To Resolve or Not To Resolve

It’s January 4th, and the time of year when the internet and social media begins to blow up with people writing about how they have already abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions.  Pictures on Instragram and Tumbler of people eating cake and pie with reckless abandon, and comments about guilt and failure permeating everything.  How depressing.

And I thought things were going to be different this year.

And then I stumbled upon this wonderful image courtesy of my brilliant friend Valerie, and found it to be a very appropriate writing prompt.


Obviously the idea of setting goals and resolutions is not an inherently bad thing to do… I would like to make a list of places I would like to visit this year, or tasks I would like to accomplish, things I would like to learn.  The act of self-reflection is important, and helps us move forward both as individuals, and as a collective society.  Our history does inform our future actions, and we should take the time to acknowledge this process.  However, this is not something that should be limited to the first few days of the year,  nor is New Year’s an appropriate time to engage in a flogging of one’s self.

What gets me is the fact that people are so quick to throw themselves under the bus in the writing of ‘resolutions’ by either focusing entirely on their shortcomings – “Shame on me for not looking fantastic in my bathing suit”, or by setting goals that are entirely ridiculous –  “This year I am going to lose 50 pounds, learn to speak Farsi, and spend two hours each evening engaging in activities related to me time.” 

No you’re not.

Nor should you feel bad about not being able to accomplish goals like these.

I believe that individual growth and success comes from focusing and building from a place of strength rather than weakness.  And while not all of our dreams have to be realistic, they do need to be connected not only to our passions, but to an appreciation of our positive qualities and the strength that we already have when moving into those scary places of fear, or weakness.

And we can do that any (every) day, or even just once in a while.

Our resolutions cannot just be based in a willingness or desire ‘to be better’ or more beautiful in the eyes of others.  Lasting happiness will come when we realize that we can sit with ourselves, even the ugly, gritty parts, and be content.

Let’s take things one step further and recognize that improving the quality of our individual lives is most likely to occur when we connect with the well-being of our communities.  Introspection is healthy, but only to a certain extent… its a slippery slope to narcissism.

I’ve got no stats to back myself up, but it seems to me that the madness surrounding New Year’s Resolutions is inherently connected to a level of wealth and privilege that allows us to be able to justify the idea that our main goal for an entire 365 year period should be about going to the gym every day.   If I am unable to meet my basic needs such as shelter, food, and security, then I am certainly not thinking about getting a Yoga Pass.  So perhaps we can frame our resolutions with a broader perspective, one that acknowledges the roles that our communities have in improving the quality of life for all its members, and also as providers of strength and support in meeting our own personal goals.  Connecting our resolutions to the elements of strong community might break these vicious cycle.

So this New Year, let’s resolve not to wallow in guilt over the fact that we all like brownies and desperately want them in our lives.  Instead, let’s think about the ways that we can use our strengths and gifts in the process of self-improvement, and in the creation of just and caring communities in 2014.

** Image courtesy of the lovely Valerie at Briarpatch Magazine

A Word A Week Challenge ~ Gap

I had trouble with this one.

A ‘gap’ was actually much more open-ended than I anticipated, especially in picture form.  Then I stumbled upon an old photo of the Panama Canal, taken two summers ago… it seemed fitting, considering the Canal cuts through the Darien Gap that links Panama with Colombia.  Visiting the Panama Canal was surprisingly mind-blowing for me.. the sheer simplicity of a system of locks flushing water that ships worth millions of dollars are completely dependent on.  It something that must be seen up close.

Panama Canal

Connect with Sue at A Word in Your Ear to publish your own gap or to see next week’s Word a Week challenge.

A Spiritual Experience with Rocks

Question: Would you rather live the rest of your life…

A. Beside the Ocean;  B. In the midst of a mountain range;  C. In the middle of a deep dense forest, D. Or in the middle of a desert?

Now obviously it would be wonderful if they all intertwine, and you can have everything, or at least a combination – but if we had to choose, it’s interesting to see how people would respond.  It’s one of my favorite questions to ask people, because it allows us to think about how we connect with nature.

I’m an ocean girl myself being from the Westcoast, but I also have a strong affinity with rocks.  Any kind of rock, any interesting geologic landscape.  I guess it couldn’t be avoided – my dad was a geography teacher, and as a young child, any time we would go on road trips our family would play “Name that Rock”.  We would have to identify the rock type as igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic.. super fun right?!

