New Year: Living With Intention, Not Resolution


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A playful picture I took for a friend in 2013, French for Happy New Year!

 

Another New Year, another chance to change bad habits, or change things we don’t like. That’s been the focus of each New Year for as long as I can remember. I used to buy into the idea of resolutions, and each year I’d search my life and commit to changing something that I thought needed changing: lose weight, study harder, volunteer, stop swearing (a losing battle every fucking year), etc, were all things I vowed to do. Right after the holidays, losing weight was a recurring resolution– a reflection of my own insecurities. And that right there is what stopped me cold, a couple of years ago. My New Year resolutions inevitably became New Year’s failures, before spring, and the resolutions themselves were often a reflection of my own insecurities or issues with self.

My mother died five years ago, on New Years Eve morning. I had spent all but two days sitting with her in Hospice for three months, as she willed herself to die, having suffered with Huntington’s Disease for many years. She let us all know that she didn’t want to live, and I understood her wishes. Her life had become a constant series of falls, injuries, and a dissolving autonomy. So when she broke her elbow, I helped her get into hospice, and I spent every day for three months helping her reflect on her life, and let go. What was most striking was how she let so many insecurities and vanities slip away, as she grew smaller and more reflective. She no longer cared if her long, elegant nails were polished, or if her hair looked perfect. She most wanted to know, who loved her, who was there.

At the time, I didn’t really see any connection to myself, other than this was my mother– our relationship long, complicated, and challenging, and I was facing her imminent death. I was keenly aware that I had things to resolve; I also knew that I might never see some things worked out and tied up neatly. I had no illusions that some things would be left unfinished. I simply wanted to find grace; I wanted to help my mother feel peace, after a hard life. I crawled into bed with her most days. We watched shows from my childhood, that Mom found comfort in: Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons took me back in time, and allowed me to work on old feelings. They brought a sense of peace to Mom, and while she didn’t say it, I imagine they reminded her of a time when we were little and things seemed less… long, complicated and challenging. 

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Watching someone you love die is not easy, but it can be very cathartic. Both Mom and I were able to say things we might not have said otherwise. We both let our guard down. She was grateful that I was there to advocate for her wishes, and reassure her about things; I was grateful for the many quiet moments we spent. It was autumn when she entered Hospice. I had two foreign exchange students, in addition to my own teen son to consider. The holidays then brought the usual crush of planning, and I felt torn between being with Mom and being home each day. But it all so brought life into keen focus. When Mom died before sunrise on New Year’s Eve, the last thing on my mind was making resolutions.

And that’s where resolutions faded away. In the months after my mother’s death, so directly tied to New Years, I found myself really thinking about resolutions and all the times I’d made these annual promises, only to fall short, and consequently feel worse about my inability to change. Vowing to lose weight is a tall order for most of us; it’s not so easy as simply wanting to change. When faced with health challenges, insecurities, or desires to be better people, many people see the New Year as a time to focus on those changes. Weight loss programs target the New Year, in ads that promise to help you be thinner, prettier and better overall. There’s a universal focus on New Year’s resolutions, and while I get the timing and concept, I no longer buy into it.

Perhaps it was my Mom’s death– which shook me out of my normal routines and forced me to look at a lot of things. I can’t say that New Year’s resolutions were a central focus, but I remember clearly thinking that I wasn’t ready to commit to something, knowing that so many of those resolutions had fallen by the wayside. I had worked so hard for those three months: to be strong, clear and committed; I didn’t feel motivated to do more. But there were still things I wanted to change. It was the approach I chose to change.

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As friends began to talk about New Year’s resolutions, as I read them online and all around me, that year, I realized that rather than make resolutions, I wanted to focus on intention. What intentions did I have, that I could put my energies toward? Could I simply notice the things I wanted to change, and gently put my intentions toward that change– no deadlines or consequences? Could I be kind to myself, and not place unnecessary pressures on myself? That was the direction I focused on, and I found myself much more successful in bringing about change. Rather than make a resolution to work out daily, I set an intention to walk more, and be more active. It was for my overall health and my desire to change this area. I was gentle with myself; I kept my intention on change, but didn’t chastise myself when my efforts weren’t consistent. If I felt tired on a given day and didn’t take a walk, or feed my 10,000 step Fitbit goal, I allowed myself to be ok with that. In gradually letting go of the pressure and deadlines, the intentions became things I could just surrender to. And I did better at following through.

