Forget Resolutions: What do you want to learn in 2014?

Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “resolution”?

Resolution: The act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Did you know the word is a noun, not a verb?

How many resolutions do you make each year, and how many are you able to keep?

I stopped making resolutions several years ago because I got tired of setting myself up for failure. I kept promising myself that I would learn to cook and eat better, but so far all I’ve learned to cook is steak. Not veggies or quinoa or curry or even meatloaf, just steak. I gave up promising to get in better shape or be more organized because by March my running shoes were still clean and my date book was empty. But now I wonder if I was making resolutions wrong. If a resolution is a noun and not a verb, then maybe we need to think of a resolution as a tangible thing and not as a goal. Maybe a resolution is more of a transformation than simply the number of hours you log at the gym.

Instead of making resolutions that are about losing weight or earning money, what if we ask ourselves, “What do I want to learn this year?”

I want to learn to be kinder to myself, so I will look for ways to do that. Perhaps I will stick with meditation or read more books or spend more time with friends. Perhaps I’ll do all of that. Perhaps eating more veggies will make my body happier. The point is, rather than beating myself up for not meditating four times a week and eating more broccoli, I will praise myself for all the ways I try to treat myself gently. Rather than telling myself I’m a loser for not getting to the gym, I will tell myself that going to the gym is important because it makes my body happier.

Resolutions are a tool to help you, not hurt you. If resolutions make you feel guilty/angry/lazy/stupid, then they are worthless. Forget resolutions. Think deeper and ask what you hope to learn in 2014. Then find the tools to help you. If the word “resolution” is a noun, why are we treating it like a big, angry, scary verb?


2013: Do you know anyone who didn’t have a difficult year?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a difficult year. Relationships shattered; jobs vanished; housing collapsed;  finances withered. Even health seemed difficult to maintain in 2013. What is it about this year that caused even the toughest amongst us to cry “Uncle!” Just like so many this year, everything in my life cracked. I lost my job, had surgery on my shoulder that didn’t resolve the pain, my daughter was ill, stress quadrupled, and my marriage suffered. At the end of this year, I feel emotionally and physically battered to hell, and I know damn well I’m not alone.

Is there a single person anywhere who doesn’t feel like 2013 was the equivalent of a treck to Mordor?

Why was 2013 so hard? Astrologers blame Mercury. Politicians blame the economy. Conservatives blame the collapse of social norms. Is it the hang-over from the “Great Recession”? The crazy weather? Toxic chemicals in our drinking water? Hormones in our food supply? What is causing so many of us to suffer?

The Winter Solstice is here, and this year it holds more meaning for me than in past years. The darkness feels stronger, literally and figuratively. The days are cold and the nights too long and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and sleep until Spring. Usually, I love the Winter, but this year it feels that it will never end, even though technically Winter hasn’t even started yet. If only the sun would shine warmer, then maybe we could all get past this miserable year and start again. We could go outside and breath in the Winter air and know that the sun’s warmth is closer, the daylight will lengthen, and soon it will be time to plant the garden again.

Feeling completely discouraged, I hung two strands of colorful lights on my house yesterday in honor of Solstice. You can’t light bonfires anymore (at least not in town), so holiday lights are the next best thing. When the sun set I plugged in my lights and instantly my home felt more cheerful. The shadows glowed with red, green, blue and yellow light, and suddenly I felt that although 2013 tried hard, I wasn’t beaten.

I have no idea if 2014 will be a “good” year, or not, and I’ve given up hoping it will be better. I just know that I will still love and fight and dream and cry and eventually find a small bit of peace. I know that I have more to learn and more to do. I know that there will always be struggle, and sometimes the struggle will be more than I can manage.  I’ll lose a few battles, but I will not give up the fight. I know that ultimately I will continue to love and be loved. I know joy will find me when I am saddest.

Time to plug in my holiday lights again. Happy Solstice, dear friends.

The Day of Giving: Are We Giving to the Right Places?

food pantry
image from Press Democrat, Health Report shows Lake County’s Death Rate Twice the National Average.

The Day of Giving falls after the four days of extreme shopping, and though I’m happy there is a day acknowledging the need for charity, it angers me. I don’t have a problem with charity itself, I have a problem with where much of the charity goes. Too much charity in the United States feeds the myth that we are the country of wealth and there are no poor people here. Well, maybe there are a few, which is sad, but they are much better off than the poor starving children in Africa.


First, let me acknowledge the fact that there are millions of people in the world who need help. Millions of people are starving, living in refuge camps, dying of treatable diseases, living in war zones… I am not negating any of that. People do indeed need our help, and I don’t want to take away any of the support given to desperate people in Africa and Asia. But just sending money “over there” without a thought to the needs of the hungry children in our own nation perpetuates the fantasy that there is enough support here and no one lives in squalor like they do in Afghanistan.

Again, Bullshit.

When I worked for Easter Seals in Lake County as an early interventionist, visiting families with young, special needs children (under 3), teaching them the skills needed to help their children thrive, I witnessed American poverty.  In the 2 years I did this work, I met many families living in trailers with broken windows and blue tarps covering their falling roofs, families who had to choose between heat and food, families in need of medical care without access to a doctor. There were large families who lived together, ten people crammed into a two bedroom house, because that was the only way they could afford housing. One little girl I worked with cried when her color crayons melted from the summer heat because she lived in a house without electricity; there was electricity available, but her family couldn’t pay the bill. Most of these families lived in the City of Clearlake, the largest city in Lake County (pop. 15,000), which still has dirt roads, poor sanitation, and mercury contaminated drinking water.

Whenever I hear someone living in beautiful Sonoma County talk about how sad it is that children are starving in Africa, I want to shout, “What about the children starving just one hour away from you?” To those who sponsor children in Mexico, is there a way to sponsor a child in Clearlake? Or Detroit? The schools could use new text books, heat, and repairs. The clinics could use more doctors. The roads could use pavement.

It is important that we try to help people in poverty all over the world. But when it’s time to send money overseas, lets not forget the hungry child who is probably living two blocks away from you.