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What If You Resolved to Let Something Go Rather Than Add Something This New Year?

A new approach to New Year’s resolutions.

On New Year’s Day, just as I was debating possible New Year’s resolutions, I received an email that inspired me to toss most of my ideas out the proverbial window. The message came from a web community called The Hive, a “home for wellness, spirituality and growth,” founded by a dear friend.  In it, the author suggested a very different approach to resolutions. Why not, she asked, let something go rather than take something on?

This question held a lot of appeal to me since, when I reflect on 2019, my most my significant reaction is “busy.” Perhaps I’m not alone here?

Busy-ness as a fortress.

Please keep in mind that being busy is not uncomfortable for me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m hardwired for motion, action, doing. (This is, in part, why the movement of yoga is such a profoundly good way for me to get myself to be still.) But I really went overboard last fall creating my post-full-time-mother life. Once again, I’ve learned that, even with good things, there is such a thing as too much, too fast, too full.

In fact, for the past few months, out of the quiet space of my yoga practice the idea has started to blossom that the life I created when I built my “empty nest” feels a little like a fortress. In hindsight, I see that, as is my lifelong habit, I have once again chosen motion, action and doing. Rather than letting myself experience the extra space and quiet and freedom that could have been mine when I dropped my youngest child off at college, I panicked at the thought of being bored, feeling useless and feeling lonely.

I am starting to understand that it was fear of the unknown – slower, more spacious days – that drove me to fill my days to brimming. Yes, I have chosen work and activities that I love. But I left absolutely no space for Life to surprise me. I’m realizing that the schedule I designed as a fortress to protect me from feeling lost is actually serving the opposite purpose. My busy-ness is locking me away from the possibility that is always a part and parcel of embracing the unknown.

You must create space to allow new things to thrive.

The idea that we have to make space for new things to thrive is not particularly innovative. Every gardener knows that you have to split your thriving older plants (and give some away!) in order to make space for new additions. It’s the same with closets and bookshelves. We need to sort out the old in order to have space for anything new.

That said, I’m not sure I have ever thought about the idea of needing to make space in my daily life for something to new to appear. Perhaps this is because for the last 22 years, I have not been in charge of most of what has filled my days. I’m used to squeezing my work, hobbies and relaxation around my family schedule. As my children grew up, these parameters began to fall away and I mostly rejoiced at the additional space in my days for “me time.” But I failed to realize that these “limitations” were also holding space in my days to change gears, to recharge and (sometimes) to do nothing.

Quiet and stillness are fertile soil for dreams and growth.

In the early days of 2020 I can now see that it is this space that I am missing. It is in these spaces that I sat still long enough for new dreams to percolate, for new goals to begin to seem attainable, for my battery to recharge enough that growing once again felt exciting rather than exhausting.

This entirely self-induced, overly-full state of being is most certainly the reason I was still struggling to settle on a resolution in the wee hours of January 1. The thought of adding something new to my days, even something good for me, was making me feel panicky. By contrast, the suggestion to let something go felt interesting, exciting, possibly even life-giving. While I am still pondering exactly what it is that I will let go of this year, I wanted to extend the idea to you, too.

Is there something you can let go of that is weighing you down?

What could you let fall away? What is weighing you down? What is making you feel cramped? What is limiting your freedom to dream? It’s very human to hold on tight to the familiar. Join me in being brave. Remember that it’s only when we relax and open our tight, fist-like grip, that we have space in our hand (or heart, or life … ) to receive the gifts that Life has to offer.

I wish you a happy and perhaps lighter new year!

Meeting with a spiritual director is a great way to gain some clarity on your priorities and choices. Curious? Drop me a line to learn more.