New Year's Intentions

The other day I was going through the overflowing myriad of stuff in my e-mail inbox and I paused to look at an e-mail I received from a yoga studio where I've taken a couple of classes in the past. What caught my eye in this e-mail was a blurb about an upcoming workshop called "New Year's Intentions Celebration." Hmm! What's this about?

The e-mail went this like:

Do you clearly know your vision and intentions for 2015? Want a fun and full body-mind-spirit way to get a better sense of what direction is ahead for you in the new year? Then come join the joyful discovery at the New Year’s Intention Celebration!

You’ll be gently guided and naturally inspired to explore, discover and clarify your intentions that become your compass to navigate your journey ahead.

 This fun and interactive workshop is perfect for you if…

  • You don’t have a clue what you want for the new year, but know you could use some clarity moving forward.
  • You’ve tried to set resolutions in the past and you got stuck, overwhelmed, or derailed somehow.
  • You already have intentions and goals in mind, but you need to get your heart and body with the program.
  • You can’t stand goal setting.
  • You’re feeling fuzzy about the future
  • AND you’d love to get a clearer sense of direction in a supportive environment with expert guidance rather than solo.

This piqued my interest because I identify with basically all of it. Who doesn't, right? Well, I suppose there are some perfect people out there who have life all figured out (if you find them, let's curse them with some horrible misfortune), but I'm sure they're really boring, tediously dull and lifeless people.

Unfortunately I could not afford to sign up for this workshop, and part of me was afraid it would turn out to be a dud anyway (or full of too-happy creepy Stepford women in odd yoga poses), but it made me think again about 2015 looming dangerously close and how I should actually try this year to make and follow through with some resolutions. Or intentions. Promises? Lazy, half-baked pseudo goals I make when I'm drinking too much wine? Whichever word will make me actually identify and follow through with the goals I need for an awesome and much-improved New Year, that's what I will call it! I'm really tired of being unhappy with my life and my life's direction (stagnation might be a better word). I want change. Good change. And I think recognizing that is a big part of making resolutions actually come true.

So, as I sit at my little desk on New Year's Eve, here is a short list of Angela's 2015 Intentions. I'm only going to write down five here because if I were to write down all of the changes needed to drastically improve my life, I'd be sitting here writing for the next 10 years. But perhaps I will do a Part Two of this article sometime in the near future, if you're interested.

1. Get physically healthier:

Lose at least 20 lbs (40 would be back to my ideal college weight, but let's be realistic in the beginning), stop drinking Diet Coke (all soda) and most caffeine, exercise a lot more (ok, exercise some in general), start swimming again and lifting light weights, get good sleep and more sleep, stop drinking alcohol (well, cut down at least), go back to eating only whole foods, cut way down on gluten and refined carbs, and cool it with all of the cheese, chocolate and sugar. This "intention" sounds like absolutely NO FUN but from past experiments with some of these changes, I know I will feel a lot better. And my RA will be better.

Oh! I almost forgot about the yoga. I want to try yoga again. The low-impact class I tried a couple times at a really lovely studio in St. Paul, I liked a lot. It was a small class with friendly people (mostly women) and I left each class feeling much calmer and less tense and with less pain. As a beginner, I also did not feel anxious or intimidated to join the class with the other more experienced yoga ladies. So why haven't I been going on a regular basis? Laziness. I don't like driving to St. Paul. Money. Stupid excuses, really. Not making stupid excuses is another good 2015 Intention.

2. Get mentally/emotionally healthier:

Fire my therapist? But seriously, I've been thinking this for quite a while now, and I do think I need to find a new therapist--someone who's a better fit. Mine is nice and fun and a funny smart-aleck to talk to and I'd love to have a beer or a cup of coffee with him, but he doesn't handle me very well when I have emotional meltdowns and start bawling about my childhood or, say, the terror of aging and my parents dying. So I think a change in this area is probably necessary.

A couple of friends as well as health care professionals have recommended meditation to me over the last year and I've been hesitant to try it. Why? I don't know. It feels "weird" to me, I guess. And, being the neurotic, anxious person that I am, I can't foresee meditation working that well with a brain that's constantly a tornado of worries, spinning and looping and sucking up dirt and garbage wherever it goes. That might sound a bit extreme, but I think you know what I mean. I'm a nervous, tense mess. How can I settle down enough to meditate? I've also tried doing guided meditation with another therapist and I broke down giggling during it and he got mad. We didn't try that again.

BUT, I have been thinking about using meditation techniques more seriously and that it would be good for me to maybe have more peaceful, calm, contemplative times, where I take the time and energy to really think about what's going on in my life, what I'm doing, what's going on with my health and body, what's going on with my spirit and soul, what I like and don't like, and what I really want to be doing in life.

I recently started writing in a journal again and I hope getting back into the practice of doing this will help make some of my thoughts and dreams clearer. I'll try it anyway. Hopefully I won't just write about how I feel fat and crushed that the boys I like never like me back (that was my latest entry, and yes, I am still 16).

