Yesterday, after I took the kids to their father’s house, I spent the first Christmas in 19 years alone. It was a good day . . . contemplative. On a long walk, under the kind of blue sky that stings it’s so gorgeous and clear, I realized that much of my life has been ruled by obligation.
How much of yours is too?
It’s easy to see how this happens. Our various life roles come with obligations: parent, spouse, partner, child, writer, friend, worker, manager and so forth — each is at least moderately defined by the social circles and cultures within which we live. Yesterday, while staring at the bare winter branches against that stunning sky, I wondered what it would be like if I could transform at least ¼ of the should themes in my life into want-to themes. What if I framed my daily writing requirement into a privilege? What if I looked at exercise as a time for joy? What if the deep emotional work I’m doing isn’t so much a shedding of the old as an exploration of the unknown?
I first studied reframing intensely in graduate school. There, while training to be a therapist, I saw how powerful it could be. Indeed, much of therapy depends on reframing to be successful for without viewing things anew, a person stays mired in his or her uncomfortable present. In more recent years, my practice of daily gratitude forces me, on occasion, to apply the technique when I most want to pity myself . . . or when I want to blame others for something in my life.
As happens frequently with my walks, I had a small epiphany. I realized that many of my New Year’s resolutions also stemmed from a center of obligation. (Do you see how insidious shoulds can be?) So how could I reframe my heavy sense of have-to around this time of year into can’t-wait-to?
Here is the beginning of what will probably take me most of the week to settle into, but I thought I’d share my resolutions so far . . .
In 2012, I can’t wait to
- reward myself for trying something new without any thought to success or failure
- dance as often as I can
- look for an adventure and take it
- eat dessert first
- relish days when I don’t have to do anything
- play as much as I think while writing
- embrace . . .
So what about you? What New Year’s resolution do you want to stand on its head?