“Carrie, are you going to sign up for the 30-day challenge?” the yoga instructor asked me after class last week.
“I’m not sure I’m up for it,” I protested as I wiped down my mat. “It was really hot in there today.”
“Come on! All you need to do is breathe, and stay in the room,” she said, quoting the Bikram dialogue for when things get too overwhelming during the 90-minute class. “Think of it as a New Year’s resolution.”
“Uh huh, we’ll see,” I told her.
On the drive home, I thought about resolutions and promises and change. What do I want in the New Year? Now that I’m forty, what do I want in my life, or out of my life? What would I keep, what could I change?
When I walked in the door I jotted down the first things that came to mind:
For thirty days in a row, I will breathe and sweat and stretch in 90-minute silence.
In 2015, I will eat intuitively. I’m not going to cut out carbs or sugar or gluten or dairy or chocolate. I’m not going to think about calories or fat. I’m simply going to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
I am going to stop feeling guilty about eating intuitively, because I’ve been eating this way for the past thirty-five years, ever since I stubbornly sat at my father’s table and refused to eat one more bite of chicken because I was full.
I’m going to remember that I know my body and my mind best.
I will laugh at every knock-knock joke I am told, even if it’s the eighty millionth time I’ve heard it.
With all my might, I will try not to go straight to anger. Instead, I will sit with the jagged, broken feelings of anxiety and fear, insecurity and defeat. I will let them roll over me like ocean waves until I am smooth and whole again.
Sometimes, I’ll let my 7-year old daughter, Rose, choose my nail polish.
I will refill the canister of flour when I use the last cup for banana bread. I’m the only one who does it anyway.
I am not going to keep changing the toilet paper roll. I am going to let the natural consequences of no toilet paper take their course for my family. It’s the only way these people are going to learn.
I will keep my phone in my purse when I am driving.
Once a day, I will kiss my husband with intention, instead of always offering the absent-minded peck on the cheek as he walks out the door in the morning and comes home again at night.
When I am in a bad mood, I will turn the music on and dance with my four boys and one girl, because this never fails to lift my spirits.
I will stop relying on the Church to show me the face of God. Instead, I will look past the dusty traditions and time-worn rituals, and look for him myself.
I will stop comparing myself to other people. I will especially stop comparing my butt to other women’s butts. My butt is smaller than some and bigger than others, and I use it to close car doors and shove the couch cushions back into place. But I mostly sit on it, and for this, it has always served me well.
Every once in a while, I will remind myself that autism is not a race to win or lose.
I will try clothes on before I buy them and save myself hours of wasted time returning pants that are too short, shirts that are too tight, and dresses that appeared cute in the store but look weird at home.
I’m going to try and worry less about hapless tragedies; fire and cancer and car accidents and drowning. Because if and when the time comes, I want to die living.
This—all of this—is what I want for my New Year. Flexibility and sweat and whimsy and color and time. I want less worry and anger, more kisses and dancing. I want to enjoy food without guilt and regret’s bitter flavor, and I will not let my insecurities hold me hostage a moment longer.
When I bake banana bread, I want to have the flour ready.
I want to know our Heavenly Father better, because I am certain He is here, all around me. He is in every rainbow and puppy, every smile and every tear, every survivor and soldier and swaddled infant child.
Some days autism feels like a sprint, and other times it’s more of a long, slow marathon. Either way, it is a permanent part of my landscape, and I will never hear the loud burst of fireworks again without wondering if they’re too loud for my son Jack’s tender ears.
Autism is hard and it is fast and it makes my head spin. But when it feels too overwhelming and too hot and too much, I will remind myself that the only thing I need to do is breathe, and stay in the room. And if that doesn’t work, I will take my tall, gangly son by the hands, and we will dance.
Reading over my list of resolutions, I felt weightless and light. I felt free. And I decided I didn’t want to wait until January 1st to begin.
She picked a soft, glittery silver. “Like tinsel, Mom! Your nails will be so shiny.”