I’m not a big fan of looking in the rearview mirror. I’ve long said it gives you a bitch of a stiff neck and increases the odds that you’ll miss something right in front of you. With that perspective in mind, though, I think that every now and then there’s some value in taking stock of one’s life and one’s learnings, in order to use those lessons as a springboard to greater mindfulness in the coming year.
So now, as I look forward to 2016 without looking too far into the future (you miss what is right in front of you and/or on the periphery if you do), I consider the following things (random, stream of consciousness):
This is the biggest and the heaviest bit of it all which, unlike most big and heavy things, is probably why it floated to the top. 2015 was the first year of my life that my dad wasn’t part of any of it. I could go on and on and on about how it is without him or how any of us is doing or what I’ve learned from his not being here. But the real bottom line for me is that while one adapts and one can choose happiness, when all is said and done and I actually think about it, I always conclude that things were better when he was here. It’s like everything now gets appended with a “but…” or and “if…” Not in a bereft regretful way, but for sure in a factual way. That’s the way it is, so you move along. But it’s like once you experience great loss, your overall capacity for happiness permanently decreases. You can still max out, but in different (lower) ways.
Making positive or necessary change. They say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit (and how many days of skipping something to break it???), which can be overwhelming. So this year I advocated for a two-week plan, encouraging myself and my friends in certain dire emotional/relationship/exercise/professional straits to bear down for two weeks “just to see” how things went. And in all cases, getting through two weeks gave the focus and desire and commitment needed to continue, because in two weeks, the good was illuminated already. So if you have a situation, take two weeks to work on dealing with it, and then re-group. Trust me.
This one’s a little materialistic, to the extent that it involves a thing. Or in my case, a pair of things. Like LL Bean 10” Shearling Lined boots. My mom got them for my birthday. In short supply. Made in the USA. Worn today for the first time, and damn, do those things kill it. A thoughtful and generous gift from my mom (she knew they were backordered which is why she made sure I had them in May), and I appreciate every stitch and every eyelet.
Don’t make life too big. Focus on your sphere of control. Find happiness and joy and beauty and light in love in what is close to you. Invest in yourself and the people you love. Celebrate small victories. Celebrate big ones. And more importantly, celebrate the losses with smaller-than-expected margins of defeat. Take any excuse to celebrate. Make any excuse to. You only go around once. If you make life too big, you get lost in it, or focus on stuff that is outside of what you can influence…and it takes away from your ability to enjoy and influence what is nearby.
If someone’s important to you, tell them. Often. Even if it drives them kind of crazy sometimes. Or tell people infrequently. Just make sure that you tell them at least once. They need to know. Explicitly. Because it will make them feel good. And they’ll never wonder. And if someone is important to you and for whatever reason you can’t bring yourself to tell them, at least don’t take them for granted.
Mindfulness & wellness may seem like overused, trite, and trendy words. But the practices of them are much underutilized, and really can lead to a sense of calm, compassion, acceptance, and peace. So try getting in touch with your breath, and watch what happens. Read 10% Happier by Dan Harris if you don’t believe me. I think 10% is a low estimate. I work for a company that sponsored a 4-week practice for us. It was great reinforcement, and also gave me a chance to meet some co-workers I wouldn’t know otherwise. Which takes me on a side path…my new job. There are dozens of new people in my life because of my new job (started March 30), and my life is enriched for knowing them. Let your circle expand every chance you get. This is not in direct conflict with “Don’t make life too big” above. This is a natural evolution, a natural expansion, which is a nice balance to the natural subtraction and contraction. Ebbs and flows, pluses and minuses, pros and cons…all about staying balanced in the aggregate. Right?
Believe in Karma. Karmic alignment is critical. Be karmically correct. The Golden Rule rules all. It’s all about the balance baby. What goes around does come around and sometimes it picks up speed along the way.
Assume positive intent. Honestly, why would someone who loves you have anything but?
Sometimes it’s hard to be the better person. But it’s hard work that is worth it.
Never underestimate the value of a smile.
It moves fast. Pay attention. Enjoy the ride. Be the driver. Be the passenger. Look out the windows. Take it all in. It’s gone an instant, so keep your eyes open. Enjoy it.
Best wishes for a full, happy, and healthy 2016.