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( The view into the Tang valley in Bumthang- site of my four month sabbatical)

 

It is strangely fitting that the only post I put up in 2015 was about my new year resolutions and that my first (of hopefully many) post of 2016 is again about my new year resolutions.

I cannot claim to have succeeded with all the resolutions I wrote in 2015, in part because I offered up no metric. And I want to continue to work on spontaneity, health, beauty and kindness but my last year demands a shift in focus.

2015 was a strange year for me. In terms of anything measurable, it was the year I did the least but it was also the most satisfying and successful year that I can remember in a long time.  The year started with me deciding that I needed to leave my job, which had increasingly made me unhappy and stressed. The year ended with me deciding to go back to my job, not with my tail between my legs but after having negotiated the terms and completely stepping away from the administrative responsibilities that made the last year so miserable.  In between I went “home”  and stayed with my parents in rural Bhutan where they are working on creating a heritage site in my mother’s ancestral home. Every day was busy but in many important ways, my almost 4 months with them let me sllloooooooow down. There was no internet, no TV and no social obligations or appointments.  I got time to read, write, think, pray and just sit and enjoy the (spectacular) view.   I am back in the city now and I start back at work in about 8 days but I feel changed. I am not a different person, instead I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. Of course, I am worried that I will slip back into an unhappy place and I see my resolutions for 2016 as a way to stop that as much as I can. I hope that knowing things can be different is the motivation I need. Fingers crossed!

 

  1. One of the things that I want to hang onto from my time away from the city is slowing down. I read a wonderful book by Christian McEwen  called “ World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down”  and it is full of ideas about how to slow down in the face of all the ways in which contemporary life encourages us to be fast and busy.  One of her suggestions that I am making into a resolution is to make a list of enjoyable slow activities (like writing a letter to someone by hand) and then do at least one slow activity each week.

 

  1. I want to write more and get more of what I write out into the world. Before I left the city, I went to my very very first writing workshop and it was less frightening and more useful than I had imagined. For me this was like publicly acknowledging that I do what to write. While I was away, I read a lot of books about writing and they were largely helpful and thought-provoking. Several of them suggested that you have to write every single day. Natalie Goldberg in “ Writing down the Bone” talks about writing as “practice,” how not everything we write will land up being good enough to be read by others or published . Instead like anything you might be trying to learn to do well, the more you practice it, the better you will get. That’s one of the most liberating things anyone has ever told me because it takes off so much of the pressure to write perfectly every single time. Additionally I listened to a wonderful interview with the graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang where he talked about how to combat the common fear writers have of getting things wrong “ with humility and with homework.”    I find the acknowledgement of the difficulty and hard work that goes into brave writing that aspires to be “right” so inspiring.
  1. My parents are the most generous and forgiving people I know and spending an extended period with them really reminded me of this. I was often infuriated at how frequently people take advantage of their kindness and I felt fiercely protective of them, of their time, their energy and their resources. But my parents are not stupid, they know when people are attempting to use them or cheat them and their response to this is an amazing blend of pragmatism and compassion.  When I came back to internet access I came across this great quote:  “When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence.”  That is exactly what my parents are doing, building a longer table, including more people instead of shutting them out.  I want to try and do that more often. I want to work toward being welcoming and inclusive. I worry that in recent years less than pleasant social and professional experiences have made me build barriers and blocks as a form of self-protection. In 2016 I want to try to take down my fences and expand my table.
  1. Last year I said I wanted to look after myself better and I think by quitting my job and leaving the stresses of city life I succeeded at this resolution more than I had imagine possible.  I want to continue to focus on this because well-being is a constantly moving target.  I was so inspired by Sarah’s decision to hike the Grand Canyon and the preparation and thought that she put into making it happen. After the hike she told me how the experience had changed the way she felt about her body, instead of thinking about its size or even shape she thought about what her body could do.  I love that and this year I want to make a stronger, healthier body my focus. Instead of only thinking about how it looks or what I can fit into, I want to focus on what I want my body to be able to do.
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