Two years of two-word resolutions

Updated Jan 2 2019
arielmstallings
Cute new years card from Etsy seller UpliftExpress.
My goal for last year was two words: Feel loved. …Well, that worked. In fact, it worked so well that sometimes it's almost uncomfortable. I've spent most of my life fueling myself off of an ambient sense of scarcity… there's just never quiiiiite enough of anything, so I must keep hustling! I see now the ways in which I subconsciously engineered a life that perpetuated this sensation, both in my failed marriage and with an entrepreneurial career where there was no definitive "made it" moment — never a promotion, never a boss to say "GOOD JOB!" I've just always had a sense of needing to do more. Last year, however, I wanted to see what it would feel like if I rejected that scarcity mindset…

What if there was enough?

What if I wasn't defective? What if I actually allowed myself to feel right, to feel content… to feel loved? What if I tried creating a life from love instead of fear? I am here to say: IT WAS TERRIFYING. Also, overwhelming? I understand so much better now why many of us (most of us?) strangely prefer holding ourselves back, stuck in our favorite miseries, clinging to our precious pains, rather than just being like "Ok here: this is enough and I shall enjoy it." It's deeply disorienting to practice contentment! There's this weird guilt and shame, and shouldn't I be doing something more? And oy: first world problems, ammirite? And sometimes contentment practice is sort of boring, and my busy brain wants to make problems to solve. …Not that there aren't plenty of problems to be solved! Here, at the start of a new year, as the world might be on the brink of geo-political and/or climate collapse, as my son is a year closer to leaving me, as I'm a year closer to my own death, and the sun is a year closer to burning out, right here in this moment I'm here to say: I feel loved. I feel supported by something both inside and outside of me. Allowing myself to feel loved and has meant allowing myself to feel trust that everything is going according to natural order, from the littlest good things to the biggest bad ones all the way to random news headlines. Oh, young people are suffering miserably under the weight of social anxiety, and having way less sex probably because of porn addiction? Everyone's dying of loneliness? Of course we are. The planet is overpopulated and the natural laws are working as they will to make us all feel isolated and miserable and in conflict so that we'll breed less. I guess that makes perfect sense. But how could I possibly understand how the natural order of this planet and its universal systems work its way through all of us, on both tiny personal scales and huge social systemic scales? Here on my tiny personal scale, even in this culture of loneliness, I feel loved. Even when I force myself to think of losing everyone — my son, my parents, my friends, my lover, my own body… I make myself think of these losses constantly! — I still feel loved. Maybe especially because I force myself to consider these losses every day, I feel loved today. Yesterday, someone cut in front of me in traffic and I thought, "We're in a hurry today, I totally get it." Non-duality, man. It's great for dealing traffic. We're all one, in this flow of red lights and angry fists on the steering wheels. I feel loved in part because I get now that we're all one big flow. How could I not feel loved when I'm in traffic, when I'm in that flow of life? So, I won last year's resolution: I FEEL LOVED! Even in my discomforts with the sensation (surely this is too much? surely I'm unworthy? surely this will somehow make me lose all my creative drive? surely someone else deserves this more than me? surely this feeling will disappear and I'll be lost again?), I still feel loved. So check that box for last year's goal.

What's this year's two-word resolution?

My two-word goal for this year: Choose focus. Sometimes you don't have the option to choose to pay attention to one thing. My 9-year-old son and I were talking about resolutions, and I told him about mine with the explanation that sometimes you're pooping and your kid runs in saying he's cut his finger and you have to help him with a bandaid even while you're still pooping because the bleeding needs tending to, but the pooping can't stop. (This is not a thing that has actually happened to me, but any parent knows that it's plausibly about to happen at any given moment.) Pooping and bleeding aside though, most of the time, you have the luxury to choose focus. When I wake up in the morning, and my mind instantly starts the laundry list of People Who've Wronged Me And Ways To Feel Bad About It, I have a choice to focus on getting on that mental bus to go for a ride, or the choice to choose to focus on getting up and make myself some tea instead.

When I'm drinking that tea and eating my breakfast, I have the luxury to choose to focus on the amazing nourishment in front of me, instead of distracting myself from its glory by scrolling on my phone at the same time. (UG, so much scrolling. All the time with the scrolling!) Choosing focus isn't about being productive or hard-driving or winning… it can also mean that when I'm taking some time to myself, stretching or taking a bath or going for a walk or reading a book or getting baked and dancing, I have the luxury to choose to pay attention to that thing I've chosen, instead of dividing my attention. I mean, what a massive privilege to be able to take a bath without having your attention pulled away by, say, gunshots or starvation or a burning village or even just six children to feed… what a massive privilege! Of course I'm a compulsive multitasker, and I love my efficiencies and the impressive way I can make popcorn while also putting away groceries, or the way I can take out half the recycling while also repotting a plant, or the way I can fold laundry, listen to a podcast, and also text with a friend… But what if I took the time to notice when I had the option of making that choice? I mean first: what if I notice that I have a choice? That's a rough first step. And then what if, when I have the luxury to, I chose focus? What would my life feel like? What would yours feel like if you worked toward either of these two-word goals?

