Most of all, I hate what they've become in our culture...a way to mostly look at the superficial qualities of our lives and think that somehow we'll be happier if we change them. Oh, and there are usually tons of products we can buy that will "help" us achieve them, so its now time to pony up.
But there is something even more insidious about how we approach resolutions. For some people (not all), this becomes a time to unleash all of the "shoulds" that have been rolling around in our heads. Most often, these are the shoulds that others in our lives or culture have laid on us as baggage. To resolve to meet those shoulds is usually not only doomed to fail, but negates our own true desires for ourselves.
I'll admit that I come to this issue with a bit of baggage from my past. I haven't hesitated to disclose that for the first 20+ years of my life I was steeped in right wing christian fundamentalism and that it took me over 10 years to shed all of that.
What I remember more than anything growing up is hearing "the rules" about how I was supposed to live my life. And that if I just had enough discipline or willpower, I'd be the "good girl" that God and all of the other adults in my life told me I should be. I tried. As a matter of fact, I tried with every fiber of my being. But ultimately, I always failed in some way. And of course, that failure was a result of my short comings - so then there's the guilt and shame to add to the failure.
But then one day, with the help of some very wise people, I began to realize that I was looking in the wrong direction. In other words, I was looking "out" at what the rules were instead of "in" at who I already was. While absorbing that was eventually a life-changing experience, it didn't come without a price. Here's how poet David Whyte describes it.
Revelation Must Be Terrible
Revelation must be terrible
with no time left to say goodbye.
Imagine the moment staring at
the still waters with only the brief tremor of your body
to say you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.
Being far from home is hard,
but you know, at least, we
are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world
you are on you own for the first time.
No one is even interested in saving you now
Yep...I was free of the rules, but I was on my own. No daddy, or preacher, or god to tell me what to do. That was a frightening moment. But as I (figuratively) stood there for awhile and began to look inward, I saw something with the potential of authenticity and wholeness that could never be attained in my failed attempts to follow the rules. Discovering who I was and what I wanted (warts and all) eventually became my journey. The downside is not having a fall-back when I fail...no one to blame. But the upside is never having to be a victim of anyone else's pressures/expectations. And if I do it right - bending to accommodate others is a choice I make out of love, respect, or perhaps even self-interest. But its my choice.
So I'll not be making any new year's resolutions this year - except to continue to look inward and do a little bit better job of embracing the person that I already am. That's perhaps why this is one of my all-time favorite songs.
And if fits so nicely with the ending to Whyte's poem from above.
and the world steps in to test the calm fluidity
of your body from moment to moment,
as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance of fire and calmness
and final stillness...
as if you were meant to be exactly where you are,
as if like the dark branch of a desert river
you could flow on without a speck of guilt
and everything - everywhere would still be
just as it should be,
as if your place in the world mattered
and the world could neither speak nor hear the fullness
of its own bitter and beautiful cry without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo...
knowing that it takes only that one terrible
word to make the circle complete,
revelation must be terrible
knowing you can never hide your voice again.