New Year Resolutions: Beyond Hype, More than Hope

There are those who greet each New Year with gusto, setting lofty goals, brimming with energy and “up-and-at-’em, Uncle Scooby” enthusiasm about all the things they’re going to do and going to get. Then there are those who REFUSE to set resolutions, telling themselves and others that they exist above the fray, not needing to get caught up in the short-lived hype and emotion that surrounds those particular 24 hours between December 31 and Jan 1. Which camp do you fall into? Or do you fall somewhere in between?

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Sail into Tomorrow…

“Sail Into Tomorrow” by Olivia Newton-John

If a ship of dreams bid me come, would I board it?
If I had their gold in my hands, would I hoard it?
If I knew the trials I must face, would I carry on at all?

Sail into tomorrow, living day to day
That’s all I can afford to do and all I’ll ever pay
Is a song to sing to thank you for making me alive
And a prayer to bring me comfort – Lord help us to survive

If his pretty eyes shone my way, would I leave you?
If I wasn’t sure he would stay, would I deceive you?
If I had to melt you with promises, would they stand or fall?

Sail into tomorrow, living day to day
That’s all I can afford to do and all I’ll ever pay
Is a song to sing to thank you for making me alive
And a prayer to bring you comfort – Lord help us to survive

If time should call me a fool, would I laugh or would I care?
Sail into tomorrow, living day to day
That’s all I can afford to do and all I’ll ever pay
Is a song to sing to thank you for making me alive
And a prayer to bring you comfort – Lord help us to survive
I fell in love with this song as a little girl. It was one of the cuts from Olivia Newton John’s album “Clearly Love” (1975). There was just something very haunting and wistful about this song…the words, the melody, Olivia’s pitch perfect voice… to my then 8 year old mind and soul.
Fast forward to Boxing Night 2015. I was in the shower getting ready to go watch The Force Awakens and out of the blue I found myself humming this song! I had not heard it in decades. 
I startled my own self. Wrapped in my towel, dripping wet perched on the edge of the bed, I snatched up my phone and searched for the lyrics. I just knew there was a message in there for me. And sho ’nuff, there was. The central theme resonated with me in a very real, a very strong, a very organic way: moving forward, in the face of uncertainty, taking it one day at a time, with faith, relying on Someone bigger than me. Here’s the thing…
Each new year has always represented for me, an opportunity to take stock, celebrate wins small and big, and anticipate the future. I’ve had difficult years. I’ve had great years. And I’ve also had non-eventful years. But on the eve of every new year, I pause and try to map out in my head and heart, always hopeful, the New Year coming. It has been no different this time around.
Many people pooh-pooh the notion of New Year Resolutions. No problem. I make no prescription for anyone here. This is simply my own story, my own heart.
I had hoped to end 2015 with a very clear picture of the trajectory of my professional life in particular. I thought that at this stage in 2015 I would have had at the very least, sharply defined options all in a neat and tidy row. Not so at all. It’s fuzzy. 2015 went by in a blur and here I am at the edge of what appears at this time to be a new year that looks burdensome and wearying based on  my current reality. 
While not one of those keen and avid goal setters (and nothing wrong with being one of those!), I must confess that I prefer to have in hand, timetables, plans, road-maps and context in order to feel settled and to provide direction. In order to be in control. There… I said it. So coming to the end of 2015 without any of the above in hand I was feeling a little out of my comfort zone and a little sad that the status quo seemed set to remain. 
But here’s the thing, events in my 47 years of life have taught me to chill: I don’t know everything. I can’t see around corners. There are so many things outside of my control. And He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above anything that I can ask or think”.  My life lessons had brought me to a place where I was not as depressed or worried as I might have been say 10 or 15 years ago. I acknowledged the following to myself:
1. Even though I’d love to know, I don’t know what the future holds…
2. And I’m fine with that, as I know with certainty, that there is no randomness in my life. 
3. And I yield to that Higher Plan, all the while following the promptings within to prepare and to       get ready to switch course if necessary
And so I think that this song popping into my head from nowhere on Boxing Day was a gentle sign of reassurance that I was right where I was supposed to be at this time: uncertain, yet trusting. Moving forward, even though down the road is nothing but a hazy blur at this time. #grateful 
“Sail into tomorrow, living day to day

That’s all I can afford to do and all I’ll ever pay

Is a song to sing to thank you for making me alive

And a prayer to bring you comfort – Lord help us to survive.”

