Welcoming a New Year – The Other End of the Leash

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I am writing this on Monday, January 2nd, the year two thousand and twenty three. An arbitrary date, of course, depending on the whims of history and culture. Yet, I love the ritual of dipping into the river of time, and the gift it gives us to reflect and look ahead.

You all know, no doubt, that New Year’s Resolutions are an excellent way to disappoint yourself–given how quickly they tend to fall off the table. I stopped making them years ago, (see my “Not Resolutions of 2010” for example) but still love the idea of setting intentions for the year to come.

I did a lot of reading over the holidays, and was inspired by an article authored by Amanda Morris about NY’s resolutions, inspired by people with disabilities. Claire Richmond, who has a rare liver condition, said she thinks about how she wants to feel in the new year, not what she wants to do. I love that. LOVE IT.

What about you? How do you want to feel in 2023? Interesting question isn’t it–and of course, it drives what we do anyway, right? Here is my list; I’m looking forward to yours:

   Taken by Steve Dahlgren

 

I want to feel LOVED AND LOVING. If I could pick only one thing, this would be it. There are lots of reasons for that, including the knowledge that feeling loved and loving make me happier than anything else in the world. A girl can’t live on Chocolate, Cosmos, and Netflix alone. Besides being happy, feeling loved turns out to be a critical predictor of overall health, according to a study described in The Good Life, based on a long-time study of people from both wealthy and poor neighborhoods. Most New Year’s Resolutions, by the way, turn out to be primarily about health, according to one study. Exercise more, eat better, etc.

But why? Why exercise more? Why eat better? To be healthy right? But why be healthier? I don’t know how most people would answer that, but I’d say to live a long, and happy life. Of course, exercise and nutritional food are crazy important, but . . .  so is feeling loved and loving, and according to the study above, more important than anything else.

Speaking of feeling loved, you know I’m going to the dogs now, right? I don’t want to discount, in any way, how much Jim’s love, and the love of friends and family mean to me. They are the best things in my life, hands down. But, close behind are my dogs. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through the long, dark winter of a painful divorce without a dog to curl up with at night. I love watching Skip and Maggie play together so much that I get depressed if one is injured and they can’t play. I love them so much sometimes it hurts, and their love for me feels boundless, pure, and unspoken. (All the better that they can’t, on occasion, blurt out something cutting, as I write about in For the Love of a Dog.) I could go on about dogs and love for pages, but I’ll force myself to stop here, after feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for all they they give us.

Feeling loved. Yes. Feeling Loving. Yes. Now my job is to figure out what behavior to encourage to support that–more talks with my nieces, more visits with family, more time laughing with friends. I’d say “more telling Jim how much I love him,” but I do that multiple times a day (and he does for me), so we’ll just be sure to keep that up. Feeling loved and loving also makes me feel grateful, one of the best feelings of all.

I want to feel AMUSED, CURIOUS, DELIGHTED, and AWED. All of which, really, is about feeling JOYFUL. I get bored really easily. Really, really easily, which is why I LOVE traveling to new places, seeing live performances, learning new things, laughing at great comedy–including the wit of many of our friends. This year, while still being careful about Covid and The Next Horrific Health Scare Lined Up to Terrify Us, I am going out of my way to create a world that includes travel, learning new things, laughing with friends, and being awe-struck by the beauty that surrounds us. I’ve already planned a few things, some big, some small, that make me smile just thinking about them. You?

I also want to feel ENERGETIC. This might be another way of saying healthy, but I love that it focuses on the feelings I want, not the actions. I love so many things in life, and the fact is that they take energy. Feeling full of energy is harder if we’re ill, or in bad health, full stop. It’s also harder as we get older, something staring me in the face lately after my 74th birthday. Focusing on feeling energetic makes it easier, for me anyway, to think about what I eat, rather than some generic “eat healthier” mandate, or even something more specific and measurable (good things for effective resolutions) like “eat more beans and nuts.” I am working on that very thing, (Amy’s French Country Vegetable Soup for lunch, just saying), but framing it as feeling energetic versus being healthy works better. But that’s just me. You?

