Last year several of my friends convinced me to pick a word for the year. I wrote about it here. Last year’s word was “discipline”. I’ll be completely honest and admit that I had forgotten that I had chosen that as my word until I started thinking about a word this year. I’ll also admit that “discipline” wasn’t all that present for me during the first half of the year. I didn’t have much in the way of routine. I let my weight get out of control. Most of the year felt like chaos.
Then, during the summer, I discovered Headspace. After years of having therapists preach to me on the virtues of mindfulness, I found an app that lead me into guided mindfulness meditations. It’s a secular app, so while I have appreciated learning a great deal about the Buddhist origins of meditation, I wanted to find something that I can integrate into my faith of origin. I even reached out to the staff at Headspace about this idea. While they didn’t offer much in the way of direction, they encouraged me to think about the ways that the meditations could be used regardless of spiritual background.
Headspace slowly became my regular discipline. What resulted from taking time to have a mental discipline was that discipline fell into place in several other areas of my life. I started being more mindful about my consumption. I began being more intentional about exercise. I observed how chasing after thoughts and feelings was affecting my relationships. In short, adapting one discipline, brought more of my life into order. I still have a long way to go. I still need more routines around exercise, reading, and writing. I still want to find more ways to honor the boundaries in my life. I still want to find ways of brining what I’ve learned to a community of faith of which I am a regular part, but it has been an incredible step in the direction of health.
So, in thinking about 2016 and what word I want to thematize the year, I am reflecting on two experiences of this final month of 2015. I’ve written about seeing The Force Awakens. I really can’t say enough, not just about the film, but about the sense of excitement it ignited within me and the sense of hope that I have for future films. Then last night, I went to see The Roots. The Roots are, hands down, my favorite group. Before this year, I wasn’t much of a concert goer. Shannon and I have gone to maybe a half dozen or so this year. All of the performances we saw were very good, and I imagined myself being disappointed with The Roots. Much like I did for Episode 7, I lowered the bar to “just be entertained”. Well, that was silly. There is a reason I love this band. Musically speaking, there’s not much they can’t do and they put on one hell of a performance. As good as the other musicians we saw were, including Ms. Lauryn Hill twice, nothing compared to seeing this ensemble of amazing instrumentalists. Lead by Black Thought, who is not boasting when he calls himself the greatest MC alive, this was top to bottom a team of incredible performers at the top of their game. Much like The Force Awakens, I could go on and on…
My take away from these two events could be that I benefitted from low expectations, but both times, I felt silly afterwards for doubting that I could enjoy myself so much. Living life with low expectations is no way to live. I want to live my life with expectation. I want to live with my eyes open to seeing beauty, with my hears open to hearing music, and my heart open to experiencing love. I thought the word I was looking for was “enthusiasm”. I love that word and I definitely want to bring more passion and enthusiasm to my experience of the world, but there was more that I needed.
Since leaving Oakland Presbyterian Church, I haven’t had much hope for the future. I didn’t have a vision for where I wanted my life to go, even as I moved from position to position. I didn’t have a sense of going anywhere. I was waiting for the next shoe to drop. I was waiting for the next thing to go wrong. I was waiting for the bottom to fall out. I was living as if there was no tomorrow because I didn’t believe that tomorrow would come or that it would be worth living. Things are different now. I’m hopeful. I have a vision for what I want from my life. “Hope” and “vision” are both great words, but one word seems to really sum up what I want to cultivate in my life….
I’ve never been much of an optimist. I want that to change. I want to see a life full of possibilities. I want to live my hopes and not my fears. I want people to experience the same kind of positivity about life from me that I exude about Star Wars or jazz or bacon.
So… 2016 will be my year of optimism.