As 2011 begins, like a lot of people, I am thinking about what I hope this New Year will bring.
But I'm not following the time honored tradition of making explicit resolutions. That is soooo 20th century and anyway most research has shown that choosing a specific goal is a set-up for failure because it puts you in the position where you have only two options.
It's either success or failure, win or lose, pass or fail. It puts way too much pressure on creating a very definite result, like I'm going to lose 20 lbs by March 3rd or make $50,000 with my business this year.
And if you have been spending any time at all hanging out with me here on my blog you know that focusing exclusively on a finished product... whether or not that finished product is an art piece or your dress size.... is counter-productive to having a happy, creative life.
So in the spirit of the new paradigm I am choosing a word that signifies an emotional quality that I want more of in my life this year. My word is Trust but it actually started out as a phrase, the tagline from the infamous Mad Magazine which is "What. Me Worry?"
That phrase has kept jumping out at me over the past few months because I am an inveterate worrywart. It is a life long pattern and one of the primary ways that I create unnecessary suffering in my life.
I know rationally that the things I worry about are ridiculous. And in fact my husband and I have often joked about how we don't have to be concerned about ANYTHING that I worry over, because those things NEVER come to pass.
But reality has never really mattered. The worry has had a life of it's own. It's been a painful compulsion that has plagued and tortured my for many, many years.
But lately something is shifting. For some strange reason it doesn't have the same intensity or hold over me as it once did. The worry still appears, but there is a softening around the edges. It's lighter and not as dense.
It fills me like it did before but instead of taking my on a wild tortuous ride into anxiety land it tends to dissipate not long after it starts.
Which feels wonderful and is a bit of a miracle.
Instead of being filled with dread and nasty visions of a negative future I'm feeling a greater and greater sense of trust. Trust that things will work out. That everything is most likely going to be OK. Even if OK doesn't look like I thought it was going to.
Which got me to thinking a bit more about the word trust.I know it's what I want. And it's also just what seems to be happening kind of on it's own.
But trust is one of those concepts that puzzles me at the same time, because when I'm saying I want to experience more trust, what exactly am I talking about?
What do I know about trust? What is it that I'm really doing when I say that I'm cultivating trust?
So first I looked it up in the dictionary and here's the official definition:
TRUST: A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Which sounds really good. I like reliability. It's something I look for in others and try to cultivate in myself. The same goes for strength and I highly value honesty and truth. So we are off to a very good start here.
But of course this exploration takes me down the rabbit hole to another level where I investigate the concept of reliability. And asking myself what do I mean by THAT? What kind of reliability am I looking for?
I have had a sneaking suspicion for a while that what I really mean by trust and reliability is not too far off from what people want when they set New Years resolutions.
Which is that I want to be in control.
And I want to feel confident that I can get EXACTLY what I want in just the way that I want it.
What I really want from trust is a guarantee.
I want things to go my way. I really do want that spanking shiny specific outcome. I want life and my body and my loved ones and my business and MYSELF to be reliable. In all the best ways. Which secretly means that I want everything to get to a point where it is the best it can possibly be and then never, ever change.
Which of course would be terribly, horribly boring. But at least I would be safe.
And it never works out that way anyhow. Because things are always, ALWAYS changing and what happens in my life is often surprising and often not to my liking.
So if cultivating that trust thing isn't about a particular end result, what again AM I trusting?
For example, in my marriage, my hubby and I are looking at certain patterns that we have developed over our 16 year relationship. And it's clear that some ways that we interact with each other need to change. Which means that I find myself feeling uncomfortable at times and not getting certain things that I have gotten in the past.
But still there is trust. And even though it's not about trusting that I can always get what I want there is the deeper trust that the commitment that we made to the relationship and to each other can only get stronger as we do the necessary work to make these changes.
My body is another place where I struggle to come to terms with what to trust. I'm in my late 50's and ever since I went through menopause my body has been incredibly unpredictable and frustratingly unreliable. It's hard to trust from day to day that my body will be functioning the way I hope it will.
So what I'm learning to trust is that there is a greater wisdom at work when my body starts to act up.
There are things it's trying to teach me... like the importance of rest and self care. What it really means to slow down and relax. How closely my emotions and my body are linked up. And to trust that there is more to me than just my body.
What can you reliably count on when you are in the desert of the unknown and you don't know where you're going and you don't know how to get there?
In times like these I've learned that I can't trust my head but I can be led through the void by the desires of my heart.
That I can still make choices even though I feel like I have no control.
And of course there is trusting in life itself. How to even begin to trust when I am brought to my knees by loss... the loss of health, of youth, of friends and family to death, divorce or estrangement, the loss of jobs or houses, or a cherished dream?
It's what author Carolyn Myss calls the random face of god. It's the bad and painful stuff that happens to us that feels unfair or untimely. Or like an unexpected bolt from the blue.
Even in the face of some of this incredibly difficult stuff I've learned to trust, as cliche as it may sound, that life really does go on.
That my heart can be broken open by my grief into a place of more tenderness and vulnerability if I allow myself to feel.
And ultimately I have learned to trust that if I keep that broken heart open to love there is always plenty of love out there just waiting to come back to me.