NEW YEAR 2022
All The Good You Are
Don’t panic; it’s not a Yoga Post.
I panic when I try to be, or to become, someone I am not. As we get older, we have a sense of ourselves. There are things we would like to change, things we know we should change, whether we like it or not, but there are also things that we should not change. That’s the subject of this post.
There’s been a lot in the press lately about coercive control. About intimate partners who tell us how to behave, how to dress, how to be. Sometimes, it’s not a lover; it’s a boss, or even one of our children. Sometimes it’s a ‘know better’ friend. Rightly, we need to reject those kinds of manipulations. There’s a world of difference between someone who is trying to help you, or guide you, and someone who wants to control you. If you ask for advice, you might not always like what you hear. And yet, the advice could well be good advice. If you weren’t worried about something, you wouldn’t have asked in the first place - and if the answer is easy to hear, well, you wouldn’t be struggling with the question.
So we need to listen to those who love us - and that’s why I am hoping that one of the people who loves you, is you.
When we love ourselves we can accept criticism from ourselves. We can hear the difficult answer. We can accept that we have done wrong, messed up, failed in some way. That doesn’t make us failures; it asks for reflection, and correction. Part of being a grown-up is to accept responsibility. We try to guide our kids as they grow up, but we forget that we are all growing up all the time, and everyone needs guidance at whatever stage of life. Otherwise, we don’t grow up, we just get older; self-justifying and oblivious, set in our ways, out of touch, pontificating, complaining, fearful and rigid. The kind of people we laughed at when we were young - we said we’d never be that way.
Did we forget?
Life is so fast, so busy, so crowded, so full of demands, that we do forget ourselves. Literally. We forget who we are. We might remember to exercise, and to eat properly, and get some sleep, and all that is so important, just as time to read and to think seriously is important. Don’t drown in trivia. But to remember ourselves means spending a bit of time with ourselves, as we would with a friend. A connection. A conversation.
Can you manage an hour a week?
Maybe it’s two half hours. Maybe it’s 15mins a day. I like an hour once a week because I like to slow down my mind - which is hard for me. That means time to ease off the pace and then to get into the reflection. What happened this week? And underneath what happened, what got triggered? What did I handle well? What didn’t I handle well? What were the great bits of the week? Even, the great bits of me?
Yes, give yourself credit where it’s due. Don’t just be a blame-machine.
Some people go to therapy. Some people pray. Some people meditate. Some people do Yoga. If I do Yoga, even on my Peloton screen, I get so bad tempered that I have to do a HIIT ride to lower my blood pressure. I will never be a person who yogas, just as I will never be a person who really likes swimming, or who opens the fridge, and shouts, TOFU TONIGHT!
Resolving to try yoga, (again), or swim more, or to eat the T-word once a week, is not me. Such things will not make me a better me. The better me comes out of working with who I am, not with who I am not.
And by the way, I do think it is important to try hard at what we don’t like, from time to time, just by way of an education, and in case we need to break through the pain barrier. I have had a few surprises that way. But not with tofu…
Recently, I have realised that we imagine that self-improvement is about change. What do we want to change? There’s plenty of truth there, but not when it becomes obsessive. When all we do is to focus on what is wrong. When we start to coercively control ourselves.
As the year begins, it’s a good moment to focus on what you don’t want to change. Your New Year Resolutions can include holding fast to who, and what, you love. Celebrating what you have achieved. Delighting in what you have managed to do so far. Totting up the long list of good things - new and old. Finding kindness for yourself.
Maybe the pandemic has forced a shift in working and home patterns and you want to keep some of that. Maybe you realised things about yourself, this last, strange, crazy, difficult year. Maybe you know you have to leave. Maybe you discover you want to stay. We’re all different. All I ask is this:
Don’t bully yourself.
Don’t be disappointed in yourself. Being disappointed in some aspect of your behaviour, or your life, is not the same as being disappointed in yourself. In turn, wishing things had turned out better, doesn’t mean you didn’t try your best. You can’t control the outside world. The world is random and unfair. Often, because we can’t control the outside world, we seek to control those near to us. Too often, we seek to control ourselves in a way that is not about restrain or modification, or patience, or just learning how to manage our own power - that’s all necessary and fine. Self-control is a huge part of growing up. Don’t confuse self control with coercive control
When you work out what you want to change this year, also spend time on what you don’t want to change - and throw a party for what is good in your life. Your good. Your life. Yes, and your party too. Be proud. Be glad. Be thankful. And don’t worry too much about the Yoga.
HAPPY NEW YEAR.