Slightly incoherent thoughts on the new year

fireworks

It’s the first week of the new year, a traditional time for looking back and looking forward. And because my birthday is in January, I traditionally take the whole month to look back and look forward. It’s handy having both things in the same month, really. No ambiguity.

I have been gardening this morning (yes, really) and listening to podcasts about the new year. I regularly listen to writer podcasts and they have all taken the chance with the change of calendar to talk about goals and resolutions, thoughts and hopes for the new year.

One was a ‘how to’ podcast, saying that our goals or resolutions for the new year needed to be holistic, taking into account the growth of our souls, the states of our relationships, and our physical bodies, before coming up with any writing or creative goals for the year.

In one of the podcasts the host had just attended a tragic traffic accident a few days before and suddenly all her new year goals were shown to be trite and small in the bigger picture of life.

One podcast was broken into two parts, the first aired on the 31st December looking back at the old year and whether the host had achieved her goals, and the second on the 1st January looking forward to her goals in the new year. To be honest, I really don’t understand how she did it. I have too many family things happening, people visiting, and extra Christmas and New Year bits and pieces to be able to think clearly through the previous year, let alone to concentrate on the new year. I might be able to do this later in the month but I can’t see myself ever being able to produce something coherent on New Year’s day.

There have even been some pretty amazing Facebook posts by my friends with pictures from throughout the last year, detailed summaries, and well thought-out goals. I’ve been so impressed.

I have been thinking about the year past, of course. But it took me two days of thinking to remember that we visited Vanuatu in April, and if something that major can go missing in my memory banks, I’m unlikely to synthesise a reasonable summary of the year at the moment. Much of what happened in the year got swallowed up and camouflaged by the health problems I have had in the last couple of months, and in the busyness of the year that Moz has experienced.

But as I look towards the new year I have hope.

My health will get better. It’s in the messy middle at the moment and I don’t know how long the messiness will last, but it will get better. And Moz’s work will not be as busy this year. We have put things in place, he’s not working full time, he will have more space in the new year.

I have hope, but I don’t have certainty.

I’m a person who likes to make detailed plans. I like to set goals, to make lists, to tick things off. And I find that I can’t do that at the moment. I’m just not sure what the year will look like.

What will my energy levels be like? I think I may have just graduated from having to take an afternoon nap every day. So that’s a bonus. But I don’t know when I will be able to work eight-hour days again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to take one hour walks in the evenings again. I’m not sure when my brain function will be up to keeping track of all the things involved in running three businesses.

All of this precludes me being able to set time-limited goals. I don’t like the thought of setting myself up for failure. I need to wait and see.

So while I have some ideas for the new year that I would like to try out, I am not setting any goals right now. I’m just going to step out each day, holding God’s hand, and take it as it comes.

It’s not comfortable, but it’s where I am. And maybe it will stop me from living in the future and will enable me to live more in the present, right where I am now.

Where are you with New Years goals and resolutions? Do you have detailed plans for the year ahead? Or are you just holding on by the skin of your teeth, trying to climb out of the pit that 2018 left you in?

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What’s your sincere desire?

Advent 1

Happy New Year! No, I’m not losing track, not that badly anyway. It’s Advent. The start of the new year in the church calendar. The preparation period. Active waiting. All that stuff.

And just by coincidence I have been thinking New Years thoughts. And I thought you might like to hear them, because if you think them too, you might be prepared to make New Years resolutions, or intentions, or ‘word for the year’, or whatever you do to mark that arbitrary date of January 1 in the calendar when it rolls around.

You, and I, might be prepared to start 2019 in an intentional fashion, knowing what direction we would like to push out our boat.

My mother recently gave me a book to read on prayer. It’s called I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark. It was first published in 1953, though Mum’s edition was published in 1978. And would you believe, a quick search has found it on Amazon? I’m pretty blown away by that. So you can buy it and read it too if you wish.

