§ My intentions were laudable. (And, yes, I am very familiar with that saying about just what the road to Hell is paved with!) §
Several years ago I began foregoing New Year’s Resolutions in favor of a “Word of the Year”. Having tried and failed at many a resolution, I saw no point in setting myself up for certain failure; it was simply depressing, and merely reinforced my bad opinion of myself. (I feel the same way about goals. Goals are something I set simply to prove to myself that I am a failure. I don’t set goals anymore, either.)
So, casting about for some way to create some type of resolution-that-wasn’t, I’d been struck by an idea: I could forego a resolution, yet choose a focus: a character-building, life changing focus for the coming year. Not a goal, I decided; a focus. (God is in the semantics, I told myself.) I could chose just one meaningful word, and I need not attempt to accomplish it so much as to merely keep it at the forefront of my mind, making it active in my life.
I found creative ways to bring my attention to bear upon my Focus Word. That first year, I hid post-it notes and scraps of paper throughout my home in places where I knew they would not be easily found, yet were sure, sooner or later, to be discovered. Since it was unlikely I would turn the heavy mattress on the bed more than once during the year, a note emblazoned “My Focus This Year Is” was pushed into the thin hollow between the mattress and box springs. Another went under the couch cushions—I had been known, from time to time, to actually lift them up and vacuum beneath them (or at least search for loose change). I wrote my word on random pages of my blank diary. I secreted one beneath a throw rug. And, yes, one note, slipped into a plastic bag, went into the bottom of the vegetable bin in the frig!
Amazingly, it worked. I came across those notes again and again throughout that first year, forcing me to keep my attention centered on my Focus Word, and gauge how well it was working.
I’ve used many Focus Words in the intervening years, and I’ve learned to choose them with immense care. The Universe, I’ve learned to my great dismay, will cooperate with me—oh, yes, will it ever! Choose Peace as a focus word, and every possible non-peaceful situation imaginable will be tossed at me like errant baseballs. And, for the love of heaven, never, ever, choose Patience !
So one would think that, at the start of 2019, I would have displayed better sense. I would never have chosen to focus on the word Restful.
My intentions were laudable. (Stop right here! Yes, I am very familiar with that saying about precisely what the road to Hell is paved with!) Nevertheless, I felt I was doing the right thing. As an apprehensive person, easily anxious, often subject to panic attacks, I could learn to be Restful at the core and center of my being, no matter what the Universe happened to toss my way on any given day.
Yeah, sure. And the sun will begin rising in the west; the earth stop spinning on its axis. President Trump will stop tweeting, and my cats will never again wake me for breakfast long before I want to roll my butt out of bed.
I will say only that having chosen Restful as my 2019 Focus Word has been, ummm, interesting. (And, yes, I am also well acquainted with that other saying, the one about the Chinese curse!) I was certainly not aware that so many simple, everyday situations could roll themselves like a snowball heading down the Matterhorn, cascading into an avalanche and scattering destruction in its wake.
Did I, as planned, learn to find ways to feel Restful despite the chaos stirring all about me? Not so much. But I can say unequivocally that my success lay in realizing how often I compound that same chaos, frothing it like foam overflowing the top of the coffee mug. I was startled to discover just how little I rely on the tools available to me: deep breathing, positive self-talk, meditation, or even just using the word “No” when needed to protect myself. Slowly, ever so slowly, I have discovered that I am sometimes capable of reaching a state of calm; that serenity is available to me, despite the fact that everything about me is overflowing with frenzied motion, with fear, or with stress.
In the end, I think that the gift of this year’s Focus Word was awareness. I am, as never before, aware of, cognizant of, the ways in which I contribute to the disorder of my own life. I am aware of the ways, also, in which I can mend that situation.
I wouldn’t ever again willingly choose Restful as my Word of the Year! But perhaps having done so once wasn’t such a mistake, after all.