Some people need the clear expectations of a New Year’s resolution, to jumpstart change, and a New Year is a logical time to think about new things and goals. Making a promise helps a lot of people feel more committed to change. However, I’ve found that the endless cycle of promising change and then feeling disappointed in myself, only makes change harder and hasn’t worked. They say that with age comes wisdom; I’m finding that my older self is less interested in being hard on myself. An intention allows me to focus on change, in a less punitive way. Intention is important. If you say you’re going to quit smoking, lose weight, stop swearing, or whatever it is you want to change, simply because the calendar has rolled over to a new year, I believe you may set yourself up for failure. There’s always a New Year to fall back on; there’s always the joke of broken New Year’s resolutions. Instead, think about why you want the change– why does it have meaning to you, in a broader picture? Do you want to live a healthier life? Are you tired of not feeling good? Then focus on that intention, without judgment or anxiety. Focus on change for the sake of caring for yourself. Live with intention, and change is bound to happen.

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This year, I made myself into an emoji, thus driving my kids nuts– forever!

 

My intentions for 2017 are to write more; to meet my Fitbit goals each day that I can, to be kinder and more connected; to stand firm against the things I take issue with… and so, you can look for me at The March on Washington, January 21, 2017. And check out my note next to Tinker Bell, below… no more goals there either!

Wishing each of you a happy, healthy and successful New Year, whatever your focus.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do they work? Share your thoughts in the comments; inquiring minds want to know! 

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GIPYKAPOW!  I did not meet the 2016 goal for likes on the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page; missed it by 14! So this year, I’m not setting a goal. I’m grateful for each Like I get. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (yes, for real)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2017  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
Aside | This entry was posted in Aging, Awareness, Blogging, Connections, Dawn Quyle Landau, Death of parent, Gratitude, Honest observations on many things, Personal change, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to New Year: Living With Intention, Not Resolution

  1. Laila says:

    I reflect over the year that has past and think of what I want to focus on for the year to come. This year it boild down to one word: rest. I need to learn to rest, to allow my self to do nothing to let my body, and even more importent after last year, my brain to rest and load the batteries again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh man do I hear you! I’ve had such problems with sleep for several months now, and it’s really catching up with me! Rest should be high on my list of intentions… working on that! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; it’s much appreciated, and happy New Year, Laila!

      Like

  2. I’m deeply sorry you lost your mom. Thank you for sharing what you went through.I’m sure that you being there with her so close by her side brought her immeasurable comfort. Death really does put things into stark perspective.

    For me, I’m trying (trying!) to approach every day with the intention of being more compassionate and kind to everyone I meet. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never really understood the whole concept of a “new year” anyway. Every day is a new chance to change something for the better in your life. Wishing you many peace and blessings, Dawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SO very true, Darla~ each day is indeed an opportunity for change and renewal! I am a big believer in kindness and reaching out to others. It sometimes slaps me in the face, but I really do believe there is no other way… We must reach out and connect, at every chance. Glad to have connected with wonderful folks like you and the many bloggers who have made my life so rich! Happy New Year!

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  3. Very yogi of you– intention centered. I like it. Never one to make resolutions. Happy 2017– I too hope to be vigilant and active. I’ll be at the Women’s March in NYC– busy knitting pussyhats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so want a pussy hat, but afraid it won’t keep me warm! Can’t wait to see that see of pink!! Thanks for knitting; thanks for your friendship, and thanks for your kind words, Lisa… you’re the best!

      Like

  4. Basant She says:

    You never fail to impress me with your posts of raw emotion, thank you so much for constantly sharing. I wrote a similar post about resolutions last new year’s which is why I’m so thrilled about this! I’m going into the new year with the intention of being kinder – both to myself and others. I hope you have a year full of happiness and joy ahead of you!

    Basant She
    https://thoughtsofasociallyanxiousextrovert.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. shoes says:

    Perspective. The death of my dad almost 5 years ago left me with a lot of perspective and rearranging and classifying of what is truly important in life as it sounds like it did for you. I don’t do resolutions, but I do enjoy reflecting and reliving the greater moments, no mater how small, and striving for more time with those I love.

