Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Right Direction

At the end of every year, we spend an entire month either a) considering other people and doing generous, thoughtful things for other people, or b) being forced to consider other people and doing generous, thoughtful things for other people. Either way, December is a big month for being nice to each other.
How do we keep that sense of decency and we're-all-in-this-together alive through the early months of the new year when it seems so easy to be grumpy and complainy?
Our challenge every year, but particularly for 2018, is to keep on considering other people and doing nice things for each other. We hear all about goodwill towards others in the lengthy build-up to Christmas but once we’re done with that, our culture instantly reverts to encouraging us to think about ourselves again. New Year’s resolutions are all about "me", particularly along the lines of What’s wrong with me that needs to be fixed? What is there about me that I want to change? Me, me, me.
Here’s a quote from a Buddhist scripture called the Sutta Nipata. This is usually the kind of phrase that fills Christmas cards but I encourage us to adopt it as a New Year’s resolution: “May our loving thoughts fill the whole world; above, below, across without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity.” 

(You know -- this shouldn't be that hard to do considering all the Valentine's Day crap is in the stores already. We're inundated with hearts and love when we've still got stars in our eyes.) 
There’s so much going on already at Christmas hope, joy, love, little gooey chocolates lying around in boxes   why not make New Year’s the time for peace? Peace in the world, peace in one’s little part of the world, peace in oneself.  
2018 certainly could use a blanket of peace. Peace of mind. Peace and quiet. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all...
Peace starts with ourselves. If we can be content with ourselves, content with our lives, we can find peace in everything we do. If we’re not satisfied (and grateful), it’s time to make changes. Not in the way that is dictated by our culture, by having more stuff and following more celebrities and watching more reality shows but in a way that is true to ourselves, no matter what anyone else thinks.
That is harder than losing 25 pounds. 

Sixteen years ago, a lovely and wise yoga instructor held a class on New Year’s Eve and at the end, as we all lay on our mats for final relaxation, she gave us this advice: “Make this the year you go away from what makes you unhappy. Make this the year you go towards what makes you happy.”
(Sixteen years ago. Wow. An entire lifetime ago. But I'll never forget her words, will never stop sharing them because they changed my life.)
That advice meant the end of my marriage. That advice meant leaving a house and a job and a husband on the west coast and starting over again on the east coast. (I know, I know: I should have come here in the first place.) Accepting how her advice applied to me took courage and strength, it involved a long journey both physically and spiritually, and there were some incredibly unhappy moments along the way. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
BUT: I found peace. I created a life of love, unrestricted, free of hatred. And in being so changed, I am more aware of being kinder, more loving, more accepting. 

Whenever I think about that time of my life, I always wonder why it was so hard to leave. Looking back, it's so obvious it was the right thing to do. When it's right, and you believe in the rightness, it makes the hard stuff easier to live through. I wished I'd been more brave, more trusting of myself. I wish I'd let go a lot sooner.

In these frozen days of 2018, let it go. Make this the year you resolve to go towards what makes you happy. Even if it's the hardest resolution you've ever made, you possess more courage and strength than you realize. Going towards what makes you happy is the place where you find peace and love -- for yourself and for others. 
It’s a journey worth taking. 

So, it's still worth the journey but as I was walking the dog this afternoon, I remembered this fact: many women cannot afford to "go towards what makes them happy". I couldn't have done it sixteen years ago if I hadn't had a safety net, one I've had all my life. But if I'd wanted to stay (or had to stay) in Vancouver, if I'd had children, if my parents hadn't had a house large enough to absorb me, "going towards what makes me happy" might not have happened. Sure, the end of the marriage was inevitable, as it is for many women, but being able to leave everything behind to find my happiness -- I just wanted you to know I realize I was luckier than many women who are economically trapped in their marriages, and thus their lives. 
How to find happiness -- moments of joy -- in the midst of that?

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