I started the month thinking about its name and the possibilities inherent in the word “may.” Finishing up my third continuous month of daily commitment to a chosen goal, I thought about loosening the reins a little and going with the flow for a few weeks. I’d commit to daily meditation but would try to relax on some of the other “should/ought to” thoughts I’d built up over the previous months.
- “I need to do my weights.”
- “I should drink more water.”
- “I really ought to wear something other than pajamas to work.”
Those would be replaced with “may” statements.
- “I may do some qi gong today.”
- “I may work on my blog post.”
- “I may put on pants at some point.”
I thought I’d call this my “I may May.” As it turns out, that’s not quite what happened…
After Moose’s dental surgery in April, things were going pretty well. He was healing and loving the happy pills. Unfortunately, while his mouth was healing, his ears were driving him batshit crazy. Despite regular cleanings and an ear examination from the doctor that revealed “nothing too serious,” Moose developed a hematoma in his right ear flap. A solid swelling of blood between tissues, this hematoma turned Moose’s ear flap into a pillow of spongy softness (sounds cute, but isn’t nice at all). So on May 11, not even one month since his dental surgery, he went back under the knife. This time, it took him a lot longer to recover and it wasn’t until nearly a week later that he began to show signs of feeling better, even with the happy pills. The fog finally lifted and now only the weekly trips back to the vet for checkups traumatize him.
Meanwhile, as Moose recovered from his event, a dear friend said goodbye to her beloved gold dog, Copper. The end came on quite suddenly, the way some deaths do, and sadness settled into me for several days as I thought about Copper and what my friend was going through. I’d never met Copper but through my friend’s tales and shared photos, I felt like I had. “Cop” was to her what Moose is to me. I knew her world had paused.
The month tore through days. Birthdays, Mother’s Day celebrations, family visits, seeing friends, work craziness – it all rushed by. The daily meditation continued as planned but instead of using the month to slacken rigid commitments, I began to actually commit to myself more, in different ways. I put nothing in writing; I didn’t tell many people or give these activities a lot of fanfare. I wanted them to feel like a normal part of my life. Since we are what we repeatedly do, as Aristotle said, then my aim was for consistency and repetition, without any horn tooting. I just wanted to move toward excellence by doing some things better than I had done the day before. It turns out, I didn’t need a daily journal entry for that. The previous months of accountability had instilled in me a genuine appreciation for the act of deciding, committing, and doing, so I just did, and continue to simply do.
My “I may May” turned into a daily step toward self-improvement, without force. Just a small shift in words – from the forceful “will” to a word of allowance, forgiveness, and flexibility – broke down a barrier for me that allowed things to flow more freely when the days became crazy, hectic, or just heart-achingly sad. It put me in charge of my life and my actions.
I’m not saying this is the right path for everyone. The word “may” could sound perilously close to permission not to do something worthwhile. If I had tried this six months ago, I probably would’ve used it as a built-in excuse for those days when I just didn’t feel like doing something. Several days would’ve slipped by and any progress I’d made would have been undone. And, I still love those daily commitments I have made to my accountability partner to help me build habits that don’t come easily (for June I have recommitted to daily meditation). Without commitment, and without my accountability partner, I wouldn’t be writing this at all.
I just want to encourage everyone to give themselves permission to try new things, to slacken the reins if they’re feeling too tight, and see what happens. You may be surprised to find that you’re more committed to yourself and your goals than you thought, and all you need is to make your own decisions, to silence the voices that say you must, you ought to, you really should. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, change is only one commitment, one breath, away.
Might you feel empowered to take control of your life and your actions? Might you feel intoxicated by choice, and inspired to do good things for yourself?
Indeed, you may.