I want to feel RESPONSIBLE and ACCOMPLISHED. I just can’t live in this world without being an actively-involved citizen. I just don’t feel like I have the right, with my reasonably good health and reasonably good resources, to ignore the problems around me, locally and globally. I was very active last year in a number of issues, and after a brief pause, I’ll be back at it in 2023. My challenge is to accept that I can, and will, only do so much; that I can’t solve climate change and suffering and abuse all by myself. Neither am I willing to dedicate my life to it, although others do and I applaud them for it. I’ll be working on forgiving myself for not doing more, and being compassionate about my choices. (You never hear about much of this work, because it’s political, and it is SO important to me, and many of you too I hear, that we keep politics out of this space.)

I also like to accomplish things. The roots of this no doubt began a long time ago. Like so many of us, it was my accomplishments that got attention and praise while growing up. We talk about this in my Meditation class, how common it is to be seen for what you’ve done, versus who you are. One useful phrase in our class is “Nothing to Be,” as in “You are enough just being alive.” I treasure this concept, and . . . it’s challenging for me, because I love checking things off, and looking back at what I’ve done. Right now, I’m excited about finishing a first draft of my mystery novel in a few months. So . . . that’s my challenge for 2023–how to hold together both liking to get things done, and not needing to get things done together, and savor that they can live side by side, harmoniously and in contradiction.

I want to feel PEACEFUL. Okay, this might seem truly contradictory with all above, but it’s not really. I want to have peace about the choices I make. Peace in focusing on what I’m doing rather than “monkey minding” my way through doing the chores, making dinner, washing my hair. This will always be a intention for years to come; I’m working on it now–savoring the breeze and bird song while walking the dogs, enjoying the feel of my dog’s fur while brushing them out, rather than what I am making for dinner–but I’ll never stop needing to focus on one thing at a time for the rest of my life.

WAIT, DON’T DOGS DO ALL THIS ALREADY? I did not design this post to summarize with this, but it literally occurred to me while writing in the last paragraph that dogs do all these without any thinking about it. They are as loving, most of them, as any creature on earth. They seem especially attuned to receiving love from us. They are amused, curious, and delighted much of the time, at least the dogs that I tend to love. Whether dogs can experience awe in the same way that we do is up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they can. Accomplished and Responsible? Did I mention that I have Border Collies? I wish I could bring you all to the farm to watch Skip throw his heart and soul into getting the single, sick ewe into the barn for treatment, or Maggie’s face when she wins the tug toy from Skip. You don’t have to write To Do lists to feel either responsible and accomplished. I admit that not all dogs fit into this category–our Cavalier Tootsie’s accomplishments were warming our laps (and well done too!) and reminding us, very responsibly, when it was dinner time. But still, dogs, pretty much embody it all.

And you? Are you reflective this time of year? Thoughtful about the year to come? Make New Year’s Resolutions, and keep them? Or not? I’d love to have a village-wide conversation about this. Please ask your dogs to chime in if they could. (Perhaps I should write a separate post based on their resolutions? I can see it now: “Find ways to encourage Trisha to drop more food on the floor.” (Maggie) “Work sheep twice, not once, a day.” (Skip.)

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Today, surprise!, was one of those days that did not begin as anticipated. Life happened, and my plans of spending a few energetic, curious, and delightful hours taking photographs for this week’s post are off the table. (And I’m so peaceful about it!) So, I leave you with these photographs, including a classic southern Wisconsin winter woods scene, complete with a dog (Skip) somewhere in it. I did not take this with any intention of playing canine Where’s Waldo, like many others have. But after I got back from our walk, I looked at the photos, remembering I’d taken one of Skip on the Woods Trail. But, where was Skip? I was sure he was in the photo.

He was. And is. Your job, if you want it, is to find him. I will give you a hint: He’s there, but very small. Look very, very hard. (No cheating in comments if you’ve seen this on Facebook!)

Here’s another scene when we still had snow on the ground–we really did have a winter wonderland for awhile:

We got very lucky in the big storm–cold yes, very, and windy yes, very, but no serious damage and only 4-5 inches of snow. Whew. And now we have my least favorite–ice mud. Almost all of the snow is gone, except patches of slippery ice and snow where you least expect them, framed by the kind of mud we don’t usually see until March. Lots and lots of towels, because lots and lots of muddy paws. Sigh.

I will leave you with the Oak that I call the Mother Tree. I walk by her on our Woods Trial, and love her like a friend. May you feel as loving, and loved, as I do, and inspired by the beauty of nature around us.

But wait, a reward if you’ve kept going! Here’s a zoom in of Skip in the woods, easier to see him for sure. He’s not in the foreground, but closer to the beginning of the sky, up against some wood. See him now? No? I’ll send an easy version next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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