I don't "do" New Year's resolutions; I haven't in years. For one thing, they don't work, usually because they're too broad and not specific enough, and for another thing, you end up feeling like crap after you've totally failed at keeping those resolutions within the first month (week?) of the New Year. How many people do you know who can claim they made and actually followed through on those resolutions to "lose weight", "get a better job", "make more money", "fall in love with Mr./Ms. Wonderful"? Exactly my point.
But I DO set specific intentions for my year, and THAT seems to work out a whole lot better. The difference between resolutions and intentions is INTENT, and being specific about that intent. Intent is much more than making a vague promise to yourself; it involves a conscious shift in your energy, and a serious internal commitment to achieve that which you intend to accomplish. And of course, you have to back up those intentions with action... sometimes lots of action.
When I reflected on what I wanted to accomplish in 2011 -- especially with the realization that I will be turning (choke, cough, gasp) 50 in a little more than 4 months' time -- I realized that to a large degree, there are parts of my life where I've already accomplished some huge things, so those are areas I don't really feel the need to "work on" at the moment. I have an abundance of love in my life, thanks to Georges, the three kids, my family back home and my many wonderful friends all around the world. And I'm living where I want to live, and doing the kind of work I want to be doing (well, we'll talk about THAT in a moment). So much to be grateful for, in any case.
Because I had spent probably most of the past two DECADES of my life focusing on finding lasting love, finding my right livelihood, and finally achieving my dream to live in Paris, because I have accomplished so much, I have lately been feeling like "OK, NOW what?" And so, for this year, I had to come up with some new material. I thought about what three things I wanted to focus upon the most this year. (I try to limit my annual "intentions" to no more than three projects, otherwise I think I'm spreading my energy too thin.)
And here's what I've come up with.
Intention #1: Finish writing and editing my second book before my 50th birthday in May, and get a satisfying and lucrative publishing deal for this book (preferably a multi-book deal, since I have other ideas in the hopper already) before the end of 2011.
Turning 50 is a pretty significant catalyst to propel me toward some big goals, and having pushed writing onto the back burner for the past four months because of that Sorbonne French course I've been taking, I am no longer willing to procrastinate on this one. It's become one of those things in my life that I'm endlessly saying or thinking I want to do, but somehow I'm just not doing it. No more excuses, though; I have a plan for how to carve out the space in my daily life to write. (It's not enough to have the intention, you have to have an action plan, too.) For starters, I need to get out of the house to see any real progress in writing. And Georges and I have really enjoyed our daily "commute" together while I've been taking classes. So... when school is finished next Friday, I will actually keep getting up every morning with Georges, and commuting with him to his office... where I will install myself in a nearby café I like that has free Wifi and a writer-friendly name: L'Écritoire. It will become my "office", and I'm committed to going there 4 days per week to write every morning (and perhaps sometimes even staying to write through and after lunch). I'll give myself one weekday "off" to get things done around the house or to get out in the city and enjoy it. But this is a significant jump in my commitment to a writing routine. And Georges has my permission to prod me out of bed every morning so I can go to "work"!
As far as finding a publisher, when I get farther along with the manuscript, I'll start doing the grunt work of sending out query letters and being tenacious about it until I find the right agent and the right publisher for me. I'm confident I will find them both... it just feels meant to be, and when we are really committed to something in our soul, the Universe will rise up to meet us. Publishing being what it is, I can't speculate whether or not the book could potentially be printed and ready for sale by year's end, but to have sold it? Would be the perfect way to cap off my year, professionally speaking.
Intention #2: Create and attract an abundance of peace and prosperity into my life.
Ah, this is one that could end up being vague and nebulous. But here's what I'm planning to do, action-wise. First off, I'm reading my friend Laura's book, The Prosperity Plan, and I'm actually DOING the exercises in each of the 10 chapters. The idea is to create not only financial prosperity (which of course is tied into Intention #1, since writing is my profession and I don't have a paying "job"), but to become someone who attracts abundance of all kinds: good health (see Intention #3), love (already got that, but love needs to be nurtured), fun and adventure (more travel, getting out more), and a sense of inner peace (at almost-50, I think the hormones are getting me a little too worked up sometimes, and I'd rather go through life more calmly than I sometimes do at the moment).
