Monday, December 30, 2013

Hurting for the Holidays: Self-Love for the New Year by Stephanie Durnford

photo by Jennifer Upton

For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.

"Each one of you is perfect the way you are and you can use a little improvement." 
-- Suzuki Roshi

Ah, the end of December. A time for planning, for celebration, for looking ahead to the new year. And yet, it's so easy for me to get distracted (and slightly overwhelmed) by the shine of a new year. I have mental lists, written lists, printed out resources, piles of books, journal entries, big dreams, little dreams, syllabi, planning, scheduling... oh goodness.

In this moment, writing all of that, I have to take a deep breath. I notice my fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the click-clack keys. I notice the stuffiness in my nose, the pressure of the impending sinus infection I'm trying to flush out with cups of hot tea, sweetened with sugar. Breathing.

This is often a challenging time for me. I seem to focus on all I've done wrong. How will I do better this year. Instead of celebration, it's asking myself: How do I overhaul every single thing in my life to make myself thinner, more beautiful, more productive . . .

If I'm honest with myself, the question that underlies all of that is: how do I change so that I'm not me?

By the end of December, I have put so much pressure on the coming year, as though when the sparkling ball hits and the new year's numbers light up in bright colors, with fireworks in the neighborhood going off and the clock going from 11:59 to 12, I will become a new person. That somehow, the magic of the lights and celebration will strip away nearly 33 years of my resistances, my walls, my procrastinations, a lifetime of Things I Want to Change and suddenly, magically - HAPPY NEW YEAR! And I will be The Best Me Possible.

I like improving myself better as much as the next person, but the last year or so have given me more tools to see what I'm really saying underneath my new year's resolutions. Underneath the desire to be a better me is a quiet whisper saying, "You aren't enough. You don't do enough. You aren't good enough. You suck. No one else has these problems. You. Are. All. Alone."

And it's a whisper, yes . . . but it's constant. A low grade hum like an oncoming swarm of bees. And when this whisper gets to its fever pitch - break out the lists, the rules of how to be a better person, the comparisons to others who "have it all together." Not so celebratory, I'll tell you.

Maybe you feel like this, too?

Thinking that the fresh calendar is going to make you a brand new person because the one sitting there reading (writing) these words isn't good enough?

That somehow, the constant list making about what to change will drown out that soft (loud?) whisper?

I want something less self-hating for us. I want to acknowledge the ways in which I am perfect the way I am, and the ways in which I need a little improvement, just as Suzuki Roshi told a group of meditation practitioners.

  • What would it feel like to acknowledge what might be underneath the resolutions? The busyness?
  • In what ways can we look back at the past year and see the good things that we have accomplished? How do we build on the goodness we already possess?
  • What might we celebrate about the fullness of who we are and allow to come with us into the new year? What additional fullness may we uncover?
  • Is there a way to find the dance between "perfect as you are" and "a little improvement"?

And if/when the whisper becomes a shout, how can we take care of ourselves? How do we rest in this moment without anxiety, before the clock strikes midnight?

Because we are not coaches made from pumpkins. The clock continues ticking, and we are still are fully created selves, perfect and needing a little improvement.

I love all the permission and encouragement that Stephanie gives us to be here, to appreciate the now, the present you, while also moving forward close toward the person you hope to be.  How can you walk this line of tension as we move into 2014?

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Stephanie is a (infrequent) blogger at Visible and Real. She believes in the power of stories, hot tea, writing, reading, and breathing into the hard parts. Somewhere in Baltimore, she is a writer, an explorer, a student, a wife, and mama to three squeaking guinea pigs.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King