The Redefinition of A New Year’s Resolution.
What was my resolution? Well, I’m not proud to admit that I have a bit of a potty mouth. While I control it pretty well when my kids are around, when I hurt myself or get surprised or just get around someone else who swears, off I go.
I suppose this habit began during my years of working in Manhattan, where your run-of-the-mill swear words are socially acceptable adjectives, leaving you just the really big ones to use as expletives. That said, it’s been a really long time since I worked in New York, so I’m not sure that’s such a good excuse. Whatever the reason, it’s a habit I periodically try to break. And what better time to give it a (-nother) whirl than at the start of a new year?
What happened that morning, just one day into the new year, that moved me to a dirty word? I tripped.
I was tip-toeing through the sleeping house, headed out for a walk with my dog. In typical, multi-tasking fashion, I wasn’t only getting ready for my walk. I was also lugging a gigantic hamper of dirty clothes to the mud room. Because my hands were full, I hadn’t turned on any lights. I made my way through the pitch-black kitchen, balancing my sneakers, a glass of water and the laundry. Then I tripped over the dog’s bed. As I nearly lost my precarious load, out slipped a whispered four-letter word. Almost before that single syllable had left my lips, I realized that I’d cursed and broken my resolution — and out slipped another one.
If it weren’t for my yoga practice, I might have thrown up my hands then and there. After all, it would have been easy to decide “So much for a clean mouth in 2012!” It would have been a whole lot easier than keeping at it, right?
But yoga’s taught me better than that.
I vividly remember trying to figure out how to jump back into a high plank from a forward bend in the Sun Salutations (surya namaskar) that open each class. Because my teacher always led us through eight to ten Sun Salutations, I had many opportunities to try. In the beginning, it was not unusual for me to chicken out and step back seven or eight times in a row. But even as jumping became less frightening, I would mess up a lot more than I’d get it right. I’d jump with just one foot. Or I’d land with a teeth rattling thud. Or I’d freak out mid-jump and wind up way out of position for the next movement.
But never once did I consider throwing up my hands and quitting. After all, I was learning to do something I’d never done before. I knew from experience that physical feats like the jump back didn’t come naturally or easily for me. My messing up was not unexpected. Honestly, it was more unexpected when I did manage to land a jump back! So I kept at it. And, over time, the number of misfires and sloppy landings started to drop off. One day, I realized that whether or not I could jump back was no longer a question. The question was simply whether or not I would.
My understanding of the process involved in learning and changing arms me against failure. In fact, this understanding redefines failure. Slipping up and swearing isn’t a death knell for my goal any more than my early, spastic attempts at a jump back meant that I’d never be able to do it. Just as each missed landing was a chance to figure out what I’d done wrong, each time I curse is a chance to notice what cues this habit of mine. While I know I won’t be able to avoid these triggers, it’s OK. After all, there was no way to avoid the jump backs either. They just kept coming — ten times every time I came to my mat!
With this in mind, I’ve redefined my New Year’s resolution. Instead of a clean mouth in 2012, I’m going to work on developing a cleaner mouth. I’m hoping that the process will mirror the development of my jump back. Over time, hopefully, the number of my slip ups will drop off. Maybe, just maybe, by this time next year, I’ll realize that whether or not I can stop cursing is no longer a question. The question will simply be whether or not I do. When that’s the case, just as I now usually choose to jump, I’m confident that I’ll (usually) choose not to say a four-letter word.
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