I have never been one to set major resolutions at the beginning of the new year, but this year feels different somehow. I can’t say that I am sad to see the end of 2017. This year has felt like an unpredictable roller coaster both on a national and personal level. The highs of finishing a doctoral program and building a relationship with my boyfriend’s six year-old daughter were met with the complications of job searching, concern over losing access to affordable health care, and my feeble attempts to balance appropriate and timely responses to the constant onslaught of ridiculous, or often downright appalling, headlines with my need to remain at least somewhat sane. All in all I am ready for 2018 to begin and I feel a new drive to find ways to make this a better year for myself and for those around me.
How do I go about accomplishing this? I don’t want my new goals to go the way of so many resolutions… given up on or discarded by mid-January or perhaps February if I’m lucky. Rather I want to find ways to dedicate myself to small changes that I can sustain long-term, small changes that help me feel as though I am having an impact. In addition, I want to find ways to rejuvenate and reinvigorate myself and my actions on a regular basis… to make 2018 feel more like an enjoyable walk in lightly falling snow and less like slogging through five feet of that snow while carrying a heavy burden on my back.
On a personal level this certainly could mean eating a bit more healthily, more veggies and fruits, and less holiday baked goods, as well as giving myself the time to train for the next half marathon I plan to run later this year. But it also means finding ways to practice holistic wellness on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.
One of the books I always come back to at this time of year is Jan L. Richardson’s “In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer.” In one section Richardson talks about the deep connections between her life as an artist and her faith life. At times in both her creative work and in her faith life she experiences the loss of inspiration, deep fatigue, and feelings of isolation, I can deeply relate to each of these aspects as 2017 draws to a close. She also offers seven ways in which she tries to combat these experiences: living and working with intention, finding allies, revisiting her sources, living with questions, engaging in discernment, taking leaps of faith, and claiming a vision without trying to control the outcome.
Personally, I find that last suggestion to be the most interesting in relation to my own goals and hopes for 2018. How can I envision goals and work toward them while also being open to the process of learning from whatever might happen along the way? I very much like to be in control and my obsessive list-making and goal setting is perhaps one of the reasons that I was able to complete a doctoral program. However, this intense “type A” behavior also creates a lot of stress and strain that is (mostly) unnecessary.
So many of my favorite lived experiences have happened unexpectedly, and often in spite of, my best laid plans. One would think that this realization would allow me to loosen the reins on my desire to control everything, but that just hasn’t happened quite yet. As this year comes to a close I give thanks for the high points of 2017, as well as mourn its harmful realities, and most importantly try to focus my energies and my passions on being open to the new and wonderful things that are sure to come in 2018.
In your working
And in your seeking,
May you know and embrace
All that will nourish you
And sustain your pilgrim soul.
– Jan L. Richardson
Dr. Katie M. Deaver, earned her Ph.D. in Feminist Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Deaver holds a B.A. in Religion and Music from Luther College in Decorah, IA, as well as MATS and Th.M. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her dissertation explored the connections between the Christian understanding of atonement theology and the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Her other areas of interest include the connection between power and violence, sexual ethics, and working toward the elimination of the oppression and exploitation of women and girls around the world.