When I was young, I had a record (yes, a vinyl record) of children’s Christmas songs, one of which was called The Day Before the Night Before Christmas. I can’t recall all the lyrics, but some of them were, “…it’s the day before the night before Christmas, and I’m busy, busy, busy being good. It’s the day before the night before Christmas, doing everything a good girl should…” As one might predict, the singer was taking every opportunity to demonstrate to Santa that she has a well-deserved place on the “Nice” list.
Inexplicably, I woke up with those lyrics running through my head this morning. It’s amazing what trivial information the vault of our mind contains, truly. Never one to ignore the trivial, though, I started thinking about those words, since (after all) today is the Eve before the Eve before New Years.
I know that it’s tempting to wait until the last minute to enact change in our lives. I notoriously start flossing regularly when I receive a reminder card about my dental cleanings, and of course resume any ill-fated exercise regime a couple weeks before my annual check-up so I can confidently report what my “usual exercise routine” looks like. It’s human nature…well, at least its MY human nature…to shift into high gear when I know that accountability is about to find me.
There are areas of my life where I enact change because I want to, of course. What is harder to deal with are the areas where I lack motivation to change. People telling me what I should do, or that it’s good for me…that is not all that motivating, I have to be honest. On my more passive-aggressive days, it might even ensure my non-compliance. In order to actually change, I first have to take in the possibility of change, to really know and believe that I’m getting benefit in either the short-term or the long-term (even better, both!). Then, I have to integrate the change into my routine in a way that feeds me, and helps me realize the benefits of change. This whole process of motivation to change is what social scientists understand to be the root of all positive behavior changes: we even have a fancy word for it, the “Transtheoretical Model of Change.”
[Note: For some of us, and we know who we are, fancy words and empirical evidence also help us make these shifts in our own thoughts and actions. It’s OK, really.]
Back to my point, though. It’s the Eve before the Eve before New Years. It’s a good day for me to ponder: what have I done this year that makes me want to take note of its benefit, to encourage myself to stay on the course and keep growing? That is probably a better mental exercise on the day-before-the-day-before than getting out the big stick and beating myself up for what changes I have yet to accomplish.
Phrased this way, my biggest achievement of 2014 is probably stillness. In 2014, I have worked to refine being still, and listening to what is offered to me in that space. In the 43 1/2 years prior to 2014, I did a really good job at filling up all the spaces of my time, attention, and energy. I haven’t lost that urge, trust me. But, an appreciation for a time of daily stillness has become incredibly important to me this year. I was able to “hear” things in that space that I would have missed, that have given me strength and confidence, and wisdom. Yes, stillness will remain in 2015.
Next up: resignation. I learned, finally, how to step away from something that wasn’t serving me. It’s not in my nature to step down, and even when I have done so in the past, I generally craft an excuse that makes it sound better than it really is. I learned how to resign authentically and honestly this year. I left a position that wasn’t serving me and I have no regrets about it. I’m making less money, woo hoo! I’m working just as hard as ever if not harder, and seeing less in my paycheck, hooray! No tangible rewards on this one, at least not short term or to society’s standards. But, I have peace of mind; I have freedom to pursue work that feeds my soul and the satisfaction of enjoying it. Now, I know how to engage the process of stepping away so that the next time I feel the need, I will not go through the internal anguish that I did reaching the decision.
Finally, discernment. This, I didn’t learn on my own. I have had circles of people helping me, supporting me, challenging me and teaching me the difference between deciding, and discerning. In fairness, the value of discernment was predetermined for me. I didn’t intuitively want to like it. I stepped into a process with the Episcopal Church that valued discernment, and I had to learn how to slow down and appreciate how to discern, rather than decide. My personal nature isn’t all that process-oriented. I like making things happen, and getting all the details tied up in a neat little package with a funky eye-appealing wrapping and ribbons to hold it together. That isn’t what discernment is about, though. It is the iterative process of stepping in, offering what we have to others and working through a process of actively listening, patiently waiting, and jointly hearing the wisdom that is offered in the process. The spiritual and emotional place where I closed my 2013 is very, very different than where I am closing my 2014. Discerning is a supported process where knowledge and wisdom meet each other. Actually, I learned to love it. There’s a peace here for which I am deeply and reverently grateful.
So, here I am. The Eve before the Eve before New Year’s. Instead of being “busy, busy, busy being good” I am still; I have learned the art of resignation; I am continuing to discern and growing with each iteration. It’s a joyous place to end the year, and to move forward in faith to what 2015 offers.
Yes, yes…and I will resolve to resume my exercise routine, too!