In April 2013 I walked away from my life in Oregon and moved to my parents’ house in Ohio. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and it felt like failure. I was excited to be near my family after so many years away, but it was not the way I thought I’d celebrate turning 36. I’m not good at certain parts of being a grown up, but maybe no one is. However, I was hopeful that moving home would afford me the time and space to unravel what had gone wrong. More specifically, I wanted to understand why I kept making the same decisions that were never good for me and never gave me a different outcome. It was time to rewire my patterns.
I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions in the typical sense. They seem to set us up for failure. For many years I simply picked a word-of-the-year to focus on: Create. Transform. Collaborate. But these seemed to doom me to failure too. So last year, after months of struggling with the perceived failure I placed on myself for moving home in my mid-30’s, I made the deceptively simple decision to be kinder to myself.
Kindness is a game changer.
I ended the long distance relationship I was in and I quit drinking. Without going into the particulars, I will say that these were the kindest things I could do for myself at that time. By eliminating those two relationships (and yes, alcohol was a relationship) I created the room to simply be myself. These two endings also coincided with the seemingly innocuous decision to not cut or dye my hair for the next few years. (This was actually a rather bold choice considering I had shaved my head twice in the previous 7 years and dyed my hair almost every color imaginable once it grew longer than stubblefluff.) All of these decisions combined to give me the freedom to be still and to let the sand and silt of my life settle. This settling has allowed me to sift through and see what parts are really me and what parts are the masks I hid behind.
And for all of this to happen while living with my parents means that I also confront, on a daily basis, my own history and my own foundation. I am very much my parents’ daughter and I see in them, magnified, the things that frustrate me the most about myself. But I also see how these things form a roadmap inside my brain. If I can follow the map back to the beginning, I can reset the connections. At the very least, I’m starting to clear away some debris. And maybe that’s more important that finding the start of it all.
This past year has felt like a new start. In addition to being kinder to myself I am now trying to approach each moment from a place of gratitude. And this has led to the realization that happiness is a choice. The beauty I find in this crazy world can supplement my happiness. However, true happiness cannot owe its existence to an external source, because external sources can be taken away. But if I choose happiness for it’s own sake, no one can take it away, not even myself. For so long I didn’t really believe that I deserved to be happy, so I sabotaged myself every time I got close. And I also thought that being happy meant denying my darker side and putting on rosy glasses to look at the world. But that’s not what being happy means to me anymore.
Right now, being happy means being passionately and unapologetically myself. It means not getting caught up in bullshit. It means not losing myself to misguided ideas of who and where I should be at this point in my life. It means embracing this time with my parents as a gift. It means trying to be the good I want to see in the world. It means spreading magic and joy.
So 2015 brings less a resolution and more an extension of of my desire to be kinder to myself. A simple set of guidelines:
Live. Love. Laugh.
Live: participate more in the world around me
Love: give more and accept more
Laugh: genuinely and joyfully
Also for 2015:
–read all of Shakespeare
–try to learn some basic piano
–maybe take ballet lessons
–pet a sloth
(And I believe in the ripple effect, so watch out. Magic unicorn mojo is heading your way.)