Monday, January 24, 2011


resolve (ri zolv'). v., to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine.

"We spend January one walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential." --Ellen Goodman

In a flurry of misapplied inspiration I made myself a list of goals. As one year slipped into another, I thought it might be a good idea to arm myself with a catalogue of to-dos and to-don'ts; a page of milestones to reach in 2011. Or at the very least an index of ambition.

However, I'm not very good at upholding this particular cultural tradition. For one, I am out of practice, having made my last list of promises a good 20 years ago. For another, I am not fond of lists. They are linear and confining. And I suck at making them.

But I armed myself with pen and paper and started to work on my list.

It looked something like this:

  1. Onsight a 5.12
  2. Send a V9
  3. Drop my 5K time to under 22 minutes
  4. Do 150 tpups (pull-ups) in one session
  5. Ride my bike to and from work at least a third of the time
  6. Perform a flawless Vrschikasana
   7. Write at least one blog entry every month

Not bad goals, if a little too centered on the physicality of living. Each item seemed to meet the criteria of a good resolution (to my mind): specific, measurable, attainable, self-improving. I was pretty pleased with my list.

But the Universe, always with a wry sense of humour, did not like my list.

I did not charge into 2011 waving my list of resolutions in the air and conquering as I had planned. It was more of a stumble. A painful, clumsy stumble.

Starting off the New Year with two dislocated ribs was not on my list – I checked.

I assure you, the pain of this, if you have never experienced it firsthand, is quite impressive. It hurts to move. It hurts to be still. It hurts to stand. It hurts to sit. It hurts to lie down. It hurts to breathe. And it is not the type of injury you can tape up and ignore. Believe me, I've tried.

This left me with a pretty useless list. And a bad case of the self-pities. Despite my continued assertion that I am not a sporty guy, being unable to do physical things leaves me panic-y and more than a little depressed.  I'm not good at resting. I'm not good at 'not doing'.

And so for the first two weeks of 2011 I pouted. 

But I also thought a lot.

I looked at my list again. And I thought about my goals. And the nature of resolutions.

I am certain that this tradition of making a list of goals means different things to different people. People do it for different reasons. People do it in different ways. And perhaps for me this was the wrong way. I have never needed a tick list to send a route in rock climbing. I have never needed a mapped out plan for progressing in yoga. I am much more creative when I do not have an A, B and C set before me.

Along with its seeming sardonic cruelty, the Universe is also a very sneaky teacher.

Turns out that 'resolve' can mean a lot of things. 

resolve (ri zolv'). iv., to progress from dissonance to consonance.


When my life runs smoothly and I grow as a person, it is not from following a list. It is from listening – to my body, to what feels right and natural, to what the Universe has to tell me. When I approach an activity, be it writing or climbing or running or drawing or yoga, with affinity and not in an adversarial way I get the most out of it and make the biggest progress.

Some people need to overcome, master and control. Yet the things which bring me happiness and peace and quality of life are not things against which I have to fight and struggle. My strength comes not from overpowering a challenge, but by growing.

Two dislocated ribs. It is easy to see the dissonance. It prevents me from doing the things I love. But I can find the consonance, if I pause and look and reflect.

Rest. Reflect. I will accomplish all the things I need to accomplish in 2011. And I do not need a list. But I do need to listen.



Katie said...

PB, I really love this post. While it's good to set specific, measurable goals, sometimes that's not the best way to learn and grow. You've got a way with words without a doubt. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Tali said...