Bun Babylon and Challenge the status quo.

It was Christmas Day and I was plating the various offerings when our nephew, visiting from Toronto, arrived. JJ, now 22, had been living in Canada for the past couple of years, going to college, learning to fly planes and working. He had grown into a physically impressive young man and an interesting one to boot. I had planned to do the curried shrimp last. We fixed ourselves drinks and I invited JJ to come and learn from the Master. He obliged. He’s pretty good in the kitchen himself, and IMs from him with requests for instructions as to how to cook oxtail, or what can he use these beans to do were not unusual. So I took him through wok preparation and the range of Indian spices that he must use, the importance of coconut milk in curries, and we chatted. He spoke about the subtle and no so subtle experiences he had had with racism in Canada. He spoke of how he coped, reacted and dealt with them. He used a phrase that immediately got my attention: “…challenge the status quo”.

“Listen Kelly: I take great pride in seeing how people react to me when I’m on my way to my warehouse job, a young, black man with a hoodie on, and then seeing their faces transform when I challenge the status quo by engaging them on something like navigating the 737 into specific airports. I break stereotypes one by one.

I deliberately spent my own money to upgrade my seat on the flight home. I wore my black blazer, stretched my legs and sipped red wine. I love saying: How’re your doing! and seeing them look around uncertainly. Yup… I’m breaking stereotypes one by one”

I challenged him: “Aren’t you merely trying to fit in, JJ… behaving “white” so as to ingratiate yourself?”

“No, no, no! Not at all! I want to challenge the status quo, I want to break stereotypes one by one so that the next time they have to interact with a young black man they won’t be so quick to stereotype, categorise and dismiss” he countered with certainty.

Long after we packed away the Christmas Day leftovers JJ’s statement about challenging the status quo and breaking sterotypes remained with me. There was something about challenging the status quo that resonated deep inside me.

“Keep Calm and Bun Babylon”… I love this message.  It speaks to determination, resolve, and intentional acts aimed at challenging the status quo.

That’s how I want to live my life.

Challenging the status quo is not about the foolish, purposeless acts of youth aimed at nothing more than simply defying for defying sake. To bun Babylon, to challenge the status quo is to refuse to accept that “that’s just the way it is”. It is to refuse to allow anyone or anything to define you. It is to refuse to live selfishly and safely. To bun Babylon, to challenge the status quo is to live intentionally… to live out loud… to be authentic and productive. It is about taking the time and making the effort to know You and your mission. It is to influence your Community for the better. It is to refuse to wallow, to refuse to exist in a mediocre context, it is about identifying your gifts and using them to leave your space better than you found it.

Not all of us will be obvious trail blazing revolutionaries like Mandela, Malcolm and and Martin. But all of us can impact at least one person. If the almost 7 billion of us on the planet positively impact one life…well… do the math.

I think of the persons who have impacted me: Raymond who took me to task in no uncertain manner after one disheartening performance review by our then manager. “Are you really waiting for him to validate you, Kelly? KMT.”  Peter who continues to give unselfishly of his fine mind to help me solve work related problems and who challenges and inspires me with his brilliant approach to problem definition and solving. My mother said something to me when I was 13 that I have never forgotten: “You have reserves of strength that I have never seen in anyone else, Kelly.” I don’t believe her, but I have drawn on her confidence in me on many, many occasions.

And I try to pay it forward. I hope that I will have raised productive, confident, happy citizens of the planet. I hope that will have inspired at least one dream in one person. I resolve to bun Babylon and Challenge the status quo.

Happy New Year!

