A first guest post by new contributor to recoverynetwork:Toronto, Agnotarte on an idea for how we can release oursleves from the annual tyranny of shoulding that is resolving to make a list of things we predict we’ll fail at this year – if we haven’t already…
Recognitions? What are you talking about?
Surely you mean, Resolutions! You know, those things that we muck up every year about this time.
Just when we are able breathe a sigh of relief that we have survived the endless Christmas season, the expectations, the necessary cheeriness, the painful memories of past Christmases, the inevitable post-25th letdown, the tentative planting of new, more positive memories in the present, the overindulgence, the simple desire for it to be mid-January already! Where is my pillow to hide under when I need it?
Finally, it’s over and I can get back to some sense of ‘normality’, whatever that is, but staring me right in the face are New Year’s Resolutions, the usual mixture of the fresh start, the ‘buzz’ at work or in the café about doing them, reading articles by psychologists and personal coaches on the how to do them and how to avoid the pitfalls, the quickly unfolding shame and disappointment of not achieving any of them, and remembering clearly the ‘defeat’ date for each one, so often so early on in January, carved into our sense of ourselves with every one of our subjective senses.
Just the sound of the word, Resolution, and I hear “shoulds” bombarding me from all directions. I “should” exercise, I “should” follow a budget, I “should” eat salads every day, I “should” do my Tai Chi every day, I “should” obey all these “shoulds”, I “should” make resolutions. Where is my notebook? I “should” start writing. I’ll have them done lickety-split.
Yikes, let me be.
A few years ago, I tried a new tack. Some one had given me a small hand-sewn booklet. In pencil for some reason, I wrote out a number of resolutions that sounded more like affirmations such as, I resolve to walk every day, I resolve to do Tai Chi every day, I resolve to call friends when I am down, I resolve to eat more fruits and vegetables, I resolve to meditate every day, etc. A dozen or so such general resolutions.
I tucked the little book away but I continued to think about it and within a few days I went back to the little booklet. It was simple to erase my resolutions and I rewrote each one, beginning with “I recognize”: I recognize that I feel better when I take the time to walk every day, I recognize that doing Tai Chi regularly is good for me in so many ways, I recognize that reaching out to friends works when I am down, I recognize that I thrive on a healthy diet, etc.
I continue to do this, although for the most part, I never write them down anymore. I simply renew my recognitions whenever I get back to doing any of them on a regular basis, in the first few weeks of getting back to the practice of Tai Chi, for example, and I am feeling the benefits in terms of strength, flexibility, balance and calm. “This works; I recognize that Tai Chi works for me, and I am happy to be back doing it.” I let go of the ‘shoulds’ and any sense of shame and disappointment.
So I stop for a while? Who cares? I do not have to wait for New Year’s to come around again. I do not keep score. No failure dates with this.
When I get back to the practice in this case, I have the opportunity once again to recognize that I benefit from it, that it is part of my personal wellness programme. And this process of recognizing what works for me is a key element in this wellness programme. I suppose you could say that framing these elements with “I recognize that” provides me with a series of gentle embedded commands, gentle reminders that I do know what to do.