You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
~ Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
I passed too many of the Januarys of my youth dreaming of the slender, sculpted body I’d have by June.
I spent too much time calculating how many pounds I could fight off in a month, how much of myself I could slough away by summer. By the time I shook off the brunt of my addiction to dieting, I still made brazen vows each year; I used the fantasy of some better version of myself to illuminate the darkest, coldest days.
The other day, I noticed I was feeling bad about myself. I pointed out, silently and to myself, all the areas where I was failing: my perpetually messy home; my overly insular life; my utter lack of sophistication.
I began to feel the old, familiar insecurity trailing me like a long scarf dragging through dirty snow.
What was causing this huge burst of self-doubt? We’d just enjoyed one of the best holiday seasons ever with our kids. We played games and colored and read the first Harry Potter out loud. We slept in, lounged in our pajamas, played in the first snowfall of the season.
So why was I feeling so shitty? Where was this toxic doubt coming from?
It took me a while to figure out it was January’s fault. January, with it’s pristine calendar of empty squares. Even the word sounds a bit judgy, austere—January.
It’s the time of year when gyms overflow with people promising to be healthier, fitter, more sinewy. When magazines are stuffed with tips on how to be more organized or save more money or quit smoking.
My body remembers the glossy allure of New Year’s resolutions. Of having an unetched year ahead, one where I could become, somehow, the best possible version of myself. Where perhaps in reaction to the orgy of food and spending money that often accompanies the holidays, we all quietly promise to “get good.”
Mixed with dropping temperatures and winter darkness, it’s a recipe for self-doubt.
So I’ve been reminding myself to soften, to go easy.
You are the same you from December, I whisper. It’s January but you don’t need to be perfect.
Get present, get still enough to hear the beat of your own good heart. It’s okay to strive for better, to pursue all your dreams. But do it knowing you are already enough, you are already a wild and lovely creature of the universe.
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Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: María Victoria Heredia Reyes at Unsplash