    A very happy new year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Shoes,” thanks so much for this very thoughtful and personal comment; it means a lot to me. I think we could all learn a lot from reflecting and pausing more often. It’s something I’ve had to work at! If you’re interested, I currently have a blog hop up until Jan. 5th: #BloggersUnite for #50HappyThings; perhaps you’d like to link up? I’d love to see your list! Here’s the link to find out morehttps://talesfromthemotherland.me/2016/12/18/50-happy-things-bloggers-unite/ NO pressure! Thanks for taking the time and Happy New Year!

      Like

      • shoes says:

        You are welcome. Your post spoke to me and I wanted to respond. Thanks for the invite to the blog hop but I am going to take a pass. I barely blog on my own site these days. Good luck and have fun with it!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Kindler and gentler with oneself– i like that but oh so hard.
    Love your message and focus, Dawn. Thank you for writing it so
    eloquently and thoughtfully.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Then focus on that intention, without judgment or anxiety.” Beautiful!! I hear you. No resolutions here either. Just plodding along, doing my thing as best as I can. I love that you watched your mother let go of “insecurities and vanities” before she died, focusing on what’s truly important in life: love.

    I’ll never forget a past life regression I had, and when I was brought to my death bed, the message was that love is the only thing that is truly important, and it transcends death. Even with your mother gone, she still loves you (but I bet you already know that).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful and powerful post, Dawn. Most of us could stand to be more intentional in our lives at every time of year. The New Year is a great opportunity to remember this.

    I am setting a NY resolution—to do some kind of good or kindness every day—mostly because it keeps me accountable. If the day is nearing its end and I haven’t gone out of my way to do something good, I remember and get on it! I, too, want to stand up for the things I believe in and help create a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We can all make more effort toward these things, Catherine. I really focus on kindness. It’s easy to be nice, and generally you disarm people when you are. I find that so many folks are willing to return the kindness. It’s a good resolution to have… or intention! 😉

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  9. hbksloss says:

    Great post, especially as so many start the new year off with resolutions that go no where. Hopefully living with intention will get us all much further into creating a peaceful, balanced and joyful life. Here is my take on resolutions: http://www.theartoflivingfully.com/yogic-sankalpas/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jane Overby says:

    So sorry to hear about your mom. I lost my mom in August, 2016. My dad and I decided we had to put her in a nursing home three years ago, just after I was diagnosed with breast cancer and smack dab in the middle of chemo (I’m also a single mom of two boys). You may know this, but breast cancer survivors take hormone therapy for 5-10 years to keep from having a recurrence that is terminal. But along with that drug come horrific side effects: the worst joint, muscle and bone pain imaginable. I was going home from work and covering my lower body in heating pads until bedtime. I woke up at 4 am every morning with my legs throbbing so badly, I cried. One flight of stairs was my limit. My boyfriend was raising my kids. My new years resolution was to stop taking the pills that prevent cancer and REALLY live the breadth and width of my life, especially with my kids, and always in the present moment (this is harder than it sounds!). Weird new years’ resolution – one that could ultimately kill me. But I want my life back while I’m still here. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane, Thanks so much for taking the time to read my work; it’s much appreciated! I’m so sorry you’ve been through so much… in addition to your own health issues, the loss of your mother too. What a hard, hard year! I believe that each of us has to make the right decisions for our own lives. I hope this approach works for you, and you are able to remain cancer free! All the best to you in this and the coming years.

      Like

  11. Judah First says:

    One year I gave up guilt for Lent and then decided I was never taking it back. 😉 It’s difficult to keep making New Year’s resolutions once you’ve dumped guilt. Takes all the fun out of failure, ya know?!

    I love this post, Dawn. Intention has definitely become a bit of a buzz word these days, but your take on it has given it fresh meaning for me. I especially loved this: “…there were still things I wanted to change. It was the approach I chose to change.” Amazing what a change in approach will do.

    This is a 10 year in numerology, so, may your 2017 be filled with desired endings, happy beginnings, and loving intentions (to yourself and others).

    Peace and Light,
    ~C

    Liked by 1 person

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