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And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  – I Corinthians 13:13

Back in the day, I fell in love with this older, bald-headed, lollipop-loving guy who had a trademark phrase “Who loves ya baby?” He was a part of the über classic, and one of the bestest ever, television series—Kojak—which centered around his primary character as a gritty New York City detective.  I was hooked.

As we prepare for a new year, a lot of people are thinking about resolutions. Perhaps resolutions have been successful for you.  They never have for me and I gave them up more than a decade ago.  They never got me anywhere because they seemed punitive in nature if I failed to achieve them.  They weren’t weighty enough for me or of benefit.  Nor did they help me grow and become a better person.   Instead, I focus on two things each year for my individual self-improvement:  personal growth and spiritual growth.

As for my area of personal growth in 2012, this year my focus is on “Who loves ya baby?” (i.e., my focus is on, you guessed it, me!).

While I am not as shallow and self-serving as a focus on me may sound, I believe we all need to focus on loving ourselves.  I don’t know about you but this year has been an interesting one for me, full of many valleys, few peaks, and all kinds of twists and turns in between.  Through it all, I have been blessed beyond measure and I am thankful for the experiences and lessons I learned in 2011.  However, I am eager for new beginnings and fresh experiences as I welcome and expect all the great things 2012 will offer.

As I reflect upon this past year, one of the lessons I have learned is that in spite of circumstances and the happenings of life, I have to love myself to be a whole human being and to keep joy at the center of my core.  Like everyone else, I get so busy and wrapped up in so many things, loved ones, and life that oftentimes I totally neglect to love me.

My idea of “Who loves ya baby?” involves the following areas of self-exploration in 2012:

1.  Self-love:  I am choosing to dig deeper into exploring the things that make me happy.  I believe self-love is the essence of who we are and if we don’t have it then we don’t truly accept the person we are.  So then how can we truly accept, give, or receive love?  I accept myself and I want to learn more about all of my personal desires that bring me joy and fulfillment.  I realize this is an on-going activity on this journey of life and I certainly don’t expect all of the answers to come this year; however, I want to know more about who I am at my core so that I can continue to blossom, grow and fulfill my true potential.

2.  Health and Wellness:  After years of battling the ups and downs of trying to sync diet and exercise I have finally found what works best for me.  For the first time in years, I am consciously choosing to work on making my body healthy on a daily basis through nutrition and consistency with exercise (always the big problem).  It may have stemmed from the injury I had earlier this year, or because I’m becoming a little older and wiser, or simply because I am consciously choosing to put myself first.  I don’t really know why it has clicked for me, just that I am happy and excited about it and look forward to where this path will take me as I get stronger (and thinner!) not only on my weight loss journey but about strengthening who I am from the inside out.  Health maintenance is important and I will continue the annual health screenings and any other age-appropriate health tests and checks that need to be done.  Another goal is to get more rest by going to bed at a decent hour instead of being the night owl I usually am.  I don’t know about you but I want to age gracefully and healthfully and keep active and alive for  as long as I can.  While I’m many decades from it, I want to be the old woman in the tv ads riding the bicycle and playing in the park!

3.  Lifestyle:  I love to cook!  One of my passions is trying new recipes and I am a cookbook fa-na-tic.  I have way too many cookbooks to count and it is sad to say that I have never prepared a recipe from many of them.  While I am not planning to do a Julie and Julia challenge to cook my way through Julia Child, I am challenging myself to experiment and prepare new recipes from some of my never used but well-intentioned, I like this recipe and purposely dog-eared it to prepare one day, cookbooks.    I want to learn how to make a good homemade stock, a great mother sauce and work with spices I rarely use like turmeric, coriander and mint.  As I have been faithfully exercising every day, I have committed to doing some of my old ballet DVDs once a week.  They bring back fond memories and remind me of taking ballet as a little girl.  I love the experience and juxtaposition of strength and graceful movement ballet offers. Recently I found items I bought for a watercolor class a few years ago.  The class got cancelled because not enough people enrolled but I have a book and the materials.  So, I will be exploring how to watercolor.  All of these things offer me peace and comfort, help release life stress and offer me challenges to grow and learn new things.

4.  Relationships:  With modern technology, my personal relationships are different.  I don’t really like it.  I want to connect more with the people I care about on a deeper and more personal level like in the good old days. Technology is a great way to connect but I miss the personal face-to-face interactions.  Everyone is so busy and I am thankful for a circle of friends who are also feeling the difference and have committed to making time for us to get together, laugh, talk, cry, have fun, be silly, joke, play games, try on shoes, go shopping.  All of the fun things that bring us joy and delight in showing kindness, sharing secrets and being around the people who think the world of us and who know us so well they can tell us the truth without it hurting our feelings.

5.  Career:  My current career is a little non-existent right now.  Being unemployed is a life-changer.  Actively searching for work, I am not only looking at can I do the job but would I really want the job?.  While I love what I used to do, I often wonder if I am meant to do something different?  I am reevaluating what I want to be when I grow up.  I want a fulfilling and financially stable career that supports my skills, talents and interests on a professional and heart level.

Whatever you decide for yourself in 2012 – whether it be creating resolutions, choosing an area of focus for spiritual or personal improvement, or something else – ask yourself “Who loves ya baby?”

Know that you are worthy.  Love yourself.  Challenge yourself.  Explore what makes you happy.   Plant the seeds of love, nurture it, and watch it grow. Love who you are, who you hope to be, and who you are becoming.

Happy New Year!

“The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.”  – Oliver Wendell Holmes