Resolution or Ritual?

Resolution or Ritual?

Every January 1st, my mother would make her New Year’s resolutions. Her list always contained the same two items — lose five pounds and exercise more. Whether it was the same five pounds she’d vowed to lose the previous year or an additional five was unclear. Her list would contain other goals, too, things like learning a new word every day or becoming an expert bear maker. (She did!)

Unlike my mother, I never made New Year’s resolutions. What was the point, I thought, if you are writing the same thing from year to year. It seemed more a record of failings than resolutions. Even the best intentions seemed to fall by the wayside before the first month ended.

For me, I preferred to mark the turning of the year with a ritual. For years, it was simply reading The Red Tent by Anita Daimant, cover to cover in one day, as I nibbled gorged on Christmas cookies and holiday leftovers. When that novel disappeared from my bookshelf, having been loaned to a friend but never returned, I switched to Keeper ‘n Me by Richard Wagamese. If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be? For me, Wagamese. Having once lived in northern Ontario myself, his story strikes a chord. But this year, his book wasn’t calling me.

So, sans a fiction novel to read, I made a resolution — Yes, me! — namely, to read The Making of a Story this year. By Alice LaPlante, the tome is almost 700 words. Perhaps it needs to be a 2‑year effort.

Still yearning for a ritual of some kind, I heard Kryon speak of “expecting benevolence.” Then, perhaps because my son was home for Christmas this year, I was reminded of playing the story-making game when he was a child. I would begin with an inciting incident, such as, “A man was eating an apple while driving his car. He threw the apple core out the window. What happened next?” My son would pick up the storyline, add some drama, and finish with, “And what next?” So I decided to mix the story-making approach with expecting benevolence.

And so I began…

“My short story “All in the Family” is published in Prairie Fire,” I said. (I admit it was a bit of a cheat because I knew the story was forthcoming, although I didn’t know precisely when.)

“And what next?” I asked myself. Instead of focusing on life moving from drama to drama, I focused on a life moving from good news to better news.

The release of my audio book (okay, another cheat), a road trip to New York, some physical healing, a falconry experience, an award, some relationship reconciliation….

Unleashed, my desires poured forth. Things I had been unable to admit wanting, even to myself. Within minutes, I had a very long list.

What else, what else, what else? I kept adding to the list.

Were these wild imaginings or powerful intentions? I didn’t know (and still don’t.) But I felt happier. Perhaps I wasn’t five pounds lighter as my mother always resolved for herself, but I was emotionally lighter.

This expectation of benevolence is my new ritual, one I intend to practice at the beginning of every New Year. Give it a try. See how it makes you feel. Can you give yourself permission to wish for anything and discover the secret yearnings in your own heart?

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be peaceful.

Photo: The bears, Wilbur and Wilma, hand sewn by my mother, feature in my next novel, a memoir about caregiving, about “memory, my mother, and me.”

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