I’m only a quarter of the way through the book so far, it’s one of those that you read slowly, and at this point Clark is talking about something he calls ‘your soul’s sincere desire’. He says that God wants us to pray for our sincere desire. And that he will answer our prayer.

But this is where it gets interesting whether you are a praying person or not, because how do you know what you really want? Deep down, what you want in the depths of your soul. Not what you want to keep up with the Joneses, not what you want because someone else thinks it’s good for you, not what you want because you’ve been going that way all your life and to stop now is unthinkable because of all the time spent building up to this one thing.

What do you really want?

Clark suggests writing a list, brainstorming, writing out everything you want. People, things, activities, jobs, everything. Just write it all out. And be specific.

Take time to write the list. I took two or three days.

And then test everything on the list.

The first test is: Are the things on your list true to your nature?

‘A robin could not possibly desire to swim, and a herring could not possibly desire to fly.’ he says. But we, us humans, we can think we desire something that we actually don’t want. Check with yourself. Will you be happy doing or having the things on your list? Is that thing truly right for your nature?

Here’s an example. I spent a lot of my life wanting big parties for my birthday. Then when the birthday came around I wanted to run away and hide. A big party is not something true to my introverted nature. It is not a sincere desire of my soul. Now I realise that what I really want for my birthday is a birthday card from as many people as possible (a Facebook wish works just as well) and maybe a few good friends over for a piece of cake and a glass of something. That is a sincere desire.

At the same time Clark says that it is good to ask for things that are true to your nature. He says that ‘the apple tree that refuses to bear apples because the poor elm tree cannot have them, is not helping others, but obviously robbing mankind.’

I have truly desired to write books. If I stopped myself from writing because other people do not have the time and space that I’ve been granted at this moment, then I really would be doing a disservice to others. It is good to fulfil your soul’s sincere desire.

So look at your list and cross off things that aren’t true to your nature. I took a day or two to do this too.

Next test: Are these things just? Will you be ripping someone else off if you get what you desire? Are you asking for that job, or house, or whatever, just because you selfishly want it? Or will you use it to help others?

Next test: Are you willing to work towards these things? I love this one.

He says let’s say your desire is a trip abroad. Have you prepared for that? Have you studied the country, its history, its culture, its language, its famous sights? If you haven’t then even if you got given the chance to travel, you wouldn’t get much out of the trip. You need to put the work in first.

Or if you want to be a famous speaker, have you practiced? Studied?

If you want to be thin and fit, have you exercised? Looked at your diet? Or are you just praying in the hope that thin and fit will magically happen?

If you are praying for new friends are you willing to be friendly to others?

Are you willing to work towards the thing you desire? It’s an interesting thought.

That’s as far as I’ve got in the book. I might share more thoughts as I keep working through it. I am spending a fair bit of time at the moment looking at my businesses and thinking about where I want to take them in the new year. I’m thinking about what success looks like for each of the businesses, what I’m heading towards. I’m finding these thoughts, these tests, very useful as I contemplate the businesses. Is this honestly what I want? Or am I building an idea on what someone else found was good for them?

I hope that by January I will have found my soul’s sincere desires and will be willing to work towards them in a way that is congruent with who I am, and that will bless the most people possible.

Oh, and I want to finish with a word of non-condemnation. I am not judging anyone here. I know that circumstances out of our control – chronic illness, poor mental health, difficult financial or family issues – can take our dreams and make them seem completely unachievable. I’m not trying to tell you to work harder or just figure it out correctly and that if you do you’ll be sitting on a bed of roses by the end of next year.

I guess all I’m saying is that I’m finding it helpful to have a bit of structure around figuring out where I want to go, and by the end of the process I hope I have a prize to keep my eyes on while I navigate the difficulties that 2019 throws at me.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful for you too.

As we look towards the new year you might find that a little book I wrote called ‘My Year of Saying No‘ might also be helpful to you or maybe to someone you know. It might make a good Christmas present for someone who needs some peace and space in their lives. Just a thought 🙂

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