new year

Broken Resolutions

Sometimes I feel like a teenager. I don’t refer to the manic energy of high school, but instead to the pregnant pause of the summer that follows Senior Year. That’s a time when the home of childhood becomes burdensome and tight, when it chafes at the new adult-sized form of a once-child. In that era, every word from a parent is an abrasion, and the protective walls are a prison.

The new thing calls. Soft at first, but more loud each day.

There is a problem. A teenager lives off the means of people who’ve invested decades in work. Their home, however modest, is lavish compared to what youth may acquire on its own. The world outside is both inviting and forbidding. But Nature has a plan.

Discontent will grow until it is stronger than the assurance of familiarity. A tipping point is reached. And then, a chick now fully feathered, takes flight and soars to places unknown.

Because of the tipping point.

It is a New Year, that season when so many have eyes for a new life. This is the time when our dreams come near, when smaller pants, a cleaner home, and the work we dream of seem close enough to touch. We start the first week of a New Year full of enthusiasm, and the free time of our Holiday makes the troubles of the last year seem far away.

A week into the year everything starts to shift. The job we use to pay the bills demands our attention. The first bills of the New Year are due. Our resolutions start to seem impossible–a full 25% of those who made a decision to change abandon those dreams now.

A week into the New Year can threaten our dreams and a fiery frustration buds, with a putrid flower of disillusionment to follow–but only if we let go of our dreams.

Lean into that frustration. Put your arms around it and pull it close. Focus on those parts of your life that feel Old and Tight. Study them, and know their every shape and shade. The disappoints of today are your fuel and your fire, they are the voice the calls you to do the hard work of dying today so the new thing in you can be born.

The gap between where we stand and where we long to be creates energy, but the pace of progress can sap our reserves. This is worse in moments of relapse, when we find ourselves slipping down the slope.

The donut. The missed workout. The intimidating pile in the garage. Or, the exhaustion of a long day that keeps us from picking up the paintbrush.

Failure. Anyone working toward meaningful change will taste it often. When that happens, the frustration we feel turns inward, and suffocates. Self-loathing and a toxic sludge of shame can follow.

If frustration is the fuel for the engine of change, then grace is coolant that keeps the thing from exploding. When we fail on the path to New, extending grace to ourselves is vital. It is only with grace that we can stand back up and keep walking, smiling and laughing at how we fell.

May your new year be full of frustration and grace as you stretch your wings and learn to soar.