2016 has just ended and who knows what 2017 will bring. In the first couple of days we read reports of a terrorist dressed up as Santa Claus who took the lives of 39 people, and in the neighborhood next to mine a young mother killed her four young children and then committed suicide. Not an optimistic way to stay a new year or this post, for that matter.
So what does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions?
We don’t have control over most things that happen in our lives, as the recent incidents have highlighted. There was no way those little kids or those people in Turkey could anticipate death rushing towards them. In the end, none of us have much control over the events in our lives. One thing we can definitely expect is the unexpected.
Not a single one of us knows which breath is going to be our last. Today, a friend told me about a nurse who after her night shift ended would give Reiki treatments to a cancer patient on her ward. The nurse was beautiful and full of life and vitality. Everyone expected the woman patient to die. Instead, she survived and the nurse died in a car accident while on vacation abroad.
Over 100 people die every single minute. That’s more than one soul every single second. Every time you take a breath in and out, a few more people have passed on. Lots of them had no idea that moment was coming. But we live as if we have all the time in the world. We promise ourselves that this year will be different. This is the year where finally we’re going to make those big changes we’ve always promised ourselves: write that book, get in amazing shape, make more money, find the love of our life, leave who we thought was the love of our lives but turned out not to be…
So, how many times did you make resolutions like that? You got all excited, determined and motivated for a while, but then slowly your energy petered out. If you’re like me, too many times to count. The problem with those kinds of resolutions is that it’s like trying to start a fire from striking a match to a big log. You won’t get very far. Yet we also know that little sparks can start mighty fires.
What if you walked around with the knowledge that you truly don’t have an inkling of how and when you’re going to leave planet Earth?
What if, instead, you were to focus on the small things that would make each day better? What would you choose to do differently? Could those those same tiny actions create huge results over the course of a year? You bet. Instead of having to change your life, you change how you live your life, moment by moment, day by day.
Yesterday a guy bashed into me on the street. No awareness, no apology. I started to get pissed off at him, swearing to myself what a jerk he was. Then I came to my senses and realized he’s long gone. Did I still want to hold on to my annoyance? Would that change anything besides getting my cortisol levels to rise? If that day would be my last, would I choose to get bent out of shape over some stranger’s obliviousness? I hope not. So, I celebrated that small choice to let go of my anger as my little victory. And if I remember to do that tomorrow when someone I care about annoys me, I’ll celebrate again. But for now, I’m going to concentrate on starting a little fire, taking things day by day.
This year, I’m dumping those big New Year resolutions. When I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to contemplate the simple fact that I have no idea when I’m going to be one of those 150,000 and open to how that might change how I move through that day.
Will there be times I’ll forget to do this? You bet. I’ll still revert to my impatient self. I’ll hold grudges. I’ll be too quick to judge others and myself. But each time I remember how lucky I am to still be breathing, feeling joy and pain, fear and gratitude, and soaking in all the chaos, wonder, horror and beauty of being part of this world, I’ll celebrate those sparks and keep fanning them.