I’ve been filling out the 2016 Unravelling from Susannah Conway, as I do most years. (Except for 2015 because I got really mad at the workbook and had to stop before I burned something.) In the workbook, she encourages people to pick a word to encapsulate the year, because
…choosing a word as a guiding light for the new year … feels so much more expansive. A word can be embraced as a mantra, a meditation, a reminder, a promise. A word can be interpreted in different ways. A word can’t be ‘broken’ — it feels gentler somehow.
She also has a very helpful Find Your Word course if you’re struggling with yours.
The very first exercise in the Find Your Word course is to describe your ideal day. One woman in the facebook group wrote that she wasn’t sure how to proceed, because there’s no way she’ll get her ideal day next year. She is a caretaker for a sick relative, and her time is not really her own. How to proceed?
I responded that we don’t wish in order to get exactly what we want.
We wish in order to make space to explore what we want, the qualities inside and underneath what we say we want, and how we relate to desire.
I may say that I want to lay in bed for the first four hours of my day, reading, drinking coffee, and eating bon bons. Maybe I literally want that, of course. It sounds kind of nice.
But that wish might also be a stand-in for some other things:
You begin by stalking a deer but now are captivated by surprises of any sort, including shifts in your own consciousness. … you notice you are incrementally becoming someone who stalks a mystery. Something in you is changing, as if you are growing wild with fur or claws or tail. What is the secret place inside you from which you sense the mystery, the place from which you long for the trail as much as the treasure?
– Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft
So now if I don’t get coffee and reading and bon bons every morning, that’s not necessarily the end of the world. It’s not proof that I can’t have what I want, nor does it signify that I have to wait until my situation becomes ideal in order to feel fulfilled.
I can find pleasure now. I can find relaxation and self-care now. I can acknowledge my natural rhythms now. I can ask for specific help.
What’s more, I don’t have any use for the voice that tries to shut things down because of logistics. I can’t lay in bed for four hours because my mother needs care? That’s fine. That’s a plot twist. Let me use my imagination and find other ways to get what I need.
The other night as I was driving I was reflecting on the fact that most of my life, especially my 20s, was focused on making sure other people had what they needed. I can’t believe the amount of time and energy I spent managing other people’s experience, and I’m even more incredulous at the fact that I didn’t realize I was doing it.
At the time, I didn’t know to figure out what I wanted. Even if I could have figured out what I wanted, I didn’t know how to give it to myself. I certainly didn’t know how to ask other people to help me. I didn’t know how to not be angry when other people tried to give me what they thought I needed.
The work of my life is trying to unearth what I’m really craving, what I really desire.
It always felt like desire was the wilderness and I had no map. There is no map. There never was.
Your work is to figure out what you’re moving towards; what all your cravings, impulses, and wants, no matter how trivial, are trying to tell you.
Figuring out how to get what you want, working through the logistics, that’s all an afterthought. Don’t get stuck there.
If you don’t know what you want, and you can’t even think of anything that would make you feel better, start with what’s troubling you.
Your lament starts with what is most troubling to you, your greatest anguish. Eventually, your lament brings you to your deepest longing. As David Whyte notes, we feel our lack before we feel our longing. Once lament opens to longing, you must give that longing your full attention. As Rumi has said, “It is the longing that does all the work.”
Your lament, once begun in earnest, gathers emotional momentum; it opens your eyes wide to the world as it opens your heart to your deeper longing. The longing forges a vessel capable of receiving a vision.
– Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft
Start with lamenting.
Start with longing.
Start with desire.
But don’t stop there. The right questions will do a lot of the work for you. Why do you want this? What would be different for you if you could have it? What qualities would be nourishing you if you got it?
Stalk those clues.
Happy New Year!
If one of your desires is to not be so stressed about food in 2016, to truly feel nourished, I still have a few spots left in Beyond Emotional Eating, beginning January 4, 2016! Join us!