As we approach this years end and the beginning of a new year, many of us start making plans for the year ahead. Hopes, patterns, habits that we wish to see come to fruition or to fall away in the coming year. Last year, I set very simple, specific and (in all likelihood) achievable goals for myself. I felt like I needed to be explicit but to play it safe a bit. I didn't want to set myself up for failure, but I didn't want to let the opportunity to set a goal pass me by entirely.One of my goals was to read 12 books in 2015. Now, full disclosure, I am in a book club. We meet 11 times a year. So really, perhaps I was just trying to strengthen my commitment to book club, and hoping to fit one additional book into my life in the course of 12 months. Totally doable, even for a new mom such as myself.
Now let's flash forward to Sunday December 27th....with a great sense of personal accomplishment, I proudly closed the pages of the 22nd book I read this year (A parenting book called The Soul Of Discipline by John Kim Payne - same author as Simplicity Parenting and a great resource!) Shortly thereafter I turn to the big stack of books in my bedroom and wonder silently to myself.....what shall I read next? For a moment, the fact that I am VERY close to doubling my initial goal,weighs on me.
I pick up a book my mom recently sent on to me (The Diver's Clothes Lay Empty by Vendela Vida) and figure, hey it's short and good according to mom, so i'll start it and see how it goes. By bedtime on Monday December 28th, I have finished the novel, and I am now only 1 book away from doubling my goal.
I look at the stack again, most of the remaining titles are longer, or non-fiction type books that will take a little longer. There's a bit of a panic that sets in, and a push from inside, I MUST READ ONE MORE BOOK IN THREE DAYS! I MUST! And it is at that moment that I realize I need to pause.
Why? Why must I do this? To prove what and to whom? Will I truly enjoy reading if I feel the weight of time and the pressure of doubling the goal? Didn't I set the initial goal of 12 books as a way of insuring some peaceful and relaxing "me" time amidst the whirl of diapers and errands and dishes? And now here I am getting tense and edgy about reading one more book. To press on and read another book?! Or fall back and feel content with what I have accomplished?!
I have chosen, this time, to fall back. I nearly doubled the initial goal I set for myself and that is enough. More than enough actually. And in the process of going through this and making the decision NOT to read a 24th book, I feel I've grown a bit. I was able to say no to the demanding voice of the "inner achiever", you know that voice that wants recognition, praise, glory? I said no to the inner achiever and instead I said to myself, yes, what you have done is enough, and you have enjoyed every moment of it.
That is not to say that I enjoyed every book I read this year, but it is to say that I enjoyed the process of reading, learning and ultimately surpassing my goal. One of the reasons I think I have struggled as much as I have in the past year is that all of the hallmarks in my life that would usually bolster the ego of the inner achiever have been altered or fallen away entirely (physical fitness/prowess, career/work life, sense of efficiency and taking care of business, independence) and I've had to do some serious re-adjustment of my value system and expectations.
What's the point of all this? For me, my ability to choose NOT to read a 24th book, feels to me tangible evidence that I am making better choices in my life. Baby steps, but still, healthier, calmer, more balanced choices. And truly, if each year, I am able to make slight improvements in my own discernment, then I know I am on the right path. Whether on the mat or off, however And wherever I am able to practice yoga, it's all about being present, aware and mindful of the choices i make.
My greatest hope is that I can continue on this upward spiraling path and that I'll see each of you along the way too. It may sound silly, and it may sound too simple, but...here's to making better choices!
And just in case you love reading as much as I do, here are the 23 books I have read this year:
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
Foreign Affairs - Alison Lurie
Crescent - Diana Abu-Jabar
Is Everbody Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling
Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
Good Grief - Lolly Winston
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey - The Countess of Carnarvon
Cherries From Chauvet's Orchard - Ruth Phillips
Gunnars Daughter - Sigrid Undset
Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee
Global Girlfriends - Stacey Edgar
The Gift of a Letter - Alexandra Stoddard
The True Deceiver - Tove Jansson
Simplicity Parenting - John Kim Payne
Letter to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You - Courtney Maum
Men Explain Things To Me - Rebecca Solnitt
The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
No One Belong Here More Than You - Miranda July
Soul of Discipline - John Kim Payne
The Divers Clothes Lay Empty - Vendetta Vida
The left hand of darkness-Ursula leguin