Let’s Talk … About intentions

As the new year approaches, many people make “resolutions” to do things better — eat healthy, exercise more, spend less money, etc. Making resolutions to start anew may be a good idea at the beginning of the year, giving you motivation and focus, but often, by the end of the year, those same resolutions can haunt you, leave you feeling disappointed in yourself.

After decades of disappointments, I have found it more helpful to clarify for myself an important “intention” rather than a “resolution,” maybe because it’s less definitive, gives me more leeway and less pressure, but also because I only choose one and it must be something very important to me. With this selected “intention” I don’t make specific goals or benchmarks, but instead, I carry it with me, wear it like an invisible T-shirt with an “intention logo.” It’s invisible because it’s a deal I’ve made with myself, usually, to somehow be a better person, and I don’t want anyone to critique or judge me about my effort.

Choosing an intention isn’t done with a snap decision, it requires thoughtful self-reflection. I have found, along with others who share this same new year practice, that it doesn’t help to have others tell you what you should intend. Somehow, it has to come from a place that is not usually in your awareness; maybe a place you don’t really want to mine very deeply. So maybe when you reflect, you might find that you tend to be impatient, easily angered, harsh or critical.

Maybe you don’t mean to be mean, but you make fun of others, make light of their concerns.

You might decide that you are harsh with yourself, constantly putting yourself down, maybe overdoing things to prove your worth at great expense to your own welfare. And there’s always the one most of us are guilty of — taking a loved one for granted instead of holding that person with gratitude in your heart. There are of course endless ways that we find ourselves not at our best, but if there is a pattern or if different people have commented or tried to point out when you haven’t been all that you’d like to be, these could be clues to guide you toward your chosen intention for 2019.

So you might ask, Satsuki, what is your intention for the Year of the Pig? Normally I advise people to keep these intentions to themselves, but since you asked … My intention is to be more forgiving. Picture my T-shirt logo with the number four inside of a heart. It’s pink and maybe too soppy, but even as I write, it feels right for me. This year I have found myself simmering with outrage and trapped by helplessness about the cruelty and injustice being perpetrated against women, people of color, immigrants, ethnic, religious, gender minorities and the list goes on. I have found this simmering anger making me edgy, losing sleep, and heaven forbid, losing patience and understanding for people who are close to me. And my husband has said more than once, “If you ever cross, Satsuki, you might as well forget that you ever knew her.”

OK, that’s enough self-disclosure! What I do know and trust is, just like every other Daruma, I can right myself back up each time when I remind myself of my intention. For me, it’s not about forgiving the perpetrators of the abuse, but it’s also not about ranting about them either. It’s about softening my heart instead of calcifying it with anger, keeping my eyes on the loving, kind generosity and courage of those who are helping. Doing what I can to join the effort. It’s about seeing the blessings that loved ones have bestowed on me. It’s about gratitude for my ancestors who have made the life I have possible. I can promise I won’t be perfect at it, but it is my intention.

I wish you all a new year filled with love and the best of intentions!

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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