What if, instead of asking myself, What do I want to do? I ask, Who do I want to be?
A hush descends on the earth when it snows. It's as if the fluffy white stuff that covers the ground and coats the trees and houses and cars also mutes the volume of the world. The rough edges are smoothed. The hard places soften. In the stillness, magic glitters. Untouched snow collects: fresh, like a blank canvas to be painted, like a story to be written, like a new year to be lived.
2016 sounded like science fiction when I was a child -- eons away. But in my 50s, the passage of time is accelerating at a spectacular pace. I am stunned to find myself, once again, on the brink of another year where change beckons and opportunities entice. Anything seems possible.
Yet, year after year, my lofty New Year's resolutions set me up for disappointment.
I can't help feeling excited to welcome new adventures, to shed old habits and create new ones. Customarily, I recap the events of the past year, analyzing what worked and what didn't; what I want to repeat and what I definitely do not. Using these conclusions, I look forward and set goals. I make "plans." As the list making, Type-A, get-it-done-now kind of girl I've always been, this appeals to my sense of control in the universe. The thing is, the longer I'm a mother, the more I evolve into a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, get-it-done-whenever kind of girl.
And the older I get, the more I learn control is an illusion.
I set my goals anyway -- not so much written down as voiced in conversation or even just in the back of my mind. Exercise and good nutrition, organization at home and work, time management, stress reduction, quality relationships with family and friends. You know, the usual.
Fortunately for me, exercise isn't just a daily habit; it's my job. A healthy diet, on the other hand, is a work in progress. I wage my own battles with food, but even when I'm eating healthy, getting the kids onboard is tough. And undoubtedly the biggest endeavor I pursue every blasted year is to organize my home. But, as Erma Bombeck said, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."
On the home front, I'm grateful for all we have -- really, we are blessed beyond belief -- but our abundance can be overwhelming. We have too much stuff. Which goes hand-in-hand with too much responsibility, too much work, too much on-the-go, too much, TOO much, TOO MUCH! I'm caught between the visions in my head of a simplified, balanced life, all gears well oiled and running smoothly, and the reality of my cluttered home and frenetic schedule. I feel like a rat running on a wheel, going nowhere.
Inevitably, the enormity of my new year ambition weighs down my momentum and I'm left wanting a life that seems out of reach. I've got less time when I wanted more, more stress where I needed less. The time I want to spend with family and friends is greedily sucked up meeting endless expectations.
This year, I finally comprehend that I am the one imposing those expectations, often based on what others want.
What I want are dates with my husband and special mommy-time with my girls. I want time to myself, to write and reflect and be still. I want music and theatre and art and creativity and spirituality. I want to experience joy every single day. I want to laugh. And cry, too. Frequently. I want to engage in meaningful exchange. I want to embody the essence of love.
As I sort through the to-do list of my resolutions, it dawns on me I'm doing it backwards. My whole life, I've tried to shove a square peg in a round hole. Rather than forcing change by manipulating circumstances and driving myself -- hard, I can allow a natural unfolding of what I desire, simply by shifting my focus. By seeking joy.
Throughout her development, my daughter, Sydney has hit many plateaus, not uncommon for kids with Down syndrome. Progress toward milestones like walking and potty-training, feeding herself, tying her shoes and writing her name, stalled out. For a long, long time. We got discouraged and compared her, cajoled her. We pushed, did extra therapy and used charts and reward systems. Sometimes we gave up. But, honestly, it was all for naught. When she was ready, she made the leap, every time. She would just... change. Patiently, and without pressure, she let go of the past and emerged into the newest version of herself.
What if instead of asking myself What do I want to do? as I tabulate the multitude of things to undertake this year, I ask, Who do I want to be? What version of myself? Positing the question this way elicits a discernible shift in energy. Already I feel lighter.
In 1994 Dr. Masaru Emoto from Japan studied water molecules frozen into ice crystals and photographed under a high-powered microscope, expecting to see structures similar to snow flakes. The images captured revealed that each crystal bore a unique design; no two were the same. Water samples taken from pristine rivers and lakes created beautifully formed geometric crystals while those gathered from polluted sources yielded chaotic asymmetry with no patterns. The research went further, exposing the water to music, prayer, spoken words and even typed words taped to the containers. It appeared that positive thoughts and kind words generated intricate and magnificent shapes while exposure to negativity -- harsh words and emotions -- propagated results similar to those from the polluted water; misshapen and distorted without aesthetic beauty. What's more, after prayers were offered on behalf of water from the toxic sample, the crystals branched into crystalline symmetry, just as those from pure water sources and those exposed to music, prayer and words like gratitude, peace and love.
Dr. Emoto's work has been celebrated by many, but criticized, too, by skeptics who say his methods lack scientific controls and his claims are simply invalid. In answer to his critics, he has said, "the world is filled with wonders and mysteries ... there are so many incomprehensible things that we cannot understand it all." The photographing of crystals is neither science nor religion. He calls it art.
To me, their beauty is awe-inspiring and irrefutable, and the concept that human consciousness can have an effect on the molecular structure of water is not implausible. In fact, to me, it's downright fascinating to consider that every thought, feeling and intention carries its own signature and impact. Albert Einstein, the father of modern physics said, "Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter."
Einstein says we are living in an energy field, inextricably interwoven with everything around us, our cells taking in and letting off particles constantly. Everything is vibration: change the vibration and change the reality.
Based on this principal, if I change my thoughts and words, I change myself.
I need only observe my life in action to see the truth in this theory. The days I'm rushed and harried, I inexorably get in line behind the slowest customer checking out with the rudest cashier. The days I'm especially exhausted are marathon days full of appointments and impossible deadlines, countless texts, emails and phone calls, with no time for rest. My frustration mounts, tension creeps in and my mood and attitude reflect it. Those are the days negative energy culminates at home, when the girls fight and misbehave, when unkind words are spoken, tempers are short and we're all pulled in a downward spiral. It is interactive and exponential.
Then there are the days I step outside and feel the early morning air on my face, and see the moon, and feel grateful to be alive and in this body of mine. When I have a bounce in my step after teaching to an amazing group of people, the energy in the room positively electric. When my daily dealings are pleasant. I have a smile for everyone I meet, and the smiles coming back at me are sweet and genuine. When the nurturing compassion of my best friend far away reaches through the phone line and encircles me. When peace through me when listening to music. When I'm met at the end of the day with squeals of delight from my girls, "Mommy's home!" and my husband wraps me in a bear hug. Those are the days we dance in the kitchen.
I don't need a microscope to know that something inside me is altered -- not just metaphorically, but literally. Externally, things may not appear much different, but internally, I'm living in another universe.
Sydney lives there nearly all the time. Last night she came looking for me, just to give me a hug. Laying her head on my chest, she was still and quiet. Her gentleness permeated every cell of my body as I bathed in her innocence. "I love kisses with you," she whispered. Placing my cheek next to hers, I closed my eyes. This child, from birth, has slowed me down and opened me up. I can breathe when she's near me. She resonates the serenity I'm chasing.
I think this year I'll resolve to become a beautiful ice crystal.
By exposing myself to magnificence and kindness and grace, negativity dissolves; what no longer serves me is released. The almost imperceptible shift brings into alignment the person I am with the person I am becoming. Which affects everyone around me.
I am unique and part of the collective. Just like the newly fallen snow; when the sun breaks through the clouds and bright light reflects off billions of glinting snowflakes. Together, they make up the expanse of vivid white blanketing the earth. The individual brilliance of each of us on the planet comprises the world's consciousness: we are one.
When I change myself, I change the world.
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