New Year, New You! (Just kidding)
Last year I wrote a blog post I never published about how I'd stopped setting resolutions and started setting intentions for my year. This is true. I no longer tally all the ways I am going to transform my body, mind and soul into the equivalent of Gwyneth Paltrow's glowing, steamed yoni. Pounds I would lose, exercise classes I would suffer through, foods I would stop eating. I love a transformation story, but I understood pretty quickly that none of these things would happen for my New Year.
And I did start setting intentions. In my very first, I resolved to stop showing up to things that made me miserable just because I thought I had to. My mantra: Stop doing shit you don't want to do. That whole year, I missed every book release party, literary reading, liquor-soaked holiday party, and awkward dinner gathering. Without alcohol, my social lubricant, these things made me want to peel my own skin off. So I stopped going.
In sobriety, I discovered I am an introverted person who enjoys the company of small groups, my dog, and a few excellent novels. I like a good party with your fanciest sparkling water, but not "being seen," or anything with a pecking order humming just beneath the surface of polite conversation. I'm a homebody. Unless you want to get coffee before 5pm.
That simple mantra led to others. It's okay to say no, something I knew but had trouble practicing. Say what you need. Oh, that one was a doozy. It's a lot harder to actually assert your needs than it is to just refuse someone else's. Do the next right thing, a 12-step slogan, and it's the practice that matters, or put another way, progress not perfection, another of my favorites from the 12-step groups.
Back to the blog post. I never posted it because something in it felt off. Too overtly positive. Shrieking at you that I'd found the magical formula for a serene, ultra-peaceful, super enlightened fucking New Year, and you all needed to know how fucking zen I am right fucking now!
Um, I'm not. That is not at all where I'm living this year.
In that long ago blog post, I was calling my new direction intention setting, but I was wrapped heavily in that dulling blanket of forced positivity.
Even worse, I was still living under the rule of militant goal setting, aspirations marked by outside achievements that would then validate my shaky self-worth.
For me, these markers meant publications, applause, a lower size on my jeans, a really good lipstick that you would look at and say, "Oh, yes, she has perfect lips like Kerry Washington." Because that's important, apparently.
I was still beating my wild, unwieldy, vain, petty, thrashing self into submission with the all the things I was not yet but needed to be.
For others, it's cars, bigger houses, white-sand beach vacations with the sole intent of putting photos on Facebook to rub it in your stupid ex-bestfriend's face that you have the perfect life, too, god dammit. It's endless, really.
In the hunt for acceptance, I leached the simple joy inherent in writing, movement, and drinking a really good cup of coffee.
I was a drill sergeant hell bent on loving myself as long as that self dropped 30 pounds, never ate dairy, and published an essay in McSweeney's, a magazine I actually hate. Nothing better than a hate fuck, amiright?
Did I tell you I accidentally bought a plastic surgery magazine?
This is not to bash women who have plastic surgery. I know quite a few women who enjoy their limp plumpers and Botox and a myriad of other torturous-sounding things. These are smart, shrewd women who are as thoughtful as they are generous. And I actually pay a stranger to lay me down spread-eagle in a glaring room and rip out all of my pubic hair. There is nothing more torturous-sounding than that.
But, in a St. Louis airport, I bought what I thought was a regular beauty magazine that would show me pretty clothes I can't afford and mystical creams I will never buy, but instead offered something much more insidious: an exhaustive list of everything I could possibly think is wrong with my body and an expensive, surgical way to fix it.
Flipping through the glossy pages of smiling women was like an implantation of perceived flaws. Hmm, maybe my one eyebrow is higher than the other. What if my profile isn't red-carpet worthy? Sure, I do have a stubborn tube of fat around my stomach, liposuction, you say?
This year I am not transforming.
That's the goal. No drastic weight loss, no finished book in 30 days. None of that shit. This year, it's all about the slow, methodical, incremental change that is a gentle life.
My mantra this year: Little things add up to big things.
Last night while journaling - a nightly practice that over the years has actually transformed my life - I had an epiphany. When I chase the outcomes - the thinner body, the publications, the Likes on Instagram - I am operating from a foundation of scarcity. I have to work extra hard to change everything about who I am and what I do in order to gain these external things that tell me I'm okay. It's a lot like downing two pitchers of shitty beer to feel connected to the people around you.
But that's not the point.
Creativity is infinite. Love is infinite. Spirit is infinite.
The act of reaching toward those things is what matters. The slow accumulation of time spent writing, loving, and connecting to things much bigger than ourselves. Doing these things because they bring pleasure, not because my small and vain self needs to do them to get some outcome that, again, tells me I'm okay. Most likely, I'm already okay.
My blog post from last year is not a bad one. In it, I am much more assured I know things about life and how I should live it than I actually know. This year, I'm shedding that. I don't know shit. A year of personal losses, family hardships, and other painful lessons reminded me of this. But, I do know writing, the simple act, keeps me well. Moving my body feels good. I feel a lot better when I eat food I cooked than when I microwave a sad tray of mush I shovel into my face while standing in my kitchen. Actually, who am I kidding? It's food the man cooked.
Also, I'm already, mostly, okay.