By Kelly Wickham
Looking back on 2013 is the type of thing we do this time of year. In fact, everywhere you look there are lists and Best Of posts and 25 Things We Never Want To See Again articles. Taking inventory of what went on this year is, typically, what brings us together as a collective group of people who want better. We all want to be better, don’t we?
For writing, I usually turn to my copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird to encourage me. Truthfully, this isn’t just for advice on writing so much as it is advice for living a complete and full life. As I look toward 2014 and the good I want to see in the world, I rely on words from Anne like these:
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
If we’re all on a ship, then it takes work from all the passengers to ensure our vessel gets from Point A to Point B. If we’re all in a raging storm, then we have fellow people to look after and with encouragement and pushing then we can get there. That’s the Good that we all strive for while we’re here.
When we look back on our year, many of us see mistakes and things we’d like to change. The New Year resolutions that people make are really just promises to ourselves to take better care of ourselves. Sometimes, that is expanded to taking better care of our world, our environment, and our fellow human beings. It’s a tall order, but one that, collectively, we truly can do. I came across a recent list that expounded on all the ways we compartmentalize these things like exercising, dieting, and our daily work. But, what would happen if we decided that we wanted to see more GOOD in the world? What would that look like?
Given the chance to come up with such a list, I have noticed a pattern to these things. For example, if I could have any wish to see more good this coming year it would be to see examples of humans helping other humans. It would be the doing of good things that have far-reaching consequences. Teaching our children to care for their planet for future generations to come. Another wish for good I’d like to see in the world in 2014 is managing our emotions and ensuring that we don’t center ourselves in situations that truly have to do with someone else’s concerns. The pattern, therefore, is that we’re mindful and careful.
Perhaps I’ve been going about writing New Year’s Resolutions all wrong. Perhaps it should look more like this:
1. Be mindful of other people and listen more than I talk.
2. Be careful with the tender hearts entrusted to me.
3. Be present and pay attention.
I can still eat better food and step up my exercise routines in the meantime. I can still work, daily, on being a good employee and a financial steward who is careful with what she earns. Writing a list of the good I want to see in the world isn’t mutually exclusive in consideration of how I also take care of myself. So what if I eat that last piece of pie that is laden with sugar? I know I’ll have plenty of vegetables and water during the day so I can achieve some kind of balance.
The difference is that there is no amount of “bad” we can do that can be undone with “good”. Doing good things is a practice that, with a lot of effort, allows for us to do less “bad”.
What “good” do you want to see in the world next year? What can you do to make that “goodness” come to fruition?