The “And a Happy New Year” tune reverberates in my mind almost like an ear worm. “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Time passes quickly. During the month of January, it always seems like New Year’s Eve and Day were just yesterday when in fact they were a few weeks ago. I remember sitting on the couch staring at the television bleary-eyed from watching nearly nine hours of college football. Exuberant but clearly exhausted, I willed myself to stay awake until the perennial ball (or peach in Atlanta) drop. I’m never certain why I engage in this ritual. I’m either hypnotized or a victim of too many years of conditioning so I feel compelled to toast even with a non-alcoholic beverage and kiss someone at midnight.
Yet the ebullience of starting a new year, the excitement emerging from the awareness that I can erase the board and begin again slowly dissipates. Typically, as I return to work or my daily routine, and later in January or as the February doldrums approach I notice that the thrill is gone. I ask myself how I can make the merriment and excitement of my New Year’s celebration continue after the holidays; after recovering from staying up so late and eating too much artichoke dip, mini-quiches or from large holiday spreads filled with turkey, lobster mac and cheese, or lemon layered cake? I want to keep the exhilaration of the new year yet I cannot make being happy a New Year’s resolution although I have tried to in the past. Since I love making lists, I decided to create one to kickstart a year in which I maintain the peace and joy. I want to share a few items that involve a little letting go and a little adding to.
1) Letting go of my time urgency perfectionism would certainly alleviate nearly all of the anxiety that builds each time I run out of the house for an appointment or as a project deadline approaches. Releasing the tendency to watch the clock would lessen my impatience with stop lights, slower drivers, and anyone who appears to obstruct my frantic path. Likewise relinquishing my proclivity toward self-judgment might rid me of some of the shame I pile onto my heart anytime I make a mistake. Mistakes are gifts serving as guideposts to where I want to be. Now I understand that real perfection is more about wholeness–embracing shrubs with their dead leaves, cherishing well worn dishes, and ignoring a spot or two on the rugs. The shift truly involves a change in my perceptions, a re-focusing of my attention.
2) The next thing to pop in my mind was the question, “What made me happy as a child?” I loved to lay on the couch and read a good book with a green apple in hand. In my childhood home the brown fabric couch in the living room sat between two mahogany brown end tables each with a standard gold lamp crowned with an off white lamp shade. The couch with its worn out cushions wasn’t particularly comfortable but it sufficed. Now I recline on a lovely forest green chaise lounge that sits next to a large cathedral window allowing the sun to shine on my face. Great fiction and non-fiction allows me to escape into other worlds and munching on a green apple during pounding rain, singing winds or lightly falling snow affords me an opportunity to exhale and just be.
I also remember the adage, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” I don’t want to discount the health benefits of eating apples. I am certain there are many. However, I wonder if the sheer joy of doing something that made my heart sing kept the dis-ease at bay. I suspect the obvious connections between joy and harmony, wholeness and health remain exiled to a back corner of my mind. But a good book and a green apple are still my antidote to illness and I plan to make reading a welcomed habit throughout the year.
3) I also love to sit outside in the wind no matter what season. For me, nature is calming to my spirit; restorative, and offers a gentle serenity. Warm summer breezes, or a crisp, frosty but not biting cold wind is what I yearn for. Next time I notice the branches swaying, I’m grabbing a coat and heading out the door.
4) Warren and I paused from the holiday rush and watched the PIXAR movie—Inside Out. I was awed by the advancement of technology with the combination of animation and almost real life characters. A fabulous movie in its storyline and presentation I felt a surge of energy afterwards. Stopping to watch a movie is what Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan describe in The Artist Way as an artist’s date. Watching this imaginative movie filled the well that had been depleted by Christmas shopping, meal preparation and far too much entertaining. I think each of us needs to fill up more often—we wouldn’t think to drive a car without refilling the gas tank. Even plants and trees pause their growth to re-energize during the winter. I must make time to restore myself regularly instead of pushing, pushing, pushing.
5) I plan to allow the creative spirit of mine to flow like a river–sewing new fashions, crochet-edge stitching fleece blankets for family and friends who are struggling or are ill. I’ve even decided to hire a sewing consultant who can assist with those pesky sewing problems that permit unfinished sewing projects to clutter up my closet. Clearly I need balance to what I perceive to be the drudgery of washing dirty dishes and clothes, picking of the house, and paying bills.
So what are you going to make your year a happy one that continues until next December? Perhaps as you pause, listen deeply and more often to your heart, it will whisper to you what it desires and guide you to how you might maintain the peace and joy until 2017 and beyond.