This practice will make 2011 a ‘banner’ year

I admit I was a little disappointed to enter the New Year without one.

As 2011 swept in on so much fresh promise, I hadn’t yet created a vision for the year. I don’t subscribe to the notion of making resolutions; the very word itself feels so rigid and ponderous to me, it’s no wonder so many are abandoned almost immediately. But I do appreciate that energy of newness that greets another year, the sense of facing a blank canvas with the electric awareness of life, once again offering itself up, in the collective turning of the calendar page, to be shaped as we would have it.

And so rather than make a list of goals for my general improvement, I prefer to proclaim a banner. This involves the simpler — though no less carefully thought out — task of choosing a few words that will serve as a theme for the coming year. It is the declaration of what I would like to invite more of into my life — without getting too specific or so locked into a goal that other opportunities may escape my narrow focus — and a slogan under which I imagine all experiences will naturally align themselves. As a writer, I also enjoy the way certain words feel when I say them, and so the banner is about creating something that will energize me, the words themselves setting me forth into a new year with alacrity and trust in a bright and brimming unknown.

When the concept came to me, I had already given up the practice of making resolutions. Still, I liked to reflect on the year that had passed and the one opening up before me. In January 2010, as I thought about what I wanted the coming months to look like, the words “celebration” and “creativity” popped into my head. I remember grinning as I said them aloud, with an added swing in my step. And so 2010 became my “year of celebration and creativity.”

It wasn’t that I moved through life consciously aware of these words in every moment. In fact, I often forgot about them for long stretches until some event would happen to fulfill the longing for one or the other, and sometimes even both; looking back, I would then marvel at how speaking those words earlier in the year seemed to usher in no small cavalcade of those experiences.

Of course, I started the year with the prospect of buying my first home on the horizon — a significant milestone that would offer not only plenty of occasion for rejoicing but a creative stretch, as I turned my attention to thoughts of decorating. I remember how excited I was the day I found out my offer on a Roxborough condo had been accepted, and how later, every new visitor brought another chance to celebrate my status as homeowner.

And despite all my fears that I wouldn’t know the first thing about coordinating color schemes and picking out furniture and accessories, there are still days, almost a year later, when I sit on my couch and happily admire my handiwork.

Other opportunities for creative expansion abounded, including new writing assignments at work; the invitation to co-facilitate some of the interfaith gatherings I attend and share my poetry there; an offer to Zane, also a poet, and I, following one of those gatherings, to put together a proposal for a popular greeting card company; and of course, taking off for Mallorca — in my first transatlantic trip — for a week of writing workshops with poet Ellen Bass.

That doesn’t mean the year was not without its challenges, but for every moment of frustration, sadness, confusion or fear — not to mention two lengthy bouts of aggravated illness — there were even greater moments of joy, hope, expansiveness and contentment. And I like to envision them all having unfolded beneath the beacon of my banner.

When December was winding down and I still didn’t have one for 2011, I was a bit disheartened. As I shared my search with a group of friends earlier this month, I realized part of my stumbling block was a fear of being too audacious — of stating something that would seem egotistical, while also requiring me to take too large a leap that would somehow thrust me into great change.

And that’s precisely why I’ve chosen to “Live Big, Bold and Balanced” in 2011 (I couldn’t seem to help the alliteration). I chose “big” and “bold” for all the times I’ve had a dream and deemed it too daunting to realize and for the times I haven’t made those dreams a priority because it was easier to stay in my comfortably familiar confines, saddled with fear, laziness, concern with what others may think or a sense of my own inadequacy. And I just love all the vibrant daring and spunky assuredness that the world “bold” connotes.

I included “balanced” because it has been a constant struggle of mine, with a busy schedule and high-energy personality that resists being still, to carve out time for myself. I tend to keep going at a frenetic pace until I collapse, and so this year, I plan to embody a greater gentleness with myself. I also realize that it’s harder to take on some of my bigger dreams — that illustrated poetry book I’d like to get published, for example, or a project to work with kids in Africa that I began and then lost steam for in 2009 — if I’m always depleting my energy reserves.

Days after declaring my banner, I got a call from the executive director of Journeys of the Heart, the nondenominational ministry through which I perform weddings. The Oprah Winfrey Network, it seems, is looking to add a wedding show to its programming and Journeys of the Heart was tapped, at least in this preliminary phase, to potentially participate. Whether this happens or not, I couldn’t help but be tickled by the rapid arrival of such a “big, bold” possibility.

Who knows what else this year has in store? I do think it’s wonderful to have specific goals in mind when facing a new year, but it’s equally important to remain open. My banner allows room for both. Under its umbrella, I can take intentional steps toward those things I’d like to create in 2011 and I can also count on being surprised by the sweetest of opportunities that dangle their gifts on my path.

– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times