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One at a Time

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions; they feel like a set up to me. It feels a bit like pop-psychology. Just pretend you have done all the work you need to do to break those limiting behaviors and just jump to the other side of the bridge. If you really didn’t do the work, it is not surprising that without too much ado or too much time having passed, we are back at the same old nasty habits. So I set goals.

As time passes, the goals seem to be changing in nature. They are harder to set because there is less that I want. They have become more personal in focus because the material has become less important and somehow my goals each year have evolved into a kind of in-my-face, reflection of my values in life and how they are changing.

I grew up in the middle of the Yuma desert, in an Army trailer smaller than my current bedroom. Five people, my Mom and Dad and a sister and brother, lived in that tiny space, not knowing where our next meal was coming from. I left home at thirteen, raised four kids by myself and fought my way through the feminist movement while also fighting the ingrained belief that life had to be hard. So, when I was younger my goal projections were filled with entries about survival. Start a savings account. Buy a new car. Increase your income and become financially secure. Later, they became about learning, a luxury I had little time for previously. Get your degree. Sit for and pass the MFCC exam. Learn to write a book. Take seminars and classes. Then my goals took on a more personal note. Start to meditate more. Create a spiritual support group. Find a life-mate – okay so that one has taken a while. Loose weight. Define your spiritual practice. And this year, for the first time, I find that I am sitting here with an empty sheet glaring at me for the past several days from the corner of my desk, wondering where do I go from here? I have fasted longer than Gandhi, learned to love with a whole heart, stood in the truth of what I believe and had ecstatic moments in the face of God. What could possible be left?

It seems, as I grow older my focus becomes less outward and the goals take on a more intimate perspective. They have a more emotional hue and require reflection on what there is in life that really fulfills me. The most profound moments for me are those that contain deep connection to others and myself. I remember a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen in which they describe a friend who was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked he spotted a local native who kept leaning down and picking up something and throwing it into the ocean. As he approached closer to the native he saw the man was picking up star fish that had been washed up onto the beach, and one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water.

“If I don’t throw them back into the water, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen,” he said.

“I understand,” the friend said, “but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don’t you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches up and down the coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”

The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “Made a difference to that one.”

Perhaps at this time in my life it all boils down to something very simple. The most profound truths for me are always the most simple. No more lofty, grandiose goals. No more material accumulations. Just simply the one and only thing that gives me joy and creates the ecstasy. Finally that damn sheet can come off the corner of my desk! On it I will write, “During each day with some person that I meet, I will make a difference, one at a time.”

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2008

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