3. Get financially healthier/smarter:

I think I've been in some denial about this, but I've got some significant credit card debt. A lot of this debt is related to medical bills, so I try to not beat myself up about that too much. Going to the doctor and getting my medications and treatments is non-negotiable and 100% necessary. However, the other part of my debt is my fault. My disorganization, and procrastination, and my "life is short, go to Europe!" attitude. Or my "life is short, follow your dreams, buy that $800 camera lens!" attitude.

While I believe doing wonderful, inspiring, often life-changing things like going to Europe to see old friends, or traveling new places is worthwhile, it's maybe not the wisest thing to do and keep doing when you can't really afford it (ahem). So, yeah. I often have a bad habit of spending beyond my means. I'm not okay with this habit at all; it's very frustrating and depressing and anxiety-inducing. This new year of 2015 I resolve to change my irresponsible spending ways and to work really hard to pay off my debt while at the same time not compromising or giving up on working toward my dreams. How I will do this exactly, I don't know for sure, but I'm going to try.

4. Be grateful:

This sounds very Oprah-ish, I realize, but I do believe in the positive effect gratitude can have on your own life as well as others' lives. Right before and during the first part of my trip to Boston/New York/New Jersey in November, I had a lot of stressful, tumultuous, anxiety-filled things going on emotionally. In an attempt to not ruin my trip and go completely mental, I forced myself (although it weirdly started happening on its own very quickly) to calm down, breathe, and be grateful for the trip I was on and the wonderful people I was meeting. And to be just grateful for everything that was happening to me and the things that I was making happen, too.

Even if the situations were new or scary or stressful (traveling is often all of these things, even when you enjoy it), I kept telling myself to be thankful for them. And, surprise, surprise--a lot of wonderful, positive things started to happen! I began having a closer friendship with a new friend (I didn't realize how much I needed this), job and career opportunities were literally leaping into my e-mail inbox, and I was meeting new people and making friends left and right. I said HUGE thank-yous for these things.

But I also said thank-you for the horrible B&B experience in Brookline, MA where I got swindled out of a night's sleep and $200 (I will laugh about this story...someday). And thank-yous for a bunch of other annoying, inconvenient and dumb things that happened. I can't think of them off the top of my head right now probably because instead of moaning and whining and bitching about them in my head (and to others), I tried hard to be grateful for the entire experience in general and didn't obsess over the bad things. Of course there was some bitching; I'm not perfect, after all. But making a conscious effort to be positive and thankful made some great things happen, I think.

Sadly, the Oprah inside of me apparently died or fell into a coma as soon as I got back home to Minneapolis. I had the post-trip blues REALLY bad. Depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, RA flare-up, unemployment, crying in the aisle at Target. I was having a very hard time being grateful for any of this. I'm happy to report that after a month of being back home, I'm no longer crying in Target and I am feeling better and more positive. But I haven't been able to recapture those feelings I had of gratitude during my trip. So. This is one of my main Intentions for 2015: be grateful for life.

 5. Do not give up on your dreams:

This has always been a hard resolution or "intention" to stick to for me, for years, probably due to low self-esteem issues and worrying about if I'm good enough to do what I really want to do in life. So what do I want to do? I think I finally have it figured out. Or narrowed down, at least. I want to be a journalist. A really GOOD journalist. An insightful writer and photographer who isn't exactly like everyone else out there who's trying to do the same thing. I want to create work that means something to me but to other people as well. And I want to use my writing and photography passions to continue working for arthritis and health care advocacy. It probably looks like I'm doing this already, and I am to some extent. But I want more! I want to do this on a bigger scale. I want to reach more people and meet more people and collaborate and share with others. I want excitement and adventure and romance and travel! I do not feel content to waste away in smallish, cramped, cliquey, passive-aggressive Minneapolis, where I've been bored and uninspired and starved for something other for years.

Deep down I know that I could be successful at both writing and photography if I worked really hard at it. I think. But a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem often both attack me, yelling, "You suck! You really suck. Why do you even bother trying? You're wasting your time. You might as well go sit in a cubicle and make Excel spreadsheets for the rest of your life. Plus, you have RA and you can't physically do what you want to anyway, so you better give up and just stay in bed."

I hate those voices and I know they're wrong. They're just really hard to shut up sometimes. So. My Intention for 2015 is to NOT listen to those jerks in my head telling me to give up and that I'm not good enough, but to keep working hard and to keep moving forward in the direction of my dreams, and of the life I really want to have. I can do it. Even while living with RA.

There you go--my five New Year's Intentions! They're not quick or easy and they're a lot more complicated than I can even express. But maybe my #6 Intention should be "Baby Steps" or "One Thing At A Time" or "Don't Freak Out and Try to Do All of This At Once." That's one more thing I intend to work on and improve.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here's to 2015 being a FANTASTIC year and a beautiful new adventure and beginning! I'm grateful it's about to begin.

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