New Year's Resolutions and Who Are You, Anyway?
When I taught at San Jose State, one of my favorite assignments was based on a This American Life episode on superpowers. Ira Glass asks people to chose between invisibility or flight—I didn’t have to think about it the first time I listened. Invisibility? What would the point be? To be in a room full of people and have no one see me? That was one of my biggest fears. Flight, on the other hand, could get me somewhere in, I would hope, magnificent style.
Many people, however, do chose invisibility as their superpower. They can see and hear things they would not have access to as an embodied person. Yuck. There’s a reason I don’t read someone’s journal if they leave it out in the open, or if they hide it. It’s called: I don’t want to get my feelings hurt. But if we were all the same, Dairy Queen would perpetually be out of chocolate ice cream, so thank the lord for preference.
The cool thing about superpowers is that we can attribute them to gods and angels, but they also exist here on earth for us, we the people. Take dreaming, for example. That is one of my favorite superpowers. I recently created a year-long accountability group for people to state and pursue three goals, three new year’s resolutions, in essence. My New Year’s Resolutions used to look something like 1. lose 10 pounds 2. go to the gym 3. get a new job. I feel dead even writing them, or, if not dead, headed to numb. I’m going to use all of my talents to lose ten pounds, go to the gym, and get a new job?
Isn’t there anything…bigger? More fun? More helpful to others? More exciting to wake up to every morning? I mean, being in shape and loving your job are wonderful things, but was your whole brain made for such, for such, for such reachable goals?
What if instead of New Year’s Resolutions we called them New Year’s Dreams? What if we treated resolutions as goals, goals as dreams, and dreams as imaginable targets instead of someday but not today escape routes? What if we had the courage to name what we really wanted even if it seemed petty or impossible?
What I have noticed in working as a writing coach with people this past year is that the life they want is often so close to them they don’t even see it, the way you generally don’t see your own cornea. Often these people are even living the life they want, but they are so focused on what they don’t want or what they don’t like about themselves, they haven’t noticed they are living out their dreams, only they have their own hand over their mouth and they can hardly take in a decent breath or the hair shirt they put on every morning is so annoying they can’t focus on the beauty of their toothbrush.
The other thing is that almost everyone has a car or a bike or a bus pass, and you can leave. You think you have to stay in the life you have created for yourself; you think the world around you needs you, but the most important relationship you will even cultivate, the one between your spirit and your spine is the thing that, on your deathbed, you will focus on. You might as well get it right now instead of crying about it like Granny Weatherall when you are about to croak. Someone else can file the motion at court. You need to get things straight with you because one day you are going to die and if you don’t love yourself and the life you had, what was the point?
Finally, to wrap this meandering piece of Sunday afternoon up, I think the question What do you want? is the wrong question to ask when thinking about goals or dreams. Our brains are too crazed to come up with a dependable answer. I think the question Who are you? is more helpful. Who are you? If you were to hand me a photograph that was most you, a photograph of you at any age, a photograph that may only be in your mind, who are you there? How old are you? What are you wearing? What are you doing? What is in your heart? What and whom do you love? What did you last eat? What do you plan on doing next? What time did you go to bed? Who is your best friend? What book are you reading? What song did you last sing?
That’s your spirit animal. You. Do everything in your power to clear the way for you because that’s your truest superpower: yourself-ness. When you aim for the target of you, you become a force of good. Energy used as it was intended is power, and this kind of power is love, and love helps everyone.
As a sidenote, one of my new year’s dreams is to do a pull-up. I know. Not that far from losing ten pounds or going to the gym, but COME ON! It means that I want to be able to pull myself up if, in my adventures, I fall off a cliff. It means I want to be able to do something I physically can not do right now. So, go ahead, judge me. I used up one of my dreams for something many people can do half awake.
But this goal, this dream, makes me happy when I wake up in the morning. I think: I have to eat well and exercise and focus so I can pull my own body weight. It makes me feel excited to have a body.
It’s so fun.
Happy new year.
The photo was taken by Life Magazine in 1961 of my mom. She had a lot of dreams. I am writing a book about them now.