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I make a lot of New Year’s resolutions.  Every year I attempt to create some idyllic version of me that will no doubt foster a perfect life.  And every year I fail.

I’m starting to realize that I fail because I expect perfection; trying is not enough – it’s only the result that counts.  That’s going to change.

My favourite blogger/writer, the brilliant Sarah Bessey, chose to be fearless this year.  While the results were unexpectedly awesome, a lot of lesson were learned along the way.  But my favourite lesson, and the one I plan to channel all year, is this: being fearless does not mean you don’t fear anything; it simply means “you do it anyway” in spite of your fear.

I’ve spent a lot of time being fearful this year; actually, I spend a lot of my life being fearful.  I fear the things most people fear: being rejected, making mistakes, dying, the future, etc.  I think far too hard and care far too much about what people think of me.  Yet for some reason, I do things anyway.  

This past fall I went through another vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.  Sleep disappeared, tears flowed, and fear abounded.  I became a shadow of myself, my world growing ever smaller as I came to fear walking down the driveway at my parents’ farm.  It was debilitating, frightening, and confusing and it shattered my self-esteem, which really hadn’t recovered since my last go round.

But I did things anyway.  I went to school, I wrote papers, I rode the bus, I went back to work, I led out at church and told my story to my family and friends, and I slowly worked my way back to myself.  It was hard, often desperate work, but I did it anyway.

So I realize that I already AM practicing fearlessness, and that the practice of fearlessness never ends.  I am braver, stronger and more courageous than I give myself credit for.  But I forget that.  Constantly.

What I need to work on is confidence.  I need to trust myself.  I need to be kinder and gentler to myself, to celebrate my strengths.  I need to focus on the good that’s right in front of me instead of always looking for the bad.  To me, confidence goes hand-in-hand with positivity.

I will need confidence this year.  I finish law school and start a new job.  I’ll be moving to Regina yet again.  There are big changes coming for me.  And I want to be able to look at them with confidence and excitement, rather than fear and dread.

I’ve read a lot of beautiful things this year, and the one that sticks with me is that life is lived in the in-between.  It’s really another formulation of the old trope that it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.  But there’s something about the imagery of the in-between that sticks in my mind.

This year I want to live in the in-between, to have confidence that I can handle it, that I can thrive and grow, and find out that looking on the bright side makes life a lot more enjoyable.

I know what you’re thinking: sure, that all sounds well and good, but how are you going to do this?

Well, here are some concrete steps:

1. Be grateful.  I’m going to start a simple gratitude journal.  Every day I’ll write down 5 things I’m thankful for.  I did this for about a year at one time, and really enjoyed it, so I’m going to go back to it.  I’m sure there are a million gratitude apps (I looked and there are), but I’m going to stick with pen and paper.

2. Read more HAPPY things.  I’m going to add more happiness blogs to my blogroll.

3. Disconnect from the internet/TV at least one day a week, and after 7:00 pm every evening.  When I was at my most anxious this fall, I couldn’t look at my laptop or watch TV; it was a weird kind of sensory overload.  So I didn’t look at them unless I absolutely had to for school.  And you know what?  I LOVED IT.  If I felt like it, I’d turn on CBC Radio and listen to the evening’s jazz program or simply sit in silence and read.  I felt freed from feeling like I HAD to be constantly connected; the world won’t end if I don’t get around to reading that bookmarked article on the Globe and Mail.

4. Write more.  I am a writer.  I love writing and I’m good at it.  Writing is the best means for me to express my own complexity (wow, that sounds pretentious).  It’s cathartic and allows me to empty myself of all of those thoughts and feelings milling around inside of me.  It helps me sort out problems and figure out exactly what I think and feel.  I need to write, and that’s why I moved the blog and started it back up.

5. Read more and read different things.  My Goodreads list is filled with everything from biographies to romances to spiritual treatises to political manifestos and more.  I feel a bit overwhelmed by everything I want to read at this moment.  I’m wanting to do a series on women in the Bible/gender roles in the church when I lead out in church in March so I have three books for that so far.  The quarter’s church lessons are about creation and I’ve just started exploring how evolution can fit with creation (I do believe it can be done), so I have books lined up to read about that.  I have a book about loneliness, one about introversion, one about Abraham Lincoln’s battle with depression, a book about justice and another book about the morality of markets that I want to read.  Books excite me.  Ideas excite me.  I need to read more.

6. Continue exploring my faith.  I have a general idea of what I believe, but it’s really only in the past year that I’ve wanted to explore those ideas in any depth.  I’ve found a community of writers online that have really opened my eyes and my heart and created a desire to search out what I stand for and why.  Church and faith are important to me, but they often conflict.  Maybe there’s something to be learned from that tension.

7. Establish a two-minute rule.  If it can be done in under two minutes, I must do it then and now. And if it’s something I don’t want to do, I have to try it for at least two minutes.  I’m such a procrastinator. and it’s something that causes stress for no reason.

8. Explore more stress reduction strategies.  I need to relax more.  As much as I love thinking and creating, it’s tiring; I’m not good at putting my feet up and doing nothing.  I come from a long line of busy women, so I come by it honestly.