  1. Lovely post! Thanks. I like “choose focus” a lot because of its flexibility. It can be a reminder to work OR a reminder not to work, both of which are important. I don’t usually make resolutions, but this does seem to be a good set of words to keep in mind.

    • Yeah, I like that flexibility, too! Cuz it's not even like I need to work hard, or have more discipline. (If anything, I push myself in unhealthy ways…work is my crack!) For me, the idea of, say, taking a bath and actually just ENJOYING THE BATH seems challenging. Like, not bathing, reading, texting, and also freaking out about something in the background?

      What if I just…. took a dang bath?!? Yikes.

      (Also, this has already proven very difficult… ask my Shitshow After-party co-author Caroline about how she caught me texting her about work from an alley… I was supposedly going on a nice long walk and instead I found myself crouched in an alley, desperately tapping out a message to her that… uh… didn't need to be done at that time. Doh)

  2. Oooh, your goal for this reminds me very strongly of the lessons in Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. It might be worth checking out if you haven't before

  3. You somehow manage to write exactly what I need to read. Thank you. This morning I was reeling with anxiety because I have so much on my plate, so much sadness after the very recent loss of my grandmother, so many problems, yet I was also recognizing how small they are, in comparison with the struggles others are going through, I was thinking of the fact that I had 3 precious quiet hours alone and I had to make the best of my time and be productive. And somehow I ended up doing nothing taking the dogs for a walk, then scrolling and mentally freaking out for 3 hours.

    Feel loved. Man that's a tough one for me that I can't even begin to wrap my mind around. Choose focus. Ha! I can't even begin to focus. So many things that need to be done. One step at a time. My two word resolution: read more.
    Read more self help books, read more articles, read more blogs, read more novels, read more poems. I'm convinced that the written word is a viral first step towards progress, transformation, etc.

    • Reading more is a great goal… or maybe reading BETTER? For me, it's important to remember the longer-form stuff. My poor attention span! Ouch. I don't want to read, I just want to scroll my endless anxiety? OY.

      Let me know what you end up reading!

      • I love “read better.” My friend told me that I was really focused on my output, but maybe it would help to pay attention to the quality of my input. Game changer!

        My intention this year is to be curious and loving. Curious because I get too goal-oriented and anxious about making (forcing) my dreams to come true rather than letting myself learn stuff about the many paths I am interested in and practice discernment. Loving because when I get all up in my head about trying to make myself happy, I can stress out and be rude to my loved ones. (When just enjoying them would make me happy).

        Huh, so I guess all that can be summed up in two words: CHILL OUT.

  4. I hadn't thought about labeling it as a "Two Word Resolution" but my mantra a few years ago was:

    "F**K GUILT"

    (I was dealing with family members whose narcissism, bullying, drinking, denial and all-around dysfunction had made them toxic. Copping that attitude was the only way to preserve my sanity.)

  5. My two-word resolution for this year is "Keep going." I just booked an appointment with an OB out of town that my midwife recommended I go to so we can see if I have anything preventing me from getting pregnant despite now having more regular cycles. (Midwife suspects I might have fibroids, but I may get checked for other things too like endometriosis.) I'm just not ready to let go of my dream of parenthood yet, so I will keep going until I will (hopefully) get there.

  6. Ugh. This speaks so much to me. I’ve been spazzing out on vacation because I can’t just focus on the moment. Even right now, I’m eating fancy dark chocolate in bed, while scrolling, and texting, with my earbuds in because I was watching Derry Girls until I got distracted by Instagram. What a mess. And don’t get me started on how I can’t reconcile abundance with all the injustice around me. Head will explode!!!

  7. I really like both of your two word resolutions, and think I could benefit from trying both of them myself. I think that choose focus is probably the one that I need the most right now. Mind if I join you in making that a resolution of sorts?

    I used to post here much more often, I'm living in China now and really really busy. I don't know if you recognize the username as a person who showed up to a couple events in Seattle a few years back. But anyway, you're awesome and thank you for your continued wonderful writing and openness about your life.

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