Connecting the Dots

Intentions for 2024: Stay in the Now

Each January, I take some time to reflect on what I want this brand new, unmarred, freshly made New Year to bring. Will I push myself further outside my comfort level or lower the bar? Rethink who I want to spend time with and where I want to spend my energy? Or confirm what brings me joy and fulfills my values? I don’t make resolutions or set goals, because that’s a guarantee fail, for me and anyone else with demand avoidance!

But I do set intentions and when I forget where I’m going and why, as I often do, I return to these intentions to sustain my focus. In 2020, when I set the intention to write an hour a day, did I write an hour a day? Of course not! But by the end of the year, I had written the first draft of my first novel. Without pressure. Without guilt. Just returning to the writing, over and over again, when I got lost.

This life strategy always reminds me of the way Pema Chödrön, the much-adored Buddhist nun who wrote When Things Fall Apart, speaks about meditation: the goal isn’t to reach Nirvana, or a state of eternal peace, sometimes it even makes you feel worse. The goal is simply to stay in the Now. In reality. Now is the only place anything happens, so it’s a good place to learn how to tolerate.

But it’s hard with all the distractions – things to eat, drink and buy, devices that stream movies, games, news and fake news always at our fingertips – that will drown out every boring annoyance and intolerable pain that are part of the day to day life of being human!

Think of your mind as a puppy, Pema says. When the puppy strays or pees on the carpet, do you yell at that puppy and tell her what a stupid, lazy, useless dog she is? Of course not! You gently bring the puppy back to what you want her to do. And praise her ridiculously (you know the voice) when she does. The goal of meditation, and therapy come to think of it, is to learn how to Stay.

And so I draw myself back to my intentions, over and over again, as gently as I would lead a puppy outside to the grass to pee. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sometimes yelling in frustration at said puppy. And this is the only guilt that intention-setting elicits in me – guilt for ‘yelling’ at the ‘puppy’ (my mind) when I think I should be getting somewhere, faster.

In January 2023, the somewhere I wanted to get (my annual intention) was to build a kick-ass team of Scattergram therapists. A team with greater reach and impact than I, as a solo practitioner, could ever hope to achieve. This is Scattergram’s mission after all: to build capacity for neurodiversity-affirming mental health services across Canada. Growing the business has been such a whirlwind that it wasn’t until this January, 2024, that I stopped long enough to analyze if I was nearing my destination, or even going in the right direction.

What do the numbers say? Since January 2023, Scattergram grew from four to ten therapists. The number of clients seen increased from one hundred and five in January 2023 to two hundred and eighty in January 2024. We saw an increase of over 150% in clients served. Are these clients happy with the services they receive at Scattergram? We don’t have qualitative data to answer that question, but our 90% client retention rate is suggestive.

I’ve had doubts along the way. My puppy (brain) has wanted to jerk that leash out of my hands, run as fast as she can to the beach, and roll in a dead fish or bird. What do I know about running a business, she asks? She has peed on the carpet quite a few times and once or twice it might not have been pee, but the other. There have been messes to clean up. Gently, gently, I say to her, Come back. Stay. Who’s a good girl?!

These are my values, after all. This is my mission. To co-create, with clients and therapists and support staff and healthcare professionals across Canada and anyone else who wants to join, a universe where neurodivergence is normal. Which brings me to my 2024 intentions. The theme of capacity-building remains the same, but there are two ways of going about this.

  • Bring more neurodiversity-affirming therapy directly to neurodivergent youth and adults at Scattergram, which we will continue to do.
  • Develop training programs, books, and resources for therapists and organizations, enabling them to provide knowledgeable, skillful, neurodiversity-affirming services to even more people.

This year, my intention is to put my energy into the second one which has an even further reach than the first. I am a therapist but I am also an educator and writer. My training as an academic is imprinted on me and longs for more outlets.

Are there parts of you that long for an outlet, that you never seem to have time or energy for? Why not try setting an intention, however small. And gently, take your own leash, and draw yourself back to it, over and over and over again. Next January, you may be surprised how far you’ve come.

 

Wendy

@tlatsoi
Author: @tlatsoi

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