In my latest blog post, Intermezzo, I wrote of taking stock of 2013, a year which for several reasons I’m glad to see in my rear view mirror.
That’s not to say that many wonderful things didn’t happen last year, they did. But there were some unexpected challenges on top of some tough moments, and the year certainly didn’t play out quite as I’d thought when it was new and bright and shiny last January.
It’s just as well we aren’t always able to foresee the twists and turns in the road, or the myriad changes they bring. If we were, sometimes we’d take one look at the looming adjustments, shifts, reversals and deviations ahead and choose to crawl back under the covers, vowing not to come out until a season or two has passed.
Real life isn’t like that: doing a disappearing act when things get tough or sitting it out until things settle down isn’t an option. Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned – over the years, through the ups and downs and vagaries of life – it’s that we’re capable of handling far more and far worse than we think we can.
Whether we’d care to do so is another matter, but it is liberating and reassuring to know we can deal with change far better than we think. You know, ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’, and all that stuff.
In addition to having a renewed appreciation for the importance of mindfulness in daily life, my lovely, reflective interlude at the end of 2013 taught me that I needed to adjust how I approach New Year’s resolutions.
Let’s face it: I love me my New Year’s resolutions.
I’m fond of assessment and analysis and growth – personal and professional – and making lists.
I’ve always enjoyed reviewing the previous twelve months, noting the little victories and causes for celebration (and yes, even the lesser screw-ups and big fat failures).
I like combing through the residual matter of another year gone by for insights and lessons and areas for improvement.
Then, like a witches brew, I like to stir the cauldron and mutter some incantations meaningful only to me, and voilá – whether through magic or alchemy or scientific reaction – I come up with a short list of those actions and mantras which will illuminate the path ahead and guide me along the way.
Signposts, if you will.
It may seem that mindfulness – deliberate, continual observation while suspending judgment, also known as being ‘in the moment’ – is at odds with reflection and resolve.
Actually, it’s not. Not at all.
Mindfulness is the process taken to mine the raw natural resources of your life – those actions, reactions, situations and experiences which, at a later time, become the fodder of your contemplation and reflection, and ultimately the fuel for your improvement efforts (i.e., resolutions).
And so it goes, a repetitive cycle. Mindfulness, reflection, resolution. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Reflection and resolution without the mindfulness in the first place is like looking at finished products and assuming they’re a given – unchangeable – rather than seeing them as the composite materials they are.
So how did this all conspire to make me adjust my beloved New Year’s vows? Rather than drilling down, I went the other way, moving up in camera angle for a clearer view.
I went for the bigger picture.
In our case, we’re in smack in the middle of that humongous transition known as repatriation. We’re dealing with monumental change, issues of coming and going, leaving and arrival, loss, differences, crossing cultures, introduction, unfamiliarity, career adjustments, life construction.
Change comes both at warp speed and a glacial pace. My overarching wish, desire, fervent hope is not to skip this process, or fast-forward through it (while attractive, these aren’t realistic), but to gut it out and do the hard work necessary to make this transition as fruitful as possible.
In other words, I want to embrace it and experience it in the moment, and do what needs to be done to not only get us through but to come out on the other side happy, healthy and living an emotionally engaged, culturally connected, meaningful life.
Thriving, not simply surviving.
This overarching goal translated itself into the following triad of resolutions: three actions I’ve committed to doing on a daily basis, a small number of things I’d like to do more of in the year ahead, and a few things I’d like to cut back on or do less.
What are they, you ask? I’d rather not say right now, because that’s not the point. They’re personalized for my situation, our life. You can be sure they include creativity and writing.
Sure, I’ve got some specific things I’d like to achieve in the year ahead, but they aren’t my resolutions; my resolutions are ‘bigger picture’, and it’s my belief that in focusing on them, many or some or a few of the smaller, more specific achievements may come to pass.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a current or former or aspiring expat/TCK/global nomad/serial wanderer or what we euphemistically refer to as monoculturalists (i.e., living within your home culture). We’re all dealing with transitions of some sort or another. We’re all at the beginning or in the middle of or approaching the end of some form of significant change in our lives.
That’s why I’m sharing these thoughts in case you happen to find relevance, whatever your situation. For what it’s worth, I hope you find taking a larger view more instructive for the transitions you face, and the change that is, or was, or will be.
[Image credit: Stuart Miles, portfolio 2664 of freedigitalphotos.net ]