A New Year, New Day, New Moment
I woke up on January 1st 2017 in a haze from going out the night before. I was reminded of the person I used to be and as I chugged water to shake the hang over out of my head I thought about why I worked so hard to not be that person. Every year I hope that January 1st will come and I will be sprinkled with magical fairy dust which makes me thinner, healthier, and happier. Basically not me. And nothing has every really changed. This January 1st I woke up with a sense of knowing that I am clinging to now, ten days later. It feels prophetic and immense in nature. It is a sensation that I can only describe as hope for the future in a way that feels very alive like a roaring fire inside of me.
Instead of holding my New Year’s (over)celebration against myself, I forgave myself. I opted to choose love towards myself as I tried to discover where my cell phone had gone the previous night and how I had made it home. I reminded myself that I won’t be perfect and will sometimes let myself down. I don’t want to be perfect, sometimes being imperfect is more fun… but only if I can forgive myself the next day. Otherwise it is an unbearable reality that threatens my whole self.
In 2009 while I was training to go to Iraq I jokingly bummed a cigarette, lit it, and smoked it. The exhilaration of a change in chemistry made me smoke a second, then a third, eventually buying my own packs and cartons. I swore I would quit when I came home from Iraq. It was easy to make an excuse, I mean for goodness sake, I was at war. Even my parents made that excuse for me. I came home and swore I would quit. I kept smoking. I went to Afghanistan and smoked several packs a day. I proved I could quit mid tour when I stopped smoking for 5 weeks to prove a point to someone. At the end of that 5 weeks I decided to start smoking again. I don’t think I forgave myself for smoking, I just made different and better excuses. Then I just owned my failure and said I had no excuse except I liked the taste of a cigarette with coffee and the burn of the smoke in my throat. Even that was an excuse to keep punishing myself.
When I woke up ten days ago I didn’t just forgive myself for partying too much the night before. I forgave myself for everything that has been the last 8 years and it has taken 10 days to understand.
There are two kinds of people at New Year’s, the kind that make resolutions and the kind that say resolutions are worthless. I heard a lot from both sides coming up to New Year and I didn’t make up my mind about what my goals for 2017 would be until I woke up on the 1st. Those who make resolutions choose to side with hope for themselves and for the future. Those who say resolutions are worthless side with doubt, also for themselves and for the future. I am sure that many will say they have different reasons, but when it boils down to it, don’t you think that sounds right? Setting goals is the difference between hope and doubt. Even trying and failing year after year, a person still chooses hope. Several years ago I stopped trying.
I have been trying to get back to myself. More so, I have been trying to find the me that I don’t recall knowing, the person that I love and trust. Not the person who punishes myself with bad choices and negative thoughts. I started trying a few years back, not because it was the 1st of the year, but because I knew that I could not continue unless I found a different answer than the ones that I gave myself. I work with programs like Warriors’ Ascent not just to help other people but also to continue helping myself. As I help and encourage others to meditate, do yoga, and practice introspection I still struggle. I don’t expect that they won’t struggle still and always. What I have seen in the last several years that trying is hope and it can bring new life and new breathe to a person. I have kept going, sometimes in a direction that feels like I am pushing a boulder up a hill. I have time and again reminded myself that there are answers I don’t yet have and I have to keep going. In high school I used to run, but ever since Iraq I don’t like running, likely because I feel like my whole life is running without a goal in sight.
The thing is that looking back on the years there have been many moments like January 1st 2017. It is a moment where something I have been searching for clicks. Something that I have been trying to understand or grasp or learn just suddenly makes sense and I find a sense of ease. The boulder disappears and my journey becomes a little easier. I pray for these moments. I pray that I move from knowing how to make my road a little easier to doing the actions that get me there. So I stopped.
I did not go to the store for a pack of cigarettes. I told myself 5 more minutes. For Christmas my parents gave me a book called Getting There: A Book of Mentors where Michael Bloomberg says “If your mind starts to wander to past events, the only advice I can give you is don’t go. Just stop it! Think about something else. If you divert your attention, your mind won’t immediately go back to the unpleasant occurrence, and when it eventually does, simply stop thinking about it again. That’s how you quit smoking. You don’t have to stop for the rest of your life, just stop for five minutes.” He then goes on to say at the end of 5 minutes if you want a cigarette, wait another five minutes. When I read this it really started to turn some gears back into place. Whatever you think of Michael Bloomberg, his words are true. I have been using this idea to interrupt my panic attack for a couple years, but never thought to apply it elsewhere in my life.
It’s a New Year, each day is a New Day, each 5 minutes is a New 5 Minutes, and each moment is a New Moment. In a moment of time the gears finished moving back into place and as I forgave myself for one evening, that would normally disrupt the whole course of my life, I somehow started forgiving myself for everything. It’s been 10 days without a cigarette, no e-cigarette, no nicotine anything, just me and 5 minutes at a time. Just me and forgiving myself and truly starting to treat myself as if I love myself. But it didn’t happen in only one moment, it happen in a million moments that built up overtime and altered my course. It is the multitude of moments and minutes and days and years that keep moving forward to continue choosing life over death.
Each of these 10 days that I have not smoked I have spent those 5 minute intervals (the length of a normal cigarette) thinking deeply about loving myself. I have started a list of how to love myself better. I have left plenty of blank space on the list for the future ideas. I have started meditating again, am sleeping better, feel better, and am falling in love with myself.
I hope you find inspiration and seek the 5 minutes or the moments that bring you hope for the future. Happy New Year! Happy New Day! Happy 5 Minutes! Happy Moment!