But those things stick with you. We arrived in Joshua Tree last week and my mind was blown again with the colour of the red rocks against the bright blue sky.  We hiked to Devil’s Bridge — well worth it for the view, and the gorgeous rock formations.

Devil's BridgeAfter 3 days in Sedona we headed up to the Grand Canyon since Daryl had never been.  We drove down Desert View Highway, one of the most gorgeous drives I’ve ever done, and through the park just as the sun was beginning to set on the canyon.  We stayed in the park that night and went out to see the stars once everything was dark.  We stood on the edge of the canyon at a look-out that hours before had been filled with people clamouring for the best shot, Ipads in hand, and now it was empty.  Just us, the rocks, and the Milky Way.

grand canyon

My sister lives in LA, and the west coast was calling, so from the Grand Canyon we headed west, along Route 66, and through the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree.  We were exhausted after 7 hours of driving, questioning whether this trip had been too ambitious for two tired teachers.  But then we were reminded that Joshua Tree catches you by surprise.. It reels you in, the piles of rocks, the scraggly trees, the bright blue skies. The weird, but oddly enjoyable vibe of 29 Palms, and the vast desert that seems to extend forever.

Joshua Tree

We finally made it to the coast, and are now relaxing on the beach with the waves crashing around us… but after a week in the desert I can hear my father’s voice in my ear reminding me that sedimentary rocks have lots to offer because they help create beautiful landscapes.  And I am reminded that a U.S. road trip can take your breath away in a second.

So where would you rather spend the rest of your life?  The ocean, the forest, the mountains or the desert…. they each can make a great argument.  And those rocks can grab you.


Re: the Latin prefix with the meaning ‘again’ to indicate repetition, or with the meaning ‘back’ to indicate backward motion.

We are back! After a lengthy hiatus from writing, Daryl and I have returned to the blogosphere. It’s only fitting that we begin writing again on vacation in Sedona, Arizona – one of my most favorite places to return to.

The next question is – where have you been for the past 8 months?  I wish that I could respond with an elaborate and impressive explanation like “we were inventing this amazing thing that you can’t live without!”, or “we were doing volunteer work in an impoverished country where we had no electricity and we were too busy helping local people.”

But those would be lies.

Yes, we were working and living our regular everyday lives, and we kept talking about writing a new post but then an episode of Elementary would start and I would say “but Johnny Lee Miller is so witty and well-dressed and I just really need to see what this episode is about.”  So then a couple more months passed.

And then we returned to Europe after a 10 year hiatus (traipsing around Rome on Spring Break with high school students in tow does NOT count as a vacation), and we really really should have written while we were there. After all, we went to a beer spa in Czech Republic, and danced around at medieval celebrations in Slovakia – events that were well worth a post, but we complained that the internet was too slow.

Two more months passed.

And our last big excuse was that we decided to get married. Yah!  It was amazing – a brief fervour of excitement and planning where all of my allotted internet time was devoted to Pinterest and Wedding blogs.  If there’s anything that’s going to kill your creative energy it’s the pressure associated with reading Wedding blogs.  Fucking overwhelming.  I never knew that I was into crafting, but the pressure that comes with planning a wedding just gets to you.  Your brain starts tricking you by saying “of course I need wild flower bouquets arranged whimsically in mason jars along the aisle. It’s obviously a wedding necessity.”

Our wedding did get off without a hitch though, and I have to say the following morning was one of the most liberating moments of my life because I knew that I would never have to look at Pinterest or a wedding blog ever again.  Oh, I was happy that we got married, but really, I was more grateful about being able to say goodbye to Martha Stewart.  Show me a picture of a crepe paper origami garland and I will start to have a panic attack.

And now here we are.. December 26th, and finally returning to the keyboard again.  The sun is setting on the GORGEOUS Red Rocks I can see from the picture windows of our hotel room, and I am at peace.  Daryl is laying on a lounge chair on our private deck wearing a fancy robe… absolutely decadent.  I look over and notice that he is not looking at the scenery but rather is playing Candy Crush on his phone and this reminds me that traveling as a married couple is about romance 100% of the time.

We promise to be more disciplined this time.  Because writing is cathartic, and necessary.  A life without a creative outlet just isn’t a life I”m interested in living.

Already thinking about the next post.