My take on New Year Resolutions

So 2012 is upon us.  I love the idea of a New Year.  I use the opportunity to review the year past and anticipate the year coming.  And yes, I make New Year’s resolutions.  I also make New Year wishes.  I have never gotten everything that I have wished for, neither have I ever kept all my resolutions.  But I have over the years kept some of my resolutions and gotten some of what I have wished for.
I didn’t even need to wait until the end of 2011 to conclude that, all in all, it was a pretty good year for me!  I saw my children mature and do well in school.  I have a passion for teaching, and despite sending my resumes hither thither and yon, I ended up, almost overnight it seemed, teaching for a term at an institution that I hadn’t applied to!  That was a fun and fulfilling experience.  I did pretty well on my nine to five too, hitting pretty much all my targets and seeing my team execute (almost!) flawlessly. And last but certainly not least, I finally ditched some major emotional baggage.  I forgave myself for some wrong moves that I had made in the past and in so doing, freed myself to give and receive forgiveness. I thank God for who I am.
So in starting 2012, I have a few wishes.  Not going to articulate them here…might jinx them!  My resolutions are not dramatic, but significant to me and as I progress, I will add to them and modify them as necessary.  That’s low stress resolution making for you, and I highly recommend it. 
I’ve decided to revert to a low-carb lifestyle.  I know a lot of people get very nervous when they hear low- carb, but I’ve done it before and every single thing about my health improved.  So here we go again.  I will end up losing weight, controlling hormone balances, stabilizing my moods and improving overall well-being.  So far, so good- all seven days of 2012!
I’ve also resolved to review my blessings at the end of each day.  How this became a resolution is a story in and of itself.  Let me back up and start at the beginning of this one.  I had remarked aloud that I was going to start a low-carb diet.  Marcelle, my colleague on the other side of the divide in our workspace, chimed in that she was planning to do likewise.  We began sharing our carb-loving weaknesses, and I confessed that besides rice (oh blessed glorious any kind of rice!) I was fond of munching on salty, crunchy snacks late at night in bed.  She suggested that I replace that habit with an herbal tea habit!  Now I am not a tea drinker, but the way Marcelle suggested it totally intrigued me.  She suggested that I make a ritual of it: get a nice kettle, special mug and create a ceremony of sorts.  I thought: why not? So I went looking for caffeine-free, herbal teas and found a great item!  It’s a sampler box of fruity, herbal teas…great for a beginner like me who has no idea of what she likes.  I started and reported back gleefully to Marcelle.  It really is a very soothing and calming thing, this tea making a drinking last thing at night.  My ex-husband used to enjoy a cup of tea before bed, and used to beg me to make it for him.  I did not. Too much of a production, I thought at the time.  Now I know.  I told Marcelle the irony of the tea making and a few days later, she came to my desk and said: “Let’s talk”.  That was kinda unusual based on our normal type of interaction. I nonetheless replied in surprise: “Sure!  Why not!”  She asked me if I had ever read “Love Languages”.  I replied in the affirmative and said that It is a must read for all people, especially those planning to marry.  Had I read it before I got married, I may still have been married today.  The book teaches you how to understand your spouse and how to make yourself understood.  Great book and I highly recommend it.  That lead to me recommending a related book also written by Gary Chapman: “The Five Languages of Apology”.  That book showed me that I needed to forgive myself and taught me how to.  My colleague seemed genuinely interested in my story of self-forgiveness and she also seemed happy for me.  We concluded our talk and we went our separate ways.
A few days later, Marcelle came to my desk again and said that she had a gift for me if I would accept.  She showed me a book where each day had a tiny space allotted for listing the things that I am grateful for.  She explained that she figured it would be a great addition to my tea ritual.  I slowly saw the sense of what she was recommending. There’s a line in one of my favourite movies, “The Matrix” that speaks about how we as human beings “define ourselves by our misery”.  So true!  I warmed to the idea of ending each day focusing on all that was good in my life.  So this past Thursday, I added articulating my gratitude to my tea ritual at the end of each day.  My children are now in on the tea drinking ritual and the gratitude giving.  To be honest, I had hoped for this to be my thing. But how can I exclude them from something that gives us another opportunity to bond and will hopefully create for them a tradition that they will carry on as they move forward with their own lives?
So there you have it: eating differently, deliberately winding down each night and giving thanks at the end of each day. Like I said, my resolutions this year are not dramatic and I will add and alter as necessary throughout 2012. I think I’m off to a pretty good start.