I’m not hoping for a better year in 2018. I hear well wishes at every turn, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I find myself seeking a more meaningful, honest response to their greeting. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t want to repeat 2017. Although parts were wonderful, parts were also almost unbearable. Like all the well-wishers, I’d like to think–to hope–this year will be easier on the nerves, less stressful, more manageable and full of sunshine, but I know better. I’m not a cynic; but in this instance, I need to be a realist. This year will hold its own set of challenges. It’s not that I’m really anticipating anything particularly catastrophic. (Those of you who’ve checked out The Farmer’s Almanac may have more insight.) It’s just that I’ve lived on this planet long enough to know better than to think that all sorrow will be eradicated with the turning of a page on the calendar. There will still be wars and famine, weather events and crime. These things will always be with us.
Instead of hoping for a better year, I’m hoping for a better me. I’m not talking about typical traditional New Year’s resolutions. There are no vows here to run five miles a day or start drinking my coffee black– God forbid! I’ve tried those kinds of resolutions in the past. We all know they don’t work, and we only get more depressed when our will power weakens and we resort back to our creature comforts. (And how does my cutting my sugar consumption serve the greater good? From a global perspective, who cares?) For me, the goal is grace. For myself and others. I’m not talking about waxing theological. The idea is maybe bigger than that. I’m simply saying let’s cut each other some slack. Face it–life is hard. Everyone is going through their own brand of stuff. I think we all recognize that, but we don’t always act like we do. I can’t fix the world. But I can work on me.
I can do something we encourage kids to do. When faced with a situation that might be confrontational or adversarial, I can try to think before I speak–or post or text or react in traffic. Is what I’m about to say (or gesture) kind? Is it helpful to the other person? Or is it just a reaction based on my current emotion? If my anger is driving my response, a red flag should go up. And then what? My best course of action would be to pause. It seems like such a simple act, but how often we forget and allow knee jerk reactions to replace kindness. We forget we have an option. There is power in the pause. It is there that we take control away from our emotions (a place that usually get us in trouble) and transfer it instead to our rational brain. It may be argued that this ability is what separates us from other animals. When we act (react) solely on our emotions, it usually manifests itself as animal behavior. When I think before I (re)act, there is a better chance I will not say or do something I will regret later. There is a better chance I might say something that might actually help the situation, might build the other person up. (If nothing else, remember the adage: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.)
If you can, take a moment over that sweet creamy cuppa and think on this idea of pausing for that fresh breath of rationality. Be empowered.