It’s January 29th. 1/12 of 2012 is already almost over. How are you doing on accomplishing your New Year’s resolutions? I didn’t officially make New Year’s resolutions, but if I had, they might look like this:
1. Exercise consistently
2. Keep my house clean
3. Stretch my leg muscles
Those are quite idealistic. To be honest, resolutions that I may actually accomplish by 2013 look more like this:
1. Gain five more pounds by the end of this winter
2. Invite friends over at least once a month so that my carpet gets vacuumed
3. Stretching…what’s that?
I’m supposed to stretch my hamstrings and heel cords on a daily basis to maintain flexibility. But, I’m negligent. If I’m lucky, this gets accomplished once a week. I think I ignore this all important task because it’s boring, time consuming, and forces me to come face to face with my limitations. Something I hate. You would think I would have learned my lesson after an incident I had a few years ago. Our family went on vacation to Washington D.C. where we walked all day exploring our nation’s capital. By the time dinner rolled around, I was depleted but chose to ignore my fatigue. Our family had decided that the evening would be the best time to visit the monuments because they light up at night. I had determined that nothing was going to stop me from going along.
I should have stayed in the hotel and rested.
About the time I was staring into the face of a Korean solider, I began to notice pain in my left leg. Every succeeding step suddenly felt wrong. I adjusted my gait, complained, and wondered what was going on….I eventually learned I had pulled a muscle!
The treatment…you guessed it! Stretching. The physical therapist made me stretch every muscle in both of my legs for weeks. The reality of my limitations became amplified. But, after those few weeks, something amazing happened: Not only did I recover from my injury, but the consistent stretching loosened my muscles. I was able to accomplish daily tasks with incredible ease. I zipped up and down stairs with speed, slid in and out of my car, and enjoyed the feeling of relaxation in my legs. Leaning into the fullness of my limitations turned out to be the vehicle that ultimately created the expansion of my abilities. It gave me freedom!
I am finding the same principle is true in life. If there is one human limitation about me that I cannot stand it is not my tightened hamstrings…it’s my limited capacity to love. I wish I had the emotional capacity to deeply care about every human being I come in contact with, rejoicing in their excitements, weeping at their disappointments, infinitely curious to learn the details of their life, but I can’t. I also wish I could say “yes” to every opportunity that presented itself in my life. However, the human condition does not allow this amount of investment. Last year I thought I could ignore my human limitations and expand my capacity to love by interacting with a greater number of people and take on a greater number of commitments. Surely that would expand my ability to love more!
I remember ending many weeks last year feeling angry and empty. Out of my desire to love and say yes to the all the opportunities that lay before me, I had given myself and stretched myself too far in too many directions both personally and professionally. I began to wonder, “Why can’t I love all the people that I interact with in a day? Why do I always feel so empty, like I have nothing left?” I began to slow down and discern what to say yes to and what to say no to; I had to let go of many things, some with a sigh of relief and some with tears. I began to focus deeply on just a few things that I really felt called to do. Then something amazing happened: my capacity to love others expanded as I decreased and focused on fewer activities! I find myself noticing people this year, remembering their names, slowing down to be present with people as they talk and share their needs. I feel as if I have something in me with which I can share with others. I have expanded in love through contracting in commitments. I am learning that it is so important to discern what I say yes and no to and the importance of resisting the temptation to compare myself to others as I faithfully complete the work I have been uniquely given to complete.
What do you need to say no to in 2012?