Looking into a Different Mirror in 2019

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Photo by hannah grace (@oddityandgrace )

While I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, I like the idea of resolving, this year, to change the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

One of the most relaxing parts of my winter break were the hours I spent curled up with The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, the most-recommended fantasy fiction book by all of you.

At the end of the book, I found a pearl of wisdom spoken by a minor character named Bast:

Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.

Bast then goes on to illustrate about how the story we tell ourselves can change (I choose to read this excerpt with the implied broad sense of “beauty,” and even so wish the example were a different one):

If you tell [a shy girl you love] she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding…But [you can] show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands…It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.

So often we cling clinging fiercely to limitations that are far past their expiration date.

We can resolve this year to start to believe the stories that the people who love us most tell us about ourselves.

Stories about being worthy of love.

Stories about being truly, deeply beautiful.

Stories about what we can accomplish: the book we can write, the new role we’re ready for, the strengths we have that come so easily to us that we ignore them.

The biggest leaps I took in 2018 were possible because I believed, even if just for a moment, the kindest, most generous stories that people who love me told me. These stories were sometimes spoken out loud and sometimes reflected powerfully in actions.

All of them helped me see myself in the kinder light reflected in the mirror of their eyes, rather than the harsh glow of self-criticism.  And I’d think, “Maybe they’re right. Maybe that is in me. Maybe.” That was enough to imagine bravery. That was enough to begin.

As we look to 2019, let us remember to believe those who see in us more capability, bravery, and potential than we see in ourselves. And let’s remember that one of the greatest, easiest gifts we can give is to be positive mirrors, by reminding others of the beauty that lies within them.

Happy 2019. Here’s to a great year ahead.

New Year’s Resolution

When I take time off in December and don’t travel I inevitably find my way back to the piano.  I played classical piano very seriously for about 20 years, so it’s part of me and part of who I am, even if I don’t make the time to practice most days.

If I had ever wanted to be a professional pianist, one of the things I would have had to have gotten better at was learning new pieces of music faster.  I never was much of a sight reader, and I allowed that summary of one of my weaknesses to define how I learned new music (slowly).

The advantage of returning to something intermittently is seeing it with fresh eyes.  This year, sitting down at the piano to learn one of my favorite pieces, Shubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat, D.960, I realized that while I’m not a great sight-reader, there’s also a next step where I’m falling down for no good reason: I let sections, measures, tricky bits, sit in a limbo of “I don’t quite play this right” for way too long, when a little bit of focused attention upfront would be the difference between taking 20 and 40 hours at the piano to learn a new piece.

So often our new year’s resolutions are about big new things that we are going to start: exercising again, cutting out sugar, sleeping more.  And sometimes those can create major shifts in our lives.

But more often than not I find it’s the minor shifts that end up sticking: if I say I want to sleep 7 ½ hours every night and keep it at that, I’ll fail miserably.  Life’s too busy, I have too many other obligations, and the binary nature of do/do not (“there is no try”) makes it too easy to write something off quickly as a failure.  But if I notice, say, how long it takes me to get from planning to get to sleep to sleeping, and then, by paying attention to that one new bit of information, if I make small tweaks where I can in my nightly routine, this might just be enough to have lasting impact.

When it comes to the shifts I want to make in my life, I haven’t had much luck with big sweeping changes, because the power, logic and momentum of the way I do things today doesn’t give way easily.  At the same time, like water to a stone, noticing old behaviors in new ways and then making small shifts has the power to reshape everything.

Happy New Year.

Excited for 2012

Happy New Year.  I’m looking forward to 2012.  2011 was many things – exciting, turbulent, at times overwhelming – and I feel like we all need a little dust-settling as we roll up our sleeves and head into this new year.  It feels like it’s going to be a good one, even with all the uncertainty spinning around us.

I took a week off at the end of the year and the short break from regular blogging was a chance to think about why people read blogs and, as a corollary, how we blog.

There are a bunch of basic reasons people are reading your blog: to stay up to speed on their industry (or an industry they’d like to be part of); to find interesting content that they otherwise wouldn’t stumble across; to be entertained, to get useful tips of one sort or another.

But I think most folks want more than that, and if they don’t get it you’re going to lose them over time.  They want to hear your voice, hear what you have to say that only you can say.  Hear something that they wouldn’t hear anywhere else – something that inspires them, challenges them, pushes their thinking.  Something that sharpens their focus, or even changes their prism altogether.

Not a how-to book, a call to arms.

The thing is, I don’t know how to be inspiring every day, and you probably don’t either – even the notion of trying to do that seems like a fabulous way to create writers block (bloggers block?). But I do know how to show up every day, to say something that I think is relevant and about which I have a unique perspective.

And every so often, when everything goes right, something exceptional comes out.  I don’t know how or when and I’m not even sure I’ll always agree with my readers about what is or isn’t exceptional.  But I do know that the only way it can happen is if I keep on showing up – knowing that some days I connect, some days I miss, and once in a while something great happens.

So here’s to another year of swinging for the fences.  Thanks for taking this ride with me, and I wish you and yours a great 2012.