I’m not much for making lists. I do try to make a grocery list each week but inevitably I forget it on the counter or forget to add the important things like cheese or cereal. Most of the time I go by memory and it works pretty well and if I end up with extra lemons, why not make lemon tarts?
As I settle into this new year, it has never crossed my mind to make any resolutions. Why set myself up for failure by creating a list of unrealistic expectations? I will most likely forget my list on the counter and end up doing extra sets of crunches and mountain climbers when I was supposed to go swimming. Oi!
Instead of resolutions, which are dictatorial and so not fun, why not enact a series of returns and exchanges? If you receive a sweater that doesn’t fit, you take it back and exchange it. If you buy a toaster and it doesn’t work, you return it.
If we can return and exchange the material things in our lives that we don’t like or don’t serve us, why not return and exchange the less tangible things aren’t working for us?
Perhaps you find yourself getting annoyed that you have to take your dog for a walk everyday. There are too many things you feel are more important and this is just another interruption. All you want is to get the walk over with as soon as possible but your dog wants to stop every few minutes and smell each individual blade of grass and pee on every other bush. By the time you return home, you are short tempered and cranky and yet your dog seems as happy as ever. Why not exchange the feelings of frustration for those of happiness? Happiness that the only demand on your time is a walk with your dog. Leave your phone at home or in your pocket and be present. Granted you probably won’t find every blade of grass and every other bush intensely interesting but there are likely other things that will. Notice each foot as it hits the pavement. Watch the sky change colours as the sun rises or sets. Enjoy the hockey game from the sidewalk because the guy down the street has a 90 inch TV and doesn’t close his curtains. Why be frustrated when you can be happy? It takes no effort to be calm but many demands of your body and mind to maintain levels of frustration. You might also find that your body feels lighter and there is more space between your thoughts.
Returns work the same way as exchanges. Maybe once upon a time you spent Sunday afternoons sketching and it gave you great joy but over the months or years the habit fell away. You keep thinking that you’d like to get back to it but something else always seems to get in the way and besides you lost your pencil sharpener and the dog ate the red and yellow pencils and the paper ended up in the bottom of the bird’s cage. Phooey. Those colours were so last season anyway. Go to your local art supply store and buy new pencils and a sharpener. Or maybe it’s charcoals or pastels. You probably need a sketchbook too. While you’re at the store, sign up for a weekly art class. If it’s scheduled and paid for, you are more likely to do it and by the time the session is over, an old love is returned and a new habit is formed. You may not be sketching every Sunday afternoon but you might be surprised at just how often you can find time here and there to return to your pencils.
Why start the new year stressing over making a list of things that you think need to be fixed? The world constantly changes so why limit yourself. As you notice something that you would like to reshape, be kind and patient with yourself. Exchange a negative feeling for one that is more positive. If an action is no longer serving you, let it go and return to an activity that fulfills you.
Of course there will be times when you will feel frustrated or angry or sad or just meh. That’s okay; it’s part of life. But sometimes we forget that we don’t have to settle for a particular feeling; we are in control. When you’re ready, make a return or exchange. You don’t even need a bill of sale.