I learned something very valuable from two writer friends, Jill and Ann, both of whom live in North Carolina. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, Jill and Ann set a New Year intention and that intention is in the form of a single word. Jill selected MINIMIZE for 2019 and Ann selected ENLARGE.
The word-intention I have selected for 2019 is ACCEPTANCE.
You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, oh, sounds like Irene is giving up, lacking in hope, settling for less. Quite the contrary is true, and I’ll tell you why.
I chose the word ACCEPTANCE because applying that word in my life allows me to be more understanding and acknowledging of those with whom I may hold differing opinions. (Accepting does not equate to agreeing, it simply means I accept a person’s right to hold ideas and opinions that are not identical to mine.) ACCEPTANCE also provides me with greater ease of life as I accept reality rather than fight what can’t be changed. I read recently that arguing with reality can be harmful to one’s health; I’m not going to waste a minute on such fruitless efforts.
The concept of ACCEPTANCE started to seep into my consciousness when early in 2018, I watched the TED video, A love letter to realism in a time of grief. In less than twenty minutes of your time, you will witness what Mark Pollock & Simone George learned about reality and about the difference between being an optimist and being a realist. Here’s a teaser explanation that will perhaps explain why I came to choose my 2019 word-intention.
Optimists rely on hope alone and end up disappointed. Realists accept the brutal facts and keep hope alive. Acceptance knows that grief is a raging river and you have to get in it because when you do, it carries you to the next place; it eventually takes you to the open land where it will turn out okay in the end.
I guess if you don’t get into the river, you’ll get stuck and never have the opportunity to find out what lies just beyond the bend. I have stepped into the river, and although I might step out from time to time during this new year, I feel confident I will get back in because of the desire not to miss out on what I cannot see. You see, because I’m not perfect, I’ve set ACCEPTANCE as an intention, rather than a resolution.
With resolutions, it’s all or nothing, baby; the pressure is on to change that something-or-other you discovered and have resolved to change. Sometimes resolutions get abandoned within the first 30-days, others don’t get much farther into the new year because many of us decide to just give up and take up that resolution the following year, or the one after that.
Intentions, however, have a more compassionate energy because they are not tied to outcomes. When I slip up I hope to view that shortcoming with less criticism and simply start over because the next moment presents a brand new opportunity. If I were to break my resolution, however, I think I would look at that setback as a failure because of messing up the “fix” I had decided to make in my life. With an intended action, however, I am on a path to create, rather than fix. Creating seems to allow a bit more leeway, don’t you think?
I leave you with the words of Socrates to explain my decision to intend, rather than resolve:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
To make changes, a strategy has to be effective. Intention does that for me.
I started this Blog over seven years ago. This is my 986th post. I recently told a blogging friend, Jill Weatherholt, that my blogging changed over the years, especially as it relates to steering clear of topics that divide, e.g., political, religious, and the like.
In my very first post on September 20, 2011, I stated that I wanted to bring some sort of encouragement and light into the lives of, not just Baby Boomers, but everyone. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of essays centered around caregiving and Alzheimer’s, reflecting on my personal experiences with my father, as well as my professional experiences working in long-term care (LTC). But I wrote on other topics as well…
Back in 2016 – a very contentious year in US politics – I made the decision to stop writing anything that would ruin someone’s day because as many bloggers will admit, having a forum to speak your mind is a heady and powerful responsibility – about which some of us have been irresponsible. Thus the reason why, on September 12, 2016, 5 years after I started this blog, I wrote this post, Good Starts With Me – Irene’s About Face.
I am a columnist for Grandparents Day Magazine, an online publication based out of Adelaide, Australia. I wrote a piece for their July 2018 issue in which I suggested we might all do well celebrating our similarities rather than allowing our differences to divide us.
Community is so very important, more important to me than ever before. I hope that along with me, you will acknowledge our differences, celebrate our right to be individuals, and look for the good that binds us, rather than the bad that tears us apart.
- If con is the opposite of pro, then isn’t Congress the opposite of progress? – Jon Stewart
- I cannot stand people who disagree with me on the issue of Roe v. Wade … which I believe is the proper way to cross a lake. – Stephen Colbert
- As a new federal employee, I felt a combination of excitement and anxiety about meeting the strict standards of discretion and respect that our government imposes on its workers. Fearful of making a costly mistake, I decided to read up on procedures and standards on the federal Office of Personnel Management web page. I’m not sure if I was relieved or worried when I clicked on one page and found: “Ethics: Coming Soon!”
- Q: How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? A: Two: one to change it and another one to change it back again.
I rest my case.
Being kind is taking a stand. By itself, it might not help: maybe our kindness will be ineffective. The money we sent to alleviate hunger might be unwisely used. Helping an old lady cross the road does not eliminate poverty in a faraway country. And for every plastic bottle we pick up on the beach, another ten will be tossed down tomorrow.
Never mind. We have affirmed a principle, a way of being.
Microcosm is macrocosm: Each person is the whole world.
As many mystics and visionaries have pointed out, each individual, in some subtle and mysterious way, embodies all people.
If we can bring some relief and well-being to just one person’s life, this is already a victory, a silent, humble response to the suffering and pain of the planet.
This is the starting point.
Today’s Kindness Friday comes directly from the book, The Power of Kindness – The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, by Piero Ferrucci.
We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132
I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.
Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.
We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.
I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?
Part of what I’ve learned in my sixty-plus years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.
- Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
- A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
- Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
- Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.
All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.
Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:
The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.
Are you overwhelmed to the point that you say to yourself, What could I possibly do to make a difference?
The answer is:
You can make a difference because kindness trumps all.
I recently wrote Ellen Degeneres to thank her for her ongoing efforts to spread kindness. Sure, at the end of each of her daily shows she says, Be kind to one another, but she puts force behind those words in what she does for others. At the conclusion of my letter to her, I said the following:
We’re not charged with changing the entire world, but we can have an impact on the miniscule portion of the world to which we have access. You’re doing it, and I will continue to do what I can from my corner of the world. If everyone makes a fraction of a difference right from where they are, those fractions will add up to great things.
I’m glad I’m on the same kindness train as you, Ellen, and I’ll keep chugging along until I can’t chug any longer.
I sincerely believe that random acts or words of kindness can make a difference in the world in which we live. There are so many negative and hurtful words being thrust into our universe, can’t we just please try to balance out that hurt with words of encouragement, recognition, and nourishment?
Yes, nourishment. In all our daily interactions – be they via social media or in person – we can nurture the hurt that exists all around us. Our words, our smile, our actions may just change the life of someone forever. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that type of transformative nourishment? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it fill the emptiness within you that hungered and thirsted for confirmation that you matter, that you aren’t a failure, that you have potential?
Let’s revisit how that felt and commit to quenching the thirst of each person with whom we come in contact.