So, part of being sick means that, for the most part I have let go of setting new year’s resolutions. To be fair, resolutions were hit and miss in my world even before I got sick. However, I love the opportunity we have as humans to turn the page – to see each new day, new month, new moon, new year, as an opportunity to reset. The endless possibilities to make new choices and decide again that we are going to do something differently is one of the most optimistic things about us. So, I do like the chance to be thoughtful about what energy I’m bringing to a new year, a new decade. In addition to the stock-taking (thinking about my learning from the year that has passed), I find it nice to set intentions for the year ahead. For me, these aren’t resolutions in that they aren’t fixed parameters: “get to the gym three times a week,” or “take a painting class.” They are far less prescriptive and/or rigid. Rather, they are somewhat philosophical and contemplative. They’re more like guiding principles. My intentions are things I want to bear in mind and help shape the way I make decisions or chose my actions. This year I’m setting intentions around three areas 1) my body, my mind, and my spirit.
My body: Stay connected to my body. For years I cut myself off from my own physical experience. I learned to do this at an early age and unlearning it has been challenging. Staying connecting to my body means being present-moment focused. It means tuning into the messages and signals from my body. For me, it also means making time to do check ins with my physical self in the form of body scans. Seeing what’s going on, noticing where there is pain, discomfort, hunger, or other needs I might that might need tending.
Take pleasure in my body. So much of chronic illness and chronic pain sets me up to forget that these bodies are pleasure centers. So much of our five senses are about delivering satisfaction. And yet, I’ve gotten away from remembering or looking for these opportunities. When touch became painful, I forgot about its sensual delights… I’m committed to finding pleasure more often in my body – whether it’s feeling the wind on my face, submerging myself in warm pools, or seeking out foods that really satisfy me. This, too, will require being present for the experience and savoring what’s happening in the moment.
Treat my body with care and kindness. It’s easy to focus on all that is wrong with this body. Lots doesn’t work the way that I want it to or think it should. And yet, lots still works quite right. I can walk, swallow, and breathe some of the time without supplemental oxygen. There were times in the past few years when each of these things weren’t true. I don’t want to take that for granted. My body is working hard and fighting hard on my behalf. It does me no favors to disparage it or speak to myself or about myself with anything but care and kindness. How can I go a little further in treating my body with care? Adding essential oil to my shower? Take more time rubbing in my face cream? Whatever it is, I mean to find ways.
My mind: Feed my mind with things that stimulate and invigorate me. Regardless of how sick I am, I want there to be a vitality to my days. Some of this can be done in and with my mind I also am a curious person by nature. That means I can always enjoy learning about new things whether it’s investigative techniques or baking secrets. Making time to learn about things even when I don’t feel well enough to get out and DO things can still be satisfying for me. In the midst of fighting the compounding effects of isolation and brain fog, staying committed to being a person who learns, helps me feel better.
Keep a present moment focus. I mean to be right here right now. It is so easy to spend time time traveling – spending time in the past and future and robbing myself of the present moment. In general, that takes away from my enjoyment and also tends to make my pain worse. Rather than being fully in touch with what the pain is now, I am worrying about what it will be or what it has been. Part of how I do that is with guided meditation. A present-moment focus helps me remember what is true and cut out some of the noise and fears that otherwise crowd my mind. It’s also useful to check in on how my mind is functioning several times a day – is this a day that I can fill out paperwork or just fill out my pants? These are things that I can do with a present moment focus.
My spirit: Seek joy. How can I be like a heat seeking missile with a mission of joy? Amid life’s concerns, be it grief, illness, family concerns, etc. part of what sustains me and gives richness to my days is joy. In order to find it, I need to be in touch with what are the things that bring me joy. What fills my cup and lights me up? Knowing the things that lighten my heart are integral to knowing how to seek out joy. Whether it’s watching birds (and therefore keeping my suet feeders filled) or listening to Beyoncé, making a few minutes to swing, or taking a hot bath, what brings you joy? Knowing these things so that I can infuse them into my days is critical to my health and wellbeing.
Make time for creativity. Brené Brown says that the “opposite of depression is creativity.” I find this to be true. I am most blue when I have not had creative outlets or expressed my creativity. Creativity can be ANYTHING. It can be cooking or gardening, it can be how you organize your kid’s room, to more traditional things like writing, painting, or scrapbooking. Our human selves are generative, we are at our best when we are creating. Taking a few minutes to work on a project gives me a sense that I am tapping into the eternal part of myself. It gives me relief from my pain, not in the sense that it takes it away, but it helps me remember that I am something bigger and beyond my pain or illness when I do or make.
These are my commitments to myself in 2020. I will make time to put this list in a creative format and hang it where I can reference it regularly. I hope to have these principles steer me when I am uncertain or having a hard time remembering which way to go. What about you? Do you make resolutions or intentions? What are your hopes and plans for the new year?