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Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Years ago I gave up New Year’s Resolutions, because they always fell apart for me by March! Now instead I choose a theme each year – something I want to ponder, practice, and live into.
2016 was the year of Noticing. I practiced noticing all year and got better and better at it – noticing small things and large patterns, how beautiful aging faces really are, and what people leave unsaid.
I’ve named 2017 the year of Courage.
As we grow older, courage sometimes shows up in ways that are different from how it showed up in our younger years. For example, it took courage for my friend Joy to decide to stop downhill skiing. An excellent skier, she has loved skiing. And she’s past 70 and notices her reflexes have slowed down. She felt vulnerable and less confident the last couple of times she skiied. So – does her decision not to ski shrink or expand her life? I asked Joy. Her response was interesting. She said that although she thought it would shrink it, she now feels it actually expanded it. A good friend of hers fell and broke a leg skiing last year. Recovery has been slow and painful. “I had the courage to stop before that was me,” she said. And she’s recently started cross-country skiing, which she’d never tried before. “It’s a whole new skill,” she told me. “And I’m loving learning something new.”
Maybe it’s also true that as we age, the courage we need is different – not physical daring-type courage, but emotional and relational. Think of the courage to keep learning, to acknowledge when we don’t know, to see the humanity in someone we disagree with, to forgive.
I can already think of many ways I’m hoping to have courage this year:
- To say “yes” to opportunities, challenges, life
- To say “no” when I don’t want to do something
- Not to be so sure I’m right about things
- To listen deeply to people who have different views of things
- To take care of myself, including eating less sugar
- To create and participate in things that are a lot of fun
- To stretch myself – keep learning
- To speak up in the face of prejudice and injustice
- To speak openly of spiritual matters
- To love people deeply and well
Anne Lamott calls me to find new depths of courage:
“If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”
What would be a good theme for your 2017? My friend Donna named her year “Simplify.” Before choosing courage, I considered curiosity, generosity and love. Somehow this quote tipped me to courage: “Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.” – Baltasar Gracian
- Consider choosing a theme for 2017.
- What will your theme for the new year be?
- How might it make 2017 a better year?
- Have a meaningful, fulfilling New Year!