Hope in the New Year
“It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love New Year’s resolutions. And I’m not talking about the kind of resolutions that involve going to the gym or giving up caffeine. I’m referring to the goals and intentions that we set for our lives. We look back on the previous 12 months and decide what we want to improve on, build on, embark on, and then we, in theory, spend the next 365 days “doing” them. Because surely these new resolutions will bring us the fulfillment and happiness we all seek, right?
This year, I’m kicking off the New Year with my 8th sinus surgery in 8 years. Ever since my second bone marrow transplant, I’ve struggled with constant sinus infections and bacteria and molds and weird funguses that creep way too close to the sinus/brain border. I’ve been to all the doctors. I’ve done all the tests. I’ve tried the holistic route and, in my most desperate moments, I’ve turned to spiritual and psychic healers. No matter my method of choice, it’s always the same story. The new person entrusted with healing me starts full of ideas of ways to “fix” me. I, in turn, leave their office filled with new hope and excitement only to find that, in the end, I have the same unsuccessful outcome. When my nearest and dearest heard I was preparing for my 8th surgery that is once again trying to fix the same problem, they wondered, why? And all I have been able to tell them is that I’m doing it because I’m hoping it will help.
As humans, we all struggle with the glossy illusion that the grass is always greener. We think- man. If I just lived in that house or were going on that trip or working in that job or had that family or able to fit in those jeans or have that much energy or only be sick this many times a year or have that well-trained dog who doesn’t slather every person in his path with slobber ridden kisses then I’d be happy. Fill in your blank- we all have one. These fairy tales we tell ourselves keep us moving towards that thing we think we need to be happy, but then we are quick to forget that once we do have that thing we thought we needed, we don’t stop and enjoy the happiness we’d been chasing. Our blank is quickly refilled with the next thing we think we have to have in order to be happy. And so the cycle goes.
Yesterday, I looked at my kid’s New Year’s resolutions lists and recognized them as more of a collection of false notions of things that would “for sure” make them oh-so-happy. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly certain that getting more “W’s” (aka wins) on Fortnite won’t lead my son very far along the path to enlightenment. And he’s fairly certain that reading 15 extra minutes at night won’t bring him any closer to true and lasting happiness.
So as I sit here and write to you today, I’m thinking back on my past year and this year going forward. True, it’s not starting at all how I had thought. Up until two days before Christmas, I had envisioned myself entering the New Year strong and healthy and ready to kick some ass right from the start. But life doesn’t happen as we’d planned, and this unforeseen surgery is just another example of God’s bigger plan for our lives. Or maybe it’s the blank I think I’m needing to fill in order to find that grass is greener happiness.
Resolutions give us a focus. They help us to aim, to aspire, but they can also set us up for disappointment if they are created with too much attachment. We truly have no idea what the year will bring, but as humans, when it comes to planning our futures, we still aim high and hope big.
We can enter the year with the best of intentions, only to be knocked down time and time again. And it is in these low moments when we feel like everyone else has it figured out and “if only we…” these are the times when we have to remind ourselves that our own journeys are just that- our own. Even if another person’s path looks shinier and easier and happier, it’s just not the case. As Brene Brown says, “Stay in your lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.”
So as we go together into this new and exciting year, let’s try to readjust our focus from illusions of greener grass and brighter joy to our own hopeful futures. It will look different for each and every one of us. Do your best to say in your lane. I will be in mine, which means moving forward with the hope that this surgery will help. And, by help, I don’t mean fix because, for me, I understand perfect health is not a realistic goal. My health does not look like anyone else’s health, and that’s okay. I’m proud of my body and what it has overcome. Believing I need perfect health to be happy robs me of the joy available to me now- in THIS life, I’m living- my own.
It will take courage, but we can do it: this year, let’s take the time to stop and appreciate exactly where we are in our individual lives. Let’s stay in our own lanes where we can welcome the creativity and joy that is uniquely ours. Let’s have our resolutions be a sign of our greatest hopes. And when/if things go off course, let’s have the faith to remember we can steer ourselves back in the direction of the life we want. Our happiness is not dependent on a singular destination; rather, it is how we see the road- full of opportunities to turn towards hope…again and again.
I’m so blessed to be going into this year with each of you. Now let’s go make it a great one.
In love and hope,