New Year’s Permissions

What would you do, if only . . .  ?

New Year’s resolutions . . . we love to hate them, but we make them. Even when we resolve not to make resolutions, there’s still that feeling that now that the holidays are over, we’ll get our lives in hand again, and this year do better. 

There’s a lot of advice out there about resolutions and how to do them better, but there’s one issue I don’t see discussed very often.

Look at the things most people make New Year’s resolutions about: eating more fresh foods, getting more exercise, learning to speak French, taking more time for creative pursuits.

These are all things that actually feel good! Why wouldn’t we keep them in our lives?

Have you ever done this to yourself: you make a resolution, but find yourself not getting around to whatever it is you resolved to do, because you’re too busy meeting obligations to your job, your family, your church, your volunteer organization? (And then, you tell yourself you lack discipline, motivation, or organization.)

What if instead of making resolutions, we gave ourselves New Year’s gifts of permission? Permission to invest a little energy, money or  time in taking care of ourselves in small ways, without feeling compelled to have something to show for it?

This year, I’m giving myself permission to sit with a cup of tea and my sketchbook after dinner (or before bed, if I’m out at dinnertime, or both!). I’m giving myself permission not to jump up right after eating and get back to work. I’m giving myself permission to not “quickly” check email one more time before bed.

And I do not have to “make art”. If I want to just daydream and make squiggles, that’s fine. In fact, that’s the point. I’m giving myself permission to have a short pause in my day that is not about “getting stuff done”.

I’m not “practicing my drawing skills”.  I’m not “coming up with creative ideas for paintings”.

I’m relaxing and enjoying the feel of working with the materials. I’m enjoying seeing bright cheery colors when the weather is grey.

I don’t know about you, but giving myself permission to take a few moments to take care of myself feels a LOT different than “making a resolution”.

I’ll be honest, I do still have to contend with feeling a bit guilty about “wasting time”. But “giving myself permission”—making it a gift to myself, rather than a chore—helps me remember that this is truly something that matters a lot to my well-being, and also that I’m not really asking for very much. 15 minutes. That’s not a lot to ask!

Knowing that I’ve given myself permission to take that 15 minutes, no matter what, makes the rest of my day feel  entirely different. It certainly feels a lot different than if I had to add a 15 minute chore to my day!

But, it’s not just having that pause to look forward to. All day, I’m noticing things I might want to doodle, draw or paint. Far more than I can actually put in my sketchbook in 15 minutes, but that’s not the point.

The noticing is the point. Reflecting in gratitude on all the beautiful and fascinating things that passed through my day, even if my hands are just making “aimless” doodles. The feeling of honoring my own value enough to take 15 minutes to just relax, without feeling guilty about it. That’s the point.

What about you? Is there a resolution that is really a wish for time to yourself that you could turn into a gift of permission?  How would it change your day—or your life— if you actually gave yourself permission . . . ?


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