Not Too Much After New Year's Eve

We are a week into the New Year and some people who made resolutions have already broken them, others are on their way to breaking them, and some are going to see them through. There is a Paul Thorn song that goes: “Everybody looks good at the starting line.” Some of us are still looking good, others are fading and some never bothered with making a resolution at all. It doesn’t matter if you make a resolution or not, a new year, like a birthday, is a time when something new begins as you say goodbye to something old.

As each day unfolds we are called upon to interact with the world. Even if activities become routine, every time we do something we still need to attend to what is happening in the moment. Life is on the job training. We are continually learning how to act/react to the day. So, even if you have no set resolution, you are moving forward into unknown territory and will be learning as you go.

I have a few thoughts about learning that I would like to share with you.

Do you have a memory of being a child and wanting to do something new? Maybe play an instrument or learn how to take a gadget apart and put it back together. In my case it was the drums and a wall clock in the basement. I asked my parents if I could get a set of drums and take some lessons. They agreed to the lessons first. Depending how that went the drum set would follow. The clock I took on without permission. That was probably was a mistake. At the time I thought if I had asked I might not have gotten a green light to dismantle it on my own. They probably would have said no or I could do it together with my father. Instead of heeding that advice I did it on by myself.

I had two drum lessons before I gave up. There were too many moving parts. I had difficulty getting each hand to do something differently let alone my feet. My feet wanted to do one thing and my hands another and my mind just wasn’t able to get comfortable with the “this and that” aspect of drumming. I told my parents I wasn’t interested and they did not push back. Some parents might, but mine trusted me to find my way. That mindset that my parents brought to my upraising, has, like your parent’s mindsets/values and way of treating you, has had its pros and cons as I have gone through my life.

I asked for a set of bongos next figuring that might be more in my range. My parents invested in the bongos but not the lessons. Periodically I enjoyed pounding on them as I listened to music and played along, but they faded into my background.

I took the clock apart and re-assembled it. There were some extra parts I had no idea what to do with so I hide them away and put the clock back on the wall and hoped it would go undiscovered. It mostly did from my parents who either never noticed it or more likely chose not to mention it to me. I am sure, you can see the cons and maybe some pros in that. I learned a few lessons from that.

• I did not have the best take it apart/put it together skils • I could not ask for permission, do something and have it turn out not so well, and get away with it • I am not a very good learner. That one I didn’t really learn for another 20 years, but which time I’d also learned that sometimes you can get away with things and sometimes you can’t, but whether others know or not, you do.

There are endeavors that you start and after some time you walk away from them. In my case it was the drums, being mechanical and being inept. I veered away from all three as much as I could. I still mostly do, but I have been focusing on making peace with myself when I do things I consider inept. I really don’t like not doing things well. And I have a low tolerance for being a beginner. I want to know how to do everything at a high level before I do anything. Needless to say, this has stunted a lot of my growth. I don’t like taking chances, making mistakes or not doing well. All of which are obstacles to learning and issues I have had to battle all my life.

Allowing myself to learn. To be a beginner is a gift I try to give myself. I am just not that generous with it. Gratefully, I am more generous than ever. And I have the desire to get even more comfortable being a learner. Now, when I stumble, feel inept and want to run away I do some encouraging supportive cheerleading and urge me to carry on. With effort usually comes improvement. Without effort not much improves. So, I now try to support my taking on new endeavors and accepting I won’t be very good at them. Some days are better than others.

I have parents ask me if they should support their child quitting something or if they should encourage them to persevere through the challenges of being a beginner. I say both. People need to learn to commit to the process of learning and growing. Yes, there will be bumps in the road and steep mountains to get over and low terrains to make it through. And yes, we all need to learn how to do just that. Yet, we also need to learn when to walk away. Not everything you commit to needs to be a life-time journey. You need to know when something is not in your best interest and be able to let it go and move on. People get new jobs and new relationships throughout their life. Often those new activities mean leaving behind old ones, which may or may not be so easy. With every yes there is a no. With every no a yes. You do this and you don’t do that. If you are doing that you can’t be doing this at the same time. Choices choices choices. Decisions Decisions Decisions.

As you start the new year there may be some activities you take on that you will continue to do for an extended time and some that won’t last long. The only advice I would share is that you make your own peace with learning. Allow yourself chances to start new things. Fail at some. Succeed at others. Make mistakes. Have re-takes. Take time off. And support your journey as you learn more and more about you, the world and the life you lead.

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