A dear friend of mine has been going through a crisis of sorts, during which she has learned all kinds of difficult and beautiful things about herself. One of the things she’s learned is that she is prone to numbing hope, because the pain of reality not meeting her expectations is so painfully debilitating. It breaks my heart, because hope is so important to getting me through rough times.
She asked me how I stay hopeful, even when things don’t turn out, and I was sad to not have a concrete answer. The only thing I could say is that it’s something I choose day after day, because if I don’t there would be no reason to take another breath. I have to believe that there is a solution that I haven’t found yet and I have to believe that what I want is possible and is out there waiting for me.
This is the time of year when I am frequently both exhausted and full of hope. This year I pushed myself way too hard and the constant feeling of being busy is hard to shake. It doesn’t help that the days have been getting shorter and the darkness deeper (until today - Happy Solstice!) and I always tend to set unrealistic expectations around the holidays that leave me feeling like I’m missing out on something.
But at the same time, I’m reveling in the Christmas lights that sparkle in the darkness, in the week off from work, and the possibility of a whole bright new shiny year.
For many people, myself included, this is a time of reflecting on what has passed and dreaming of what’s to come. It’s time to plant the seeds of hope that next year will be better and brighter than this one.
There’s a part of me that wishes I could hide out in a dark cave for the next week and emerge with a shining vision of the future. But I’ll have to settle for a few hours in my nest of pillows and blankets, hopefully with some noise-cancelling headphones, tea, and a brand new notebook.
If you need some inspiration for your own dream-seeking and hope-planting, here are 10 creative resolutions for the new year, inspired by some of my favourite quotes.
Develop the habit of courage.
"If you want to develop courage, then simply act courageously when it’s called for. If you do something over and over again, you develop a habit. Some people develop the habit of courage. Some people develop the habit of non-courage."
― Brian Tracy
Withdraw your watcher from the gates.
"Schiller wrote of a 'watcher at the gates of the mind', who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind 'the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.'"
Get quiet and desperately honest with yourself.
“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when read the lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.”
― Henry Miller
Find your own wobble
I’m a strong believer in a quality that I call “wobble”, the less-than-perfect execution of things crafted by hand.
― Bert Dodson
Choose which story you’ll tell yourself
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Search for art in the chaos
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.
― Toni Morrison
When all comes to all, the most precious element in life is wonder.
― D.H. Lawrence
Remember where the beauty resides
When you don’t experience yourself as the beauty in life, you attempt small suicides every day. Maybe you manage to write, paint, or compose. But your real goal for the day is to obliterate it. A self-friendlier you would look for the opportunity to please yourself, help yourself, live your life plan, act righteously, make meaning, and find joy. A self-friendlier you would remember where the beauty resides, in you alone. The beauty in a sunset, a baby’s smile, or in the idea of liberty is not independent of an observer, whose inner sense of beauty must be activated for external beauty to exist.
― Eric Maisel
When I'm between books, I feel as if I will never have another story to tell. The last book has wiped me out, has taken everything from me, everything I understand and feel and know and remember, and...that's it. There's nothing left. A low-level depression sets in. The world hides its gifts from me. It has taken me years to realize that this feeling, the one of the well being empty, is as it should be. It means I've spent everything. And so I must begin again.
― Dani Shapiro
Leap in the darkness
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
― Agnes de Mille