Whenever someone starts talking about wellness goals and a healthier lifestyle, my mind autofills the standard droning list: less screen time, eat better, sleep more, save money, etc. etc. My eyes glaze over just thinking about it. We know. We all know what we’re expected to do when January 1st rolls around. And, we all know what happens by January 3rd. It’s hard to overhaul deeply ingrained habits for no reason other than a flip on the calendar and an increase in gym advertisements. Does all this "New Year, New Me" really motivate us to do better or does it just remind us of who we aren’t? True lifestyle changes happen when you actually enjoy what you are doing and when you do it with other people. There has to be a reason for the change other than a number on a scale or a box to check off. Those types of extrinsic motivations simply don’t last long.
My goal this year, a lofty one perhaps, but simple, is to be well. I want to be, and to do it well. It’s simplicity makes it easy to remember, easy to tell myself regularly, “Just… be.” Be me- me being jubilant, being irritated, being overwhelmed, being in community, being alone, being honest.
We spend so much time fantasizing about a future we haven’t gotten to yet and reminiscing on a past that we took for granted. Just yesterday, a friend was talking about how she wished we could go back to March or April of 2020 for that period of quarantine when we were all united. We were scared and inside, bored out of our minds, puzzling or making bread or searching for yeast to make that bread that we never actually made. I don’t mean to understate the heavy losses we have suffered. I merely intend to point out the tendency we have to look at our past and future with rose colored glasses, leaving the present dim and dull. We linger on “if only” and “back when” types of thinking- thoughts that if only we could get to that place we wanted to be, if only we could lose the weight or fix that relationship or land this job, then we could be better. If only we could go back to those simpler times, then we could be better. We are in love with our non-present. Isn’t it possible to have a more positive outlook in the actual present?
I am not encouraging blind eyes to the many trials and tribulations our world is facing. We cannot ignore the bad and only see the good. But can’t we take a moment to be more grateful for what we have right now? Part of me does wish I could go back to March or April, primarily because I would better relish in the time that I had with my roommates, three of my closest friends. We had nowhere to go, except for the one essential medical worker. We played games, did (two) puzzles, watched all of the Harry Potter movies (twice), and decorated our house to throw a party (for just us) celebrating a medical school acceptance. We FaceTimed for hours, stared at the ceiling, and refreshed news apps on our phones over and over again. We also worried and ardently wished for different times. Now, I look back on those times and primarily see the joys we shared as we found small ways to break up the monotony. How would it have been different if I had simply been there? If I had been more appreciative of my safety and more grateful for my friends? 2020 reminded us of how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken away. May we remember the fragility of our daily routines and pleasures and not take their existence for granted.
In this goal, to be, I will not ignore negative feelings nor disappointments that befall me. Nor do I encourage any reader to try that. We are human beings, meant to be authentic. We are not meant to hide from ourselves nor to pretend that we aren’t upset or angry or heartbroken. How will I do this? By looking honestly at how I am feeling, by tearing my gaze away from what other people are doing on my tiny screen to what is actually happening in my own life. When I am angry, I will be angry. I will be honest about that. When I feel overlooked and unloved, I will be honest. I will be me. There will undoubtably be problems that rear their ugly heads when I am most vulnerable, but I would rather see and face them than have a watered down life of monotonous comparison and "if only when"s.
So, in 2021, let us be, and let us do it well.