I caught myself while beginning the pre-tax receipt-sorting yesterday. The packs of little papers growing into paper-clipped stacks. Art supplies, office supplies, restaurant, utilities, restaurant, art supplies, home repair, more restaurant and even more art supplies. This is a task I usually reserve for mid January, when I can review with a little more emotional distance–buoyed by still fresh resolutions. Resolutions to do more, do better, do with less, do without. That’s what caught me, the concept of resolutions.
Most of us, on this last day of the year, are considering some form of resolution, reformation, reclamation, renewal. Even those of us who swear not to believe in the standard New Year resolves are unable not to sift through the year that is so rapidly dwindling, and take stock. It is simply the sentient being’s process in ending one thing in order to begin something new. So the self-promise to losing weight, clear the desk, clean the closet, and be kinder is a natural function of constructing hope.
That fresh, intentional push toward betterment lasts (for most of us) until the files begin to pile up on our desks, the pizza is too tempting, and that idiot cuts us off in traffic. There’s a common discussion amongst coaches and trainers that January is their highest traffic month. Highest for the volume of people who sign up and then bail within a few weeks after New Year’s.
So what would happen if we took this last day of the year to consider the things we’ve done well, and instead of resolving to repair the bad, focus on the good we’ve done for ourselves and others. Surely, no matter how rotten a year it may have been, no matter how we feel we’ve failed–there had to be something enriching that that touched us. Suppose we all spent this turn of the year not ignoring our imperfections, but strengthening our positives. And move on from there.
It’s the game we’ve all played somewhere in our lives. Typically led by a teacher, camp counselor or an elder at the special family dinner, you get the question. “Tell us one thing you liked about…”, whatever. Even the sourest in the group will inevitably (though sometimes days later) come up with something. Often it builds within the group, each trumping the next. And then whatever the experience was takes on a new aspect. What might happen if we play the game within our own thoughts. Isn’t there the possibility our view–of ourselves, our fellows, even our world might shift.
Thinking about this brought the awareness that this has been a wonderful year of riches. Given to and by me. I became filled with gratitude just to have experienced the year. One moment stands clear though. In the kind of teaching I do, I am always working with children who are in some kind of trouble. My students may be out of the regular classroom due to chemotherapy treatments, Fibromyalgia, severe anxiety, simple fractures, or emotional/psychological disabilities that have led to suspension with intent to expel. All of these children are fragile; physically, emotionally–or both. While I love what I do, the teaching day fails to pass that doesn’t contain some frustration and even irritation I then chastise myself for.
Recently I was sitting with a student whose physical condition is so difficult that among other challenges there is no speech–or liklihood to be any. This makes teaching ABC’s, numbers and shapes pretty daunting. And frustrating. But in a magical moment, the child was asked by his mother (on whose lap he was sitting) to “just put your pointer on the circle.” And somehow, instead of shifting, and moving on to some other task, I just waited. It took a full three minutes and multiple encouragements from mom and me–but he slowly pulled in his other fingers and thumb, and with a full heft from the shoulder, touched the circle with the tip of his “pointer.”
Now obviously, I didn’t differentiate my finger or super-humanly coordinate my body to lift my hand. But I did follow my instinct to sit still, followed my nature to cheer, followed my heart to thank both my student and his mom. And instantly, eagerly began planning ways to build on this first, small step of communication for him.
I look then to the New Year with an eagerness and anticipation I’ve been missing. The plans I have are equal parts what I know and what I can do with that knowledge. There is art to be made, a book to be written, teaching tools to be created. Hopefully when I look back a year from now I will see months and days filled with learning from failures, celebrations of good work, the joys of good friends and family, a heart more open, a mind more eager, and a spirit more daring.
I wish everyone all the same.