For many people, ringing in the New Year will forever symbolize fresh starts and making a few heartfelt resolutions. With a whole new year ahead, there tends to be renewed motivation, and we all seem ready to pursue our hopes and dreams with rigor and a bold new set of intentions. A new year brings with it the feeling that one can conquer all demons, resolve all personal issues, and somehow, some way, exit the coming year feeling fulfilled and happy because everything went as planned. The air is rife with the possibility of change. It always feels like something special, something new, is on the horizon.
In the past, a new year for me always brought with it the latest diet – a new plan for a whole new me! In January I would be all in and ready to go full force with an exercise plan and new eating habits, but by April, I was predictably defeated once again. This happened year in and year out for as long as I can remember – until, of course two years ago when I decided for the first time ever, to not go on a diet. Instead I finally made some slow, steady, small modifications to my every day life that became big changes over time.
In order to really look forward, one must really say goodbye. We must say goodbye to the detrimental behaviors that have always “worked for us” in our lives. For example, I used food to cope with my depression and low self esteem – and that “worked” for me. It was difficult to give up my “go to” drug of choice. When I began to build self esteem (see Mindful Makeover) by doing things for, by, and with myself, my urge to binge and purge diminished dramatically. Food was no longer “working for me” because I didn’t need it in order to cope. Remarkably, saying goodbye to abusing food was bitter-sweet. Once you let go of your coping mechanism, you have nothing to cling to except faith in the process. Sometimes, when you say goodbye to bad habits, you have to walk blindly through darkness for a while with nothing but the promise of better days ahead to keep you on the path. The rewards are painfully slow to arrive. Sounds fun, right? Two years ago, I said goodbye to my eating disorder. It was the most difficult, but most rewarding year I’ve ever had. I said goodbye to my excuses. I said goodbye to feeling defeated, and I finally did the demanding, daily, soul-searching work to make lasting changes. I said goodbye to being a victim. I held on for dear life, and simply kept the faith card in my back pocket. Like any recovering drug addict, I never expect that it will ever be easy to stay clean. One thing I know for sure, though, is that I am finally happy and free in my own skin. At long last, I am content and satisfied and guess what? I don’t need a new year to help me feel this way. To relapse is unthinkable, but I know from experience that my “sobriety” is a fragile egg. Looking forward, I will continue to be very careful with my egg.
Moving past 2015, for me, is melancholy at best. I am no longer waving goodbye to destructive habits. Instead I am reluctantly pushing away from what was a year of exciting firsts and it makes me a little bit sad. I willed myself into becoming a runner. I ran 15 races and joined a fun, supportive running group. I also looked for and found my yoga, and in doing so, my yoga miraculously found me. Then, I started to write again. I learned how to balance my life in order to maintain my health and weight loss. I know that continuing to do all of these things will take consistent effort. Maintaining motivation is the most difficult part of holding on to any type of success. My truth remains grounded in knowing that it will never, ever be easy for me to say no, but I will have to continue to say it. Those are the breaks, and I’m over it.
Last year, when I decided to put some of my writing “out there” for the world to see, I felt vulnerable. To write is to bleed from your heart and soul. But, in order feel fulfilled, and to actually hone writing skills that were dormant for quite some time, I had to be less afraid of what people would think. I had to do it for myself and not for anyone else. I forced myself to be brave enough to convey my story – to tell the truth about my 28 year battle with an eating disorder, and my struggle to become a whole person again. I poured myself out in poetry and short essays. And I started my blog with the help of some living, breathing encouragement. You have all been listeners, pushers, supporters, friends, and most importantly, readers. Simply hitting “like” below my blog piece on Facebook sends waves of happiness right through me – you need to know that. Thank you for inspiring me to venture out. In looking forward, I know there is a novel in me somewhere because I can feel it bubbling to the surface. Yikes!
In ringing in the New Year, I will say goodbye to any lingering fears and doubts I have about trying new things and making changes in my life so that I can continue to grow. I am but a tree that has finally found a home – firmly planted in nutrient-rich soil after wilting away in dry sand for many years (see But A Tree). Looking forward, I will strengthen my roots by continuing to do the work, and stretch my branches by taking some chances.
So here is my plan: I will run a half marathon and I will write a book. There, I said it. I now know that success (and self-esteem) come from simply starting and boldly finishing any personal goal I set for myself. And by the way, both of these goals scare the shit out of me, for real. But, what I have learned by really saying goodbye in order to really look forward is that shedding the past, good or bad, creates room for something special and new to come along. And when you do what you say you are going to do, you simply cannot fail. The door is indeed unlocked – but you must let go of what you are holding on to in order to reach out and turn the knob. The time for bravery has come once again.
So, to myself, and to you I say, walk through that open door, don’t be afraid. Life is for living. Also, I wish you peace, good health, and many moments of wonder in the new year.