New year's intentions
I have very mixed feelings about New Year's resolutions.
We all know the drill. Sometime during the last few weeks of December, you start thinking about what you'd like to change about yourself and improve on in the new year. Maybe it's physical - you hate your current weight, you want to get more exercise or try something new like a spinning class. Maybe it's personal - you have relationship habits you want to change, self-work to be done, or a goal you want to accomplish. Whatever your perceived flaws or shortcomings, you start thinking about how maybe you might be able to put a dent in what's not working with little more than the flip of a calendar page. You know that New Year's resolutions almost never stick, and the haters are all too happy to remind you...but you make them anyway, because this year will be different.
Then, if you're like me, around about April you start panicking. The first tier of items you'd intended to check off your list by Memorial Day are nowhere near living up to your lofty expectations. Or, in this case, February. I'm already panicking. And it's funny because I thought about this carefully, and I'd decided that I was going to try something new this year. Instead of making resolutions, I was all about New Year's intentions - restating and reprioritizing the (many) things I'm already working on, with the hope and expectation that I'll keep chipping away. Intention. It is my intent to work on these things this year. And I even listed them out, like a good little Type A. But still, I'm panicked. And yes, I also have chronic anxiety, so that doesn't help any, but my pesky little hate-brain keeps yammering at me with great disapproval.
Am I working diligently on the intentions I set for myself? Why am I not making swifter progress? I've been working on some of these things for years, and I'm still not there. What the fuck is wrong with me?!
(I do love an occasion to use the question mark and exclamation side by side. Type A and a drama queen.)
The very most interesting thing about this, however, isn't that I feel freaked out - that's obvious, it happens to everyone who sets goals that take too long to meet, whatever that means. No, the interesting part is that, when I run down the list, I realize, I'm not even failing, necessarily. I'm doing these things - maybe just not as much as I want to yet? Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. (Yes, Sarah, you are absolutely being too hard on yourself.)
I'm not going to share all of my six intentions here, because that would be too personal even for this over-sharer. But I do think it's interesting and probably important to take a look at the thought process that I'm having when I consider how I'm doing so far in terms of accomplishing all I set out to do - or, at least, intended to try. So here are just a couple of them, with my Hate Brain's grade, and then my actual (re: logical) grade.
Practice Yoga Every Day
Hate Brain Scorecard: 4/10
The Negative: When I wrote this intention in my journal, it was at the top of the list. Practice yoga every day. You're probably thinking that sounds really, really hard. If by practice yoga every day I meant go to a class every day, it would be very hard. Or even just practicing asanas (poses) every single day. That would be incredibly taxing physically for me at this stage. But eventually, it won't be. Someday, I would like to be doing asanas every day. But for this year, the specific goal was getting to class 3x a week and practicing at home every other day. That has not happened yet.
The Positive: There are eight limbs in yoga, and the asanas are just one. I need to remind myself that I am practicing yoga every day, even when I just take a few minutes to myself to breathe and meditate, or go for a walk, or write in my journal.
Actual Grade: B+
Note to Self: Be nice to yourself, Hyde.
Sweat Every Day
Hate Brain Scorecard: 6/10
The Negative: I have not broken a real, hard sweat every single day. There have been some days I rested. I'm not working hard enough.
The Positive: For the past ten years, I've actually been really good about exercise. I do it most every day, even if it's just a very long walk. But most days it's the gym and walking, or the gym and yoga, or yoga and walking. I'm in a good place in terms of frequency. What I need is to work harder in the gym, not dial it in. But needing to work harder is not failing.
Actual Grade: A-
Note to Self: You're doing a lot better than you think.
I'm sure, my clever readers, you noticed the same thing I noticed. The hateful, nasty side of my brain is telling me I'm doing a really bad job, even though my rational mind knows that's not entirely true, and remembers that these were not deadlines to be met. They were intentions, and those are not the same thing. Notice what my kinder mind tells me when I slow down: You're doing better than you think. Be nice to yourself.
I'm not always very nice to myself. Perhaps, then, that is my biggest intention for the year. Find room in my heart to love myself a little bit more. After all, self care sometimes includes a little bit of cheerleading.
I'll admit it: I mostly am not excited about 2016. It's a presidential election year, one that's already proving to be an almighty shit show, and there's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world, some of it far away and some of it up close and way too personal. Sometimes, if you're a bit of a cynic and a perpetual over-analyzer, optimism and hope can be hard to find. So, how to counteract that negativity I'm feeling so that I can proceed in good faith with working on those intentions I listed out in my journal? I think it's as simple as pausing to check in, to ask myself honestly how things are going instead of just clipping along and letting my hate brain yell at me. The loudest voices tend to be the negative ones. It's time to turn up the volume way up on the positive.