This is one of those life goals that you can't just set once and forget about it. It's the sort of thing I will need to constantly commit to, and RE-commit to, over and over, week after week, throughout the year (and beyond) if I want it to exist in my life. To me, this is an intention that is about my evolution as a human being and a bold soul.
Intention #3: To be healthier at 50 than I was at 40 (or for that matter, even 30).
What does that mean, exactly? It's not enough to say "be healthier" or "lose weight" -- again, that's the sort of "resolution" that quickly goes by the wayside. For me, this does mean losing a certain amount of weight by my next birthday in May, but not an unrealistic amount. I do have a specific number in mind, a number that is a small fraction of the total weight I would ideally want to lose to get into a very lean and healthy physical state. Losing this specific amount of weight would not only allow me to be significantly healthier and lighter, but would represent something else in my life: this is roughly the amount of weight I allowed myself to put on more than 10 years ago (when I was already very overweight but not yet in plus-sizes), following some major upheavals in my personal and professional life. At that time, the way I took care of myself was by eating; it was all I knew how to do to cope with the pain I was in. Now, although I know that's not the best way to cope, I've gotten into certain ingrained bad habits. Changing those habits for good, and replacing them with better habits, is what this year is going to be all about. Losing the weight will be a by-product of that, and knowing that I'm on my way to a much healthier chapter in my life will give me a lot of that "peace" I was talking about earlier. I'm not presently at peace at all with how I'm feeling physically.
Achieving this intention is, for me, quite a bit like the way I felt about my intention to move to Paris: when I thought about NOT doing it, the very idea was completely unacceptable to me! I didn't want to be an old woman and having regrets about NOT having done this particular thing that felt so very, very important to my soul. I feel that way now, about achieving a healthier physical state. It's not about wanting to look better in clothes (which I do) or being able to actually shop for clothes in Paris, the fashion mecca of the world (which would certainly be a wonderful thing). Georges loves me exactly as I am, so it's not about being worried he'll fall out of love with me if I don't lose the weight, either.
No, this is about doing it for ME. About not wanting to be an old woman, and regretting that I didn't change something that was in my power to change. And frankly... I am feeling lately as if my body is TELLING me, in no uncertain terms, that it's "now or never". I'm not-quite-50, but already have so many aches and pains that sometimes I am walking around the house like I AM an old woman. And that gall bladder didn't get clogged up all by itself, my cholesterol level is not what it ought to be. I've already got hereditary hypertension, and being overweight adds risks there as well.
And now that I've got the man of my dreams and am living the life I want to live, in my favorite city... I really want to live a long life, as long as it can be a HEALTHY live. I may not be able to control everything in life, but my own health is something over which I have considerable influence. And it's time to take that power back and deal with it.
So, what will I be DOING to bring this one about? At the moment, I don't feel compelled to join a gym or a specific diet plan. I have, however, already started the year off by a surprise 4-5 pound loss OVER THE HOLIDAYS, and the only way I could justify that happening, despite feeling like all I did was eat big meals, was that I wasn't snacking mindlessly every afternoon, the way I often do here when left to my own devices. We were out all the time, doing stuff with the kids and the family, and even though we drove or took trains, we got in some mall walking and walking (a lot) in New York. For me, what I think this means is two immediate things: (1) get busier and get out of the house, so I'm being active and productive, ergo not bored and inclined to snack to fill the void. And (2), cut WAY back on the amounts of types of foods I'm eating, meaning limit the snacking to healthier foods, using the "special" foods as occasional things to enjoy, but not to gorge on indiscriminately.
And I guess there is also a third thing: to be AWARE of what I'm doing to my body, to be choosing more consciously how I am treating myself, to redefine what it looks like to be good to myself. Eating for comfort or out of boredom is NOT treating myself with loving kindness.
And there you have it: my game plan for the new year and new decade. I want my 50s to be FABULOUS... and this is where it begins.