The Particular Grief of the Life That Isn’t Ours
December 16, 2013
Internet Inspiration – December 20, 2013
December 20, 2013

The Path is Made by Walking

I’ve been doing a lot of planning for 2014 over the past week or so, some sessions more productive than others. And I find myself struggling with “resolutions.” I think I’m circling it, just trying to figure out the wording that sings to my soul.

But I admit to starting resolutions with some “traditional” wording. Lose 40 pounds! Do 25 pull ups in a row! Make $50 million! And then I got frustrated. I noticed that this flavor of resolutions is juuuust downstream of perfectionism. It looks for the perfect key to fit in the perfect door that will lead to paradise. 

Once I pass that doorway, I’ll never need to struggle again. I’ll have the life I want. All I have to do is just pass this barrier, find the perfect key to open the door of paradise and Happily Ever After.

So seductive.

That’s what I think every time I see an article titled, “8 Ways to Keep from Overeating this Holiday Season,” “Avoiding this One Important Thing Will Save You a Lot of Self-Doubt,” “12 Weight Loss Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make.” Etc. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.

You mean I just need these 8 steps? That’s all? The reason I’ve never been able to keep from overeating is because I was missing these 8 things? Thank God someone wrote about it!

It’s a manipulation, and it drives me crazy. It reduces life to a series of turns in a maze. The reason you haven’t been successful before is because your way is wrong. This expert’s way is right. Drink the kool-aid, and let someone swoop in and save you.

Damn the man, says I.

Because you know as well as I that there’s no magic peak. There’s no “end” in sight. Your life is still your life. And even if you don’t make those 12 resolutions, and even if you avoid that one important thing, and even if you use all 8 of the ways to keep from overeating, you’re still going to wake up as yourself and have to keep living.

What happens if you don’t achieve the goal? What happens if you do?

The Path is Made by Walking.

Do you know what I mean by that? Imagine looking at 360 degree, wide, open, virgin spaces, untouched by roads or people. You’ve gotta go… East. Or West. Or North. Or South. Who cares? You’ve gotta get somewhere, and there’s no pre-trod path.

You’re the one that decides. You’re the one that has to walk.

When I camped in northern Alaska a few years ago (just realized “a few years” has become “10 years”), we LOVED the days we’d stumble on caribou trails, because we could walk easy for a few miles before having to go back to schwacking our way through underbrush and trees and bushes. There was nothing more exhausting and morale-lowering than having to struggle every moment of the day to move forward.

This is the place where hearing stories from experts is useful: when you know where to go and you know someone who’s walked the path. You can use their experience as a pre-trod path for a time. In the end, though, it always comes back to you.

Sometimes the going is easy and on target. Sometimes we have to start from the beginning every damn day. But that’s the whole point, I guess. Every day you restart your walk. You know what you did yesterday, and you still have to make new decisions.

In this case, come back to yourself. Take notes and remember things that work for you.

Start with desire, and think of paths that follow.

If all exercise burned the same amount of calories, how would you choose to move your body? If all food contained the same amount of calories and had the same nutritional value, what makes you feel nourished and vibrant? Who makes your heart fill up with love? What work sings to your soul?

Think of what you hope to gain from all the resolutions you’re making, and see if there are ways to draw some of those things into your life now.

Because it’s not about “achieving results” and “succeeding” at these (sometimes) arbitrary goals. It’s about showing up for your life. It’s about living in a way that makes you want to continue living. And that’s the real goal for your life.

So start walking. And walk again tomorrow.

If every single one of the goals you set today change in a month, come back to yourself and tread a new path. You have a month of experience in paying attention. That matters. That’s useful. It’s still your path to walk.