Look back over 2015 and what do you see? A string of experiences and dilemmas to which you responded, reacted, or resolved. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.
The “worse” is what helps us formulate our “New Year’s Resolutions.” I do it just about every year: when I was sixteen, I resolved to stop smoking, and I did–for a while anyway. When I was fifty-five, I resolved to lose thirty pounds, and I did–for a while anyway. Today, I could make a long list of the “resolutions” I wanted to achieve over time, but I would probably bore you.
This year I am not “resolving” to achieve anything in particular. Weight loss would be good. Finishing my book would be better. But these accomplishments wouldn’t be enough for me to feel I had had a successful year when I face 2016 as 2017 rings in.
Reflecting on the uncharted waters through which I sailed in 2015, I examine those experiences that made me grow as a woman, as a wife, a mother, and a writer. What made them unique?
I acquired a new daughter-in-law, as well as her extended family, and was surprised by the close new set of relationships this union provided. I supported my husband as he faced a medical problem that had plagued him for years. I strengthened my connection to my ex-husband and his wife by inviting them to share our intimate Christmas celebration, despite our past problems. I helped my sons gain perspective on their continually evolving lives, as they mature in their thirties. I introduced a highly respected author to a large audience, despite my nerves. I made myself vulnerable to criticism from a writer I respect, and lived to tell the tale. And last, but not least, I reduced my current novel by about fifty pounds–rather than worrying about those infuriating extra inches around my mid-sixties waistline.
All of these events shoved me outside my “comfort zone.” Yet, none of them required me to reinvent myself or to flip my life upside down. Basically, I listened to what grabbed my attention on creative, spiritual, and loving levels and let my own sun shine.
I’d like to see 2016 be that sort of year for me. To stay flexible, to learn from whatever I do wrong without castigating myself, to love those who love me back. For me, this is not a time for general resolutions I may never achieve. It’s more like “pushing the reset button,” as a friend said to me recently.
I have wasted so much of my life being resistant to change. Any kind of transformation has been accompanied by excruciating anxiety. For me, this past year has been a wonderful example of how much we can grow if we relax into change. Leaping into the unknown has rewards that are rich to reap.
At the outset of my writer’s retreat in November, I was dismayed–devastated, really–to hear of my novel’s difficulties and failures from the writer with whom I had signed up to work. Despite my admiration and respect for her, I wondered about the strong criticism she offered: What if she were wrong about the new direction she recommended I take? Would the book still be mine if I followed her suggestion to tear it all apart and rebuild from scratch? Would my own creative vision remain intact?
It has taken me a bit of emotional and artistic juggling, but over the last two months I have discovered that I can use her critique well and still make the book mine. There is both joy and satisfaction in resetting the very bones of my novel. Renewed energy abounds every time I sit down at my computer, and I am eager to get to work each morning.
I’ve reset the button on my creative work. I’ve reset the button on my relationships. Will I be able to continue to enjoy new challenges like these, and let them me carry me forward into the new year? I sure hope so. But maybe Oliver Wendell Holmes said it better: “The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”