9. Eat healthier and get more exercise.  This is self-explanatory.

10. Find more ways to incorporate music into my life.  Music gives me joy, particularly when I’m making it; I am often happiest when I’m sitting at the piano and belting out a song.  I don’t sing a lot anymore, mostly because I like to do it by myself and I have a roommate.  But I only have a roommate for a few more months.

11. Daydream more.  I made a list of 30 things I’d like to do in my 30s (although I think I’ve only come up with 25 so far), which was a lot of fun.

12. Be a better money manager.  I’m not terrible with my money, but I could definitely manage it better and save myself some cash here and there.

For once I’ve made a list of resolutions mostly filled with things that feed my soul, both literally and figuratively.  While there are some ‘do nots’ in there, it’s mostly filled with ‘dos’ – positive actions.  I want to take care of me this year, be kinder and more compassionate to myself,  and learn to be confident and think more positively.  I’ll start with this thought: I can do this.

Where to begin?

As the brilliant Sarah Bessey said,

“Lament, go ahead, and I need someone to say it, too, just once, once out loud: what in the actual fuck has happened here?


Personally, I am disgusted.  Appalled.  Yet I’m not completely shocked; as President Obama pointed out, this happens all too often in America lately.

I’m angry, an emotion I feel far too often lately.  I am angry at the person who ruined thousands of lives within minutes, at a country that values its right to bear arms more than the lives of its fellow citizens, at a culture that lets nine year olds play ‘Call of Duty,’ at the media for prying for all of the gory details, and somewhere deep down inside, at God for allowing this to happen to CHILDREN.

I am frightened.  Life feels more fragile than it has in a long time.

Culturally, I am troubled.  We live in a society where heaven forbid we swear on TV or show a little nudity, but it’s completely okay to have ‘Criminal Minds’ on at 8:00 in the evening, show bloody murdered and raped women on ‘CSI’ and ‘The Good Wife,’ and allow violent movies to be rated PG-13 while a few f-bombs get an R rating.

We are an angry and selfish people.  We look for instant self-gratification, we don’t want to examine and battle with the bad parts of ourselves and we have no idea how to deal with our pain.  I know, because I am one of them.

We look at mental illness as weakness.  We stigmatize those who suffer from it.  We treat it like a personal fault rather than an illness, and it IS an illness.  We don’t have near enough resources to deal with the overwhelming amount of people who need help.  We don’t support them.  We pity them and categorize them as beyond help and ignore them.

Politically, I am sickened.  Awhile ago, after yet another US mass shooting, I read an article about how all Second Amendment jurisprudence on the right to bear arms is based on a complete and utter misreading of American history, largely propagated by the NRA (of course I can’t find the article now).  I’m sure you’re not surprised.

There is no common good anymore.  Citizenship means nothing.  We are individualistic and materialistic.  Power and money reign.  The needs of those with access to resources trumps the needs of those without.  We have a very fucked-up sense of what ‘freedom’ means.  This about sums it up:

But I really want someone who advocates against gun control to balance the scales for me, to go ahead and try to explain to me why the inconvenience suffered by gun owners and prospective gun owners under much tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns and ammunition outweighs the death of children in their classrooms, a place where they’re not just supposed to be safe, but to thrive. Explain to me why their suffering is worse than that of the people who died, and lost family members, in the rampage at Aurora, Colorado, where they were drawn to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises out of enthusiasm, because it’s a time when parents with infants can see a movie and trust that they’ll sleep through the screening. Please, balance out for me, the loss of Gabby Giffords’ potential with impatience at a waiting period, or frustration at not being able to fire a certain number of bullets per minute. Because this is the choice we make, every time. And I’m terrified to watch us make it again.

I have no doubt we will.

We are also ignorant. Are these types of shootings not terrorism?  We define terrorism as violence by ‘others,’ mostly Islamic extremists.  But really, what is the difference between 9/11 and the events in Newtown except for scale?  Certainly there are different motives and religious factors involved, yet terror is at the heart of each event.

And more guns won’t solve the problem.  You cannot stop violence with MORE violence.

Spiritually, I just don’t understand.  Why does God reach out and protect some and not others.  Why is it that the innocents suffer?  Sometimes I think it’s a means of showing us the inanity and inhumanity of our lives.  It’s the only thing that makes even a little bit of sense to me.

Yet I strongly object the idea that school shootings are occurring because God has been ‘taken out’ of schools.  These are the views of the religious right which only supports the type of God in schools that fits its own version of God.  A Jewish or Islamist version of God wouldn’t be welcome.  ‘Taking’ God out of schools isn’t so much about moving to a more secular culture than it is about trying to make schools a neutral place where all ideas can be heard.  It’s about teaching kids to respect and be tolerant of other faiths and beliefs.  Christians don’t have a monopoly on truth.

Some days I have no idea what I believe.  God seems very real to me at times, and so distant at others.  This year I am actually practicing Advent, and while I’m not sure what it all truly means to me, I do feel “an Advent ache” (I love that phrase).  We need Someone to save us from ourselves, as we simply can’t be bothered to do it.

While I hope and pray that love and common sense will win out and that these precious children didn’t die in vain (I wish I had a better phrase for what I mean), I don’t believe it will change anything at all.  And if it doesn’t, can anything?

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