15 March 2016

Springing into renewed resolutions

The backyard stream and farm in January
The backyard today in March

The spring equinox is just around the corner, but it already feels like winter has long fled north. This March has been abnormally warm, with temperatures spiking up to the low 80s and barely dipping below freezing. My Bostonian bones aren't used to this early warmth, but I'm not complaining after last winter's crazy snowstorms.

The frogs and ducks that have colonized the stream in my backyard seem to be enjoying the weather, at least:

(Thanks to Aatish Bhatia and the spring peeper for inspiring me to make this recording.)

Yesterday was my favorite nerdy holiday, Pi Day. Last year I celebrated with ample pies and college students. This year, though, I had to abstain from the sweets (given new dietary restrictions), spending time with family while Princetonians romped with favorite local nerd Einstein.

While new year's resolutions are usually relegated to January, March is really the time I associate with new beginnings: new growth, new transitions, a time to reset and reevaluate how things have been going thus far.

This year I didn't make any formal resolutions like getting organized or losing weight, but instead chose a theme:

Fast from fear, feast on audacious hope.

The blogger and author Gretchen Rubin has written extensively on habit formation. Her 2015 book Better than Before was a great read that delved into the different facets of habit making and keeping, much of it based on self-knowledge alongside plenty of anecdote and scientific reference. And what are resolutions but yearly goals built upon daily habits? 

On her blog, Rubin mentions the one-word theme as an alternative to resolutions. I've cheated a bit and given myself a whopping 7 words to express my overarching goal for this year. A theme is flexible enough to expand and encompass many smaller goals. It focuses more on character development -- forcing me to think more deeply about where I am and where I want to go -- than checking off a box and forgetting about the resolution after a couple weeks or months.

The idea of fasting comes from the season of Lent, observed in some Christian churches as a time of "soul spring cleaning" in preparation for Easter and the celebration of Christ's triumph over death. While this period can often dwell on self-deprivation, I love the idea of pairing fasting with feasting:
not just ridding yourself of a sin or bad habit, but filling yourself with something good and blessed instead. Abbot Tryphon, a Christian Orthodox monk at All-Merciful Saviour Monastery in Washington state, has a poignant podcast episode (with accompanying blog post) that I would recommend if you're interested in hearing more fast/feast pairs.

Fasting from fear is a big goal that I don't think I'll be able to accomplish fully in this lifetime, but it's one that I feel particularly convicted to work towards in 2016. These years of illness have brought to stark light just how much fear I have had in my heart: fear of what other's will think of me, fear of the unknown, fear of weakness and insignificance. While I have battled fear for many years and have made many strides, it's something that still requires perseverance to overcome. I'd like to gain even more confidence in areas where I feel uncomfortable, or in areas where I feel like I've lost abilities or time while in the midst of illness.

Feasting on audacious hope, then, is the perfect pair to fasting from fear. The phrase came to mind last winter as I was considering the new year. I didn't simply want to be less scared of transitioning into new tasks and goals, but I also want to tackle them with hope for the future. Here, hope is founded upon my faith in God, being confident not just in my own abilities but in the promises God has made and in His strength to keep me going. The word "audacious" is particularly important, too. I grew up as a shy and timid person, but even as I grew in confidence I still often kept within my comfort zone. So in this year, I want to dream big and ask for things that are outside the box, or that had seemed beyond my reach.

Themes can be somewhat vague, but dear reader, I have tangible goals to share with you as well. They are for another post, though.

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Posts to come (I hope!):
  • My favorite food podcasts
  • The crazy diet, or ways to eat healthy
  • Becoming Princetonian

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