New Year’s Revolutions

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For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice.” 
― T.S. Eliot

My daughter’s first day back to school after Christmas vacation involved a discussion in her freshman World History class.

“We are going to discuss revolutions. What are some famous revolutions in history?” Asked her teacher.

A few answered, “French. Industrial. American.”

Claire raised her hand. Once called upon, she announced in all seriousness, “New Year’s!”

While I’m not certain I want to discuss my desires for a New Year’s Revolution, I think the word deserves consideration. Isn’t this what we want at the turn of a new year, the turn of a new page? A revolution?

In order to experience a personal revolution, we have to set some resolutions. After the holidays many of us focus upon our nutrition or we return to the gym after too many missed days spent with loved ones. Or we start to clean out closets and tidy up finances or we embark upon some better ways to talk to ourselves. We might pursue a new goal, like training for a race or taking a class, or trying a new hobby. Some of these stick and some of them don’t. Some of these offer us a fresh start and oftentimes we return to our old ways, within days.

In my personal life I have learned not to set firm and fast goals at the new year’s turn, instead I look at ways of being. I may want to lose weight, but instead I continue the exercise program I enjoy, one that feeds my soul and body. I may want to spend less, but instead I ask questions like: Is this something I really need or really want? What am I avoiding in this quest for a new fill-in-the-blank. I may want to enjoy better quality relationships, so I choose a greater level of vulnerability.

The five of us went to Kauai to spend the week after Christmas. We decided to enjoy an experience as a family rather than buy more stuff for the holiday. It was a bit of an experiment, a decision we made at the end of 2015. Our time together was wonderful, a much needed respite after a rocky 2016. The opportunity as a mother, to watch my children be themselves, together, is a priceless and fulfilling gift, better than anything that could’ve been under the tree. The first few days in a new place are always hard for me. Sliding into December 25 and then expecting to reach the epitome of full relaxation by the 26th was an expectation I thankfully didn’t hold for myself.

While letting the sand settle between my toes and the waves fill my thoughts I discovered the depths to which I dwell in scarcity. Kauai is abundance personified. Water oozes from the lush, verdant mountains to the tune of countless waterfalls. Rivers run wide and long, the ocean sends her relentless waves, rain pours in the night. I’m not sure what it is, but abundance is hard to accept. Maybe it has to do with the dry and drought-prone West I’ve been born and raised into, maybe it’s my own personal state, but I recognized and contended with my propensity toward scarce thinking. I tend towards wanting more, being more, giving more than I can. And while I know my offering is enough and I have enough, I don’t trust it. I feel the need to prove, to strive, to aim for that forever elusive yardstick of perfection, of enough.

I consider the Israelites subsisting on manna in the desert through the course of their forty-year journey. Once the manna came, it didn’t take long before they tried to hoard and store up beyond their daily allotment. Unfortunately for them, God knows our human condition and God demanded through this regular practice, their trust. Enough was provided. Enough given to go around. Enough would be there for tomorrow and the next day and the next.

It’s a temptation to try to hoard our happiness, or our rest and relaxation. I wanted my own slice of the island. I wanted to bottle up the experience, to save it for myself, because frankly I don’t know if I have what it takes to do what I want to do, to do what I need to do. But, this is not the design. We are made to fill up, to receive, to heal, rest and go. We were made to accomplish our work, tend to our wholeness and go. It is not our job to be always well-rested, to never be worn or overwhelmed. It is not our job to always operate within our personal limitations, to never be desperate, or aching. We must feel and experience the lack. We must suffer and ache so we may know the relief, hope and readiness that comes from recovery.

Are we given more than we can handle? Sure we are. And just as the Israelites were fed, so are we. Given precisely what we need in adequate measure.

Are my resolutions foolish? No, my resolutions are the tiny breadcrumbs that lead to a personal revolution, that result in change and relief in my body, in my world.

I do not choose to make peace and happiness my resolution, instead I choose to see the world with a more generous eye, relying upon grace and mercy toward myself and another through being slow to judge and quick to offer kindness, through being slow to make an assessment and quick to offer a compliment and a bridge toward understanding, through being slow to implicate myself and quick to ask new questions and seek wise counsel.

May your 2017 be filled with the smallest of revolutions through the keeping of the smallest of resolutions. And may you spend your days well, living according to the abundance of the earth and all of her goodness.

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