Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rethinking the Golden Rule

Happy New Year! Like most people, I am not immune to the idea of a New Year's Resolution. The only problem with them, at least for me, is that usually the resolutions include lots of specific details. You know, things like "I will not eat carbs after dinner" or "I'm will strive to lose 30 pounds" or "I'll get up at 5 in the morning every day and write for an hour before my family wakes"... You know, those sound great on paper, but in real life? Buh-bye. Most friends and family know I'm a person who lives by a few rules for myself, but that most of those rules involve being on time and having a sense of propriety. Those rules do not involve proscribed times for some chips and salsa or dieting or getting up any earlier than absolutely, positively necessary.

Yet, I also found myself noodling on the idea of a resolution: if there were one thing to dedicate this year to being mindful of, what would that be? That answer was fairly easy: The Golden Rule. You know, treat others as you would wish to be treated. This is something I reference very often and it's especially handy to pull out when Kiddo is mulling over moments of  social conflict. This morning he was complaining about an fellow student: "Mom, he begs and begs me to play with him and he has lots of friends but says he doesn't". Well, okay, so lets say your favorite buddies were all playing with other kids? Don't you feel sometimes like you have no friends when that happens? (well, yeah). Okay, so if you were feeling that way and asked someone to play with you, how would you want them to respond? Kiddo's proposed answer was suddenly more gracious, "yes, I'll play with you later".

The Golden Rule is very useful like that. Nearly anything can be referred back to it. That said, some of the goals I have this year are for better overall health and fitness. For me, saying "I'm going to do X every day" is sort of a recipe for failure. I'm not so disciplined that I'm going to happily go for a vigorous walk in the rain. I mean, there are people who do this and I admire them for it, but I know my proclivities and so, I needed some way to figure out what would work for me.

This morning I took a walk after dropping Kiddo off to school. My goal was a cross-street location, 60th and Belmont. Round trip, it's about 2.25 miles or so. Arms swinging, I did a brisk walk up the hill between Stark and Belmont; it was at 58th that I faltered. Only two more blocks to go, but really? Did I have to do them? That part of the walk was really not attractive... yet I knew that if I chose not to hit my goal, it would stick with me. Two blocks (okay, four total round trip) wasn't any great shakes, yet I knew that it was really less about the exercise and more about actually completing what I had set out to do. I hit the cross-street, made a mental note to myself to make my next walk goal further over the hill where the walk is prettier, and felt good.

On the way down the hill -- stop at the store first for groceries, then home-- I realized that I could apply the golden rule to myself, if I absented myself from my body. Suddenly, the idea came to me: "what if I stepped out of my own body for a few days? How would I want someone else to treat this body?" This was a fun trick which helped me gain a bit of objectivity. Of course I would want my body to be taken out for exercise, some walks, some sunshine and fresh air. I'd want that 'user' of the corporeal Hazel to be nice to the body, to be sweet with it and get it a couple glasses of water. To make sure it got enough rest and to stretch it and move it regularly, lest it get all tight and achy.

It's this sort of funny perspective, I suppose, that gave me compassion for myself. I'm past healing from that pesky appendectomy surgery and now getting my groove back. I can wear jeans again (phew!) but damn, that took a while. I'm hoping I can be gentle yet firm with myself, to Positively Discipline myself if you will. To treat myself as I would want to treat someone who was getting back in shape from a rough time and who is wanting to make the small changes instead of the big, more impressive feats of cleansing or running a marathon or dropping five dress sizes. Instead of ideals, my goals should reflect where I am right now, and they should honor my initial level of ability and provide some impetus for pushing myself a bit (hey, a nicer walking route helps immensely) while being an encouraging experience so that I can continue in growth.

So, thinking of the Golden Rule, and how it can be applied to my own self as well as others-- this is the goal for the year. To keep this devoutly in my head. I'm sure that I will fail many, many times this year, but I'm going to try to keep focused on continuing to make the effort to be kind and gracious to others and to myself. I mean, if you can't use the Golden Rule in how we consider our own selves, it's a lot harder to have that empathy for others and their flaws. I'd love to keep this in mind all the time-- new year or not. We're coming up  on another busy year-- we'll see how things go!

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