Monday, January 4, 2010

The Epic New Year's Resolution Project

Every year I make the same resolutions: not to bite my nails, to exercise more, and to not procrastinate. Last year, before 2009 rolled around, I went on a quest to find an epic resolution -- one that I could hold onto, learn from, be moved by, and spread like the most delicious cream cheese frosting. I wanted a resolution that would be a daily practice in a really epic way: I wanted it to be a habit I never kicked, and something so big I couldn't explain it to anyone without reaching my hands out to my sides, as far as they would reach, and laughing a big belly laugh with my mouth open wide. I wanted it to focus on laughter, and love, and kindness, and singing, and the smell of ocean on a sunny day, and spinning round in big poofy-skirted dresses, and ants opening peonies, and skipping and swinging, and 100-piece orchestras.

But I wanted it to be little too. I wanted it to be simultaneously small, something I could hold inside my heart like a warm, soft glow. Something subtle, like the smell of lavender, a mini-earthquake, or a dog's soft ear. I wanted it to be tiny enough to take with me, to fit in a pocket, maybe the size of a bejeweled blue button. A little, loose button of meaning to remind me to be compassionate, better, grateful, open, bright.

I searched for this epic resolution and I found it. With my firmest resolve, at the stroke of midnight in 2009, I was resolute to be an instrument of peace.

What does that mean exactly? To me it was a hybrid vision of the prayer of St. Francis (though, I must note, I am not religious), and the Jimmy Eat World song Goodbye, Sky Harbor (from their early and quite amazing album, Clarity. The song is noted to be inspired by John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany -- a book I must resolve to read in 2010.)

The prayer of St. Francis is really simple and beautiful. Abbreviated some, it reads:

Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

That I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love...

And then the Jimmy Eat World song, from an album that reminded me of a time in my life when, after a too-long period of less-than, I had finally felt inspired, living, and whole. It is not as much the lyrics, as the song with the lyrics -- loud and quiet, loud and quiet, repeating, repeating, crescendo and quiet, drums and voice, long and finished. But, I'll try:

"Is tomorrow just a day like all the rest?"
How could you know just what you did?
So full of faith yet so full of doubt I ask.
Time and time again you said don't be afraid.
"If you believe you can do it."
The only voice I want to hear is yours.
I shall ask you this once again.
And again.
He said:
"I am but one small instrument."

(Interested in the song? Check it out on YouTube here.)

Being an instrument of peace was everything I had wanted in a resolution, and the first resolution in memory that I have stuck with, held tight to, and braided with my hair. I have kept it with me, like my blue, sparkly button, for the whole year. I think any of my friends who interacted with me on a regular basis in 2009 could attest that I wore this button like a proud cape, or some shiny shoes, or a toothy grin. I quoted it, "I am an instrument of peace," I would say to myself (and sometimes aloud.) I would channel my instrument: a violin when I was cut off on the freeway; a cello when I felt really sad; trumpets in times of great joy; an acoustic guitar to forgive; tiny, high celeste timbres, like music box notes while a sugar plum fairy dances, for when I was angry; Rhapsody in Blue for those long walks and good conversation with friends; Leonard Cohen's rich molasses voice for my mom. And for love, it is the full symphony, or the full chorus in a joyous musical.

This year, I have reprised my epic resolution that is as big as an ocean, and as tiny as map pin. I am but one small instrument.

May 2010 be a year of peace for the world, and for our lives.


  1. It seems as though you might not be aware, my dear friend, but you have been living this resolution for as long as I have known you. You are one of the biggest influences in my life. Always showing me to seek peace and love rather than the trivial pieces that come along the way. I have learned so much from you and always admired your ability to see the big picture and explain life simply while at the same time comfort and guide those around you. Some of the most important advice about the world I have ever received was from you. By observing your outlook on life I have become a stronger person. The heartfelt conversations, guidance, and your ability to listen without judgment are examples that prove you are nothing but an instrument of peace. Thank you for writing this inspiring piece, it reminded me that I want to live my life in a selfless way expressing nothing but joy and love.

  2. Aw, friend, your words really moved me and it means so much to me that you read my lil' blog post. Thank you so much for your friendship and support. I hope you know you are also a great inspiration to me. Keep shining on you crazy diamond...xo

  3. Beautiful post Mara!! You were definetly VERY successful at being an Instrument of Peace!!! And I have no doubt that you will carry this pricelss quality with you forever. Thank you for being so Amazing (and a fabulous writer!!)
    I LOVE you LOTS and LOTS...xoxo