The new year has just started, all shimmery and golden. As Anne (with an ‘e’) was rather fond of saying about tomorrow: the new year is fresh, with no mistakes in it.
[Not that mistakes are something to worry about: we need to slip and stumble and fall to learn, to grow. They are a natural result of really living. Of taking risks and opening our hearts to new ideas, new people, new possibilities.]
I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, but as for most people, the end of an old year, and the beginning of a new one, presents me with a precious opportunity to reflect on the past and its lessons and to dream up new future possibilities. In the past, I’ve often chosen thematic words for the coming year (such as Courage and Kindness, or Simplicity and Strength).
This year I’ve decided to choose a phrase instead. 2018 is my year to stand in my power. This is not the kind of phrase I’d usually use: in fact, it’s one I’ve picked up from someone else, and gradually come to feel is meaningful to me because it’s a lesson I’ve been slow to learn, and am still learning.
For me, standing in your power means not taking crumbs. Recently, I was listening to an episode of Esther Perel’s podcast Where Should We Begin. A powerful program in which she presents stand-alone counselling sessions with various couples. In this particular episode from the first season, Trauma Doesn’t Like To Be Touched, there was one moment where, after a long discussion of one partner’s sex childhood trauma and consequent addictions and infidelities, she turned to the other partner and asked them why it had taken them until *now* (until a crisis in the relationship) to ask for more than ‘crumbs’ from their partner. Where did you learn, she said, to take crumbs? It was an incredibly powerful moment in an already very moving discussion of how (childhood) trauma impacts on a relationship. Perhaps the context is enough to give a sense of what it means to refuse to take crumbs: to ask for more (as Oliver Twist famously did) out of a strong, sure, self-aware sense that you are as deserving of care, sustenance, space, consideration and love as anyone else. Not only when you have had everything taken from you. Not when you have spent years taking crumbs because you think, somehow, that that’s all you deserve, or all that you can ask for. But today, and tomorrow, because you deserve more. Because you need more than crumbs to live.
Standing in your power means taking responsibility for your own actions: for your past and for your future. In the words of my Beloved: it means owning your shit.
Standing in your power means nurturing and protecting your self (your heart, head and home) so that you can nurture and protect others. It means not using up all of your resources in the service of others – other people’s dreams, demands, hopes or desires. It means becoming aware of what you need in order to be safe, healthy and strong; and becoming aware, then, of what you have availabe to give to others, to share of yourself.
For me, it means learning to say no more often, and sometimes to the kinds of things that I’ve said yes to in the past out of guilt or a sense of obligation that doesn’t serve me and is not reciprocated. It means choosing to invest my time and energy in people who are loving, honest, courageous and kind. And limiting the time I spend with people who are unloving, dishonest, selfish, cowardly or cruel.
Standing in our power resembles a gentle strength that doesn’t need to be seen and heard to thrive. When we are living life from an empowered place, we are fed from within. When we give ourselves the gift of living life in our truth:
a) We stop looking to others to define who we are, or who we are not.
b) We stop wasting our waking moments worried about what others think of us.
c) We value ourselves from a genuine place, making it easier to see the goodness in others around us.
This is a starting point, at least. My intention is to continue to meditate on what this phrase means, to me and for me. To allow it to evolve as I encounter new challenges and experiences. To use it as a base from which to evaluate my actions going forward (that is, to ask myself regularly, but particularly when making decisions or taking actions: is this an example of standing in my power? Why/why not? Why am I giving up my power? To whom? etc).
Ok – enough! I’d love to hear what it means to you to stand in your power. When you’ve stood in your power recently (or when you haven’t).
On a more practical note, I’ve decided to make a pledge not to do any unnecessary shopping this year. This is sometimes called the ‘shop less, live more’ pledge. or, taking inspiration from Vivienne Westwood, the ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’ pledge. For me, it’s a personal response to the impact that capitalism has on the world and on my life. It’s a personal decision to consume less of the world’s resources, and to step out of the grind of capitalism’s urgent pleas for me to chew up as many of the world’s limited resources as I can, because I can. It’s also a personal decision to spend less financial, emotional and other energy buying things, and more time making, repairing, treasuring and nurturing.
I know myself well enough to know that I can’t take the more radical version of the pledge, which is not to buy anything new, or (even more radical, and requiring a lot of preparation) not to buy anything at all. So, at a practical level what this means for me is:
- Not buying anything unless I need (rather than want) it. This is already proving something of a challenge. It’s easy for me to justify book purchases, in particular, as things I need for teaching, for personal development, for professional reasons, etc. So far this year (only two and a bit weeks in!) I’ve bought two new books, but I’ve justified this (hmmm …. ) by first trying to access both through libraries and friend networks.
- Borrowing/renting things I only need for a short period of time. This means responsibly borrowing things like tools, library books, kitchen equipment and so on when I know I only need it for a short period of time, or will only use it once.
- Repairing/mending/restoring/refurbishing what I do have rather than replacing things that are perfectly fine, or would be with a little extra care and attention. This means that buying (new) parts for things I already have is acceptable.
- Buying good quality used/second-hand items where I do find I need something, preferably from organisations who raise funds for worthwhile causes by selling used goods. This does not mean buying fancy and expensive ‘vintage’ or ‘antique’ items as some kind of workaround/cheat. I’m looking at you, me!
- For practical reasons, I’ve made exceptions for food, cleaning products, basic toiletries, and underwear. I’ve also made an exception for some items I *need* to purchase new for a particular personal event/milestone this year: I’ve made a list of the items this involves, which is a very small list.
Some of these details of my #shoplesslivemore pledge are really just an upscaling or reaffirmation of my current/existing purchasing practices. Big changes include things like not buying gifts for birthdays, christmas, easter and so on (handmade, cooked, recycled gifts all round), and aiming to halve (at least) my yearly spend on books by borrowing rather than buying, and buying second-hand where I can’t borrow.
Far less importantly/dramatically, I’ve also decided to make some changes to how I post on the blog. It’s a bit of a funny little space. I don’t post regularly, but I do like having this space, and using it to reflect on my reading, ruminating and life. I’m going to try to post more regularly, but less effusively (!). I have a bit of a working idea of how this will look – weekly posts with regular bits of information about what I’m reading, growing, eating, and so on. More details soon. Or … probably I’ll just start and see how things go … It’s so much easier to think I’ll be able to blog regularly in January, when I’m on leave from my day job and have such a rich wealth of time to think and write, than in February when the reality of my working life changes things. We’ll see!
So, what about you, what does 2018 hold for you? What version of yourself will you be? What world will you create? What dreams will you fulfil?