caught up in the history of my childhood.  I am old enough and remember enough to see the incidents in Paris (and too many other places) as reminiscent of the rise of Nazism.  I believe that apathy, appeasement, rationalization and pervasive fear are the breeding ground for such evil to spread.  I could feel my jaw tighten, my breathing becoming shallow.  I could feel worry morphing into anxiety.

No surprise that Sunday found me dejected.  Thankfully, I decided to attend our local Unitarian Fellowship service and was pleasantly surprised to walk in on what might have been the largest gathering in its history here in St. George.  A group of thoughtful, open, concerned people who want to make a difference in this little community had assembled, many I believe, in search of some optimism - and a desire for some degree of control in a world increasingly out of control. My spirits gradually began to lift.

I then came home to see that incredible display of solidarity and courage in Paris.  I listened to thoughtful, in-depth analyses, the call for unified action, the validation that other people out there are seeing what I'm seeing. .By the end of the day, I had regained some semblance of equilibrium and enough of the news.  Maybe more than enough?!

Looking back on those few days, I easily can see how I sabotaged my intention to stay as much as possible in the present and attend to my sense of well-being.   I broke the promise to myself to limit the amount of time spent watching TV news.  Easy to see, looking out the back window.  Not so easy to interrupt in the midst of it.  

I've been tempted to swear off the news completely, and can understand why some people have.  But for me, for now, a more palatable solution is to get my news from NPR, a couple magazines...and John Stewart.  At least with John, I can laugh a little.


Monday, January 5, 2015

I'm Getting Off the Goal Setting Band Wagon!

"To change one's mind in changing circumstances is true wisdom. "
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Every year, for the past 30 years, I've spent several days of the holiday season thinking about, writing about, and talking to my husband about goals for the coming year.  Ambitious goals.  Every year I've created elaborate plans to meet those goals. 

Not this year.  No goals, not even New Year's resolutions.  It's not that I intend to become a couch potato, simply veg out, or give up.  But events of the past few weeks have reminded me of a lesson I thought I'd learned when I had cancer, and then again when John did.  The lesson best expressed in that old saying,  "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".   

Goals focus on the future.  They contain the promises of success, satisfaction and happiness if only we plan carefully and execute with determined diligence.  If we follow the approach of any one of a variety of goal setting gurus.  Heaven knows I've tried many,  and taught a few to coaching clients. Yet, even in my most productive of years, I've not met all my goals.  

Because life has the inconvenient habit of intervening. Competing commitments arise, new opportunities, new information,  and new relationships emerge.  Then, there's the inevitable disappointments, illness and loss.  In our lives.  In the lives of those we love. Or those we know from afar. 

So this year, I've decided to focus on one simple, over-arching objective - to do something each day to add to the quality of my life and that of those I touch.  That's it.  Right here, right now - to do what I can to be positive and engaged.  To learn and explore new interests.  To take better care of my health.  Right here, right now.  Nothing grand or elaborate.  Little things, like taking that walk when I don't feel like it, or giving John my undivided attention when he comes to share something.  Little things, like turning off the TV to read (or not turning it on in the first place.)  Little things, like sending a hand written note or card to someone with whom I've lost touch or letting someone go ahead of me in the grocery line. Little things like noticing, really noticing the desert sky at dusk or watching our little family of feral cats snuggle up to keep warm.  Those little daily things that can get too easily lost in the pursuit of some future goal. The things that build resiliency and well-being, that strengthen relationships and make a fragile existence easier to navigate.

If I hadn't come to this decision over the past few weeks, I'd like to think I would have these past two days.  If you've listened to the many analysts and sports figures share their stories and memories of Stuart Scott, the  ESPN analyst who lost his battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 49, you couldn't miss the outpouring of love and gratitude  for his acts of kindness and generosity, for his humor and love of life.  This was a man who was respected for his courage and accomplishments, but cherished and valued for who he was as a human being.  He was a man who added to the quality of life of many, many people.  

So, my best hope for this new year is that it be filled with health, love and laughter, and that come this time next year I can say it was a very good year, one of the best ever.  My hope for you is definitely the same.