Consolation and New Year’s resolutions


Over the past month or so, I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night with a sudden panic that I’ve left Foxy outside in the cold. I sit up straight and call her name, scared to death that she is [morbid alert] frozen to death out in the yard. And each time, I’m relieved to find that she’s right there by the bed. Of course she is.

My lifelong propensity towards anxiety paired with a winter that’s already more extreme than the entirety of the 2015-2016 season is doing dismal things to my brain. It’s not so much the temperature as it is the wind chill, and it isn’t so much the wind chill as it is the darkness.

Winter in Minnesota, man. Only the strong survive.

But regardless of how I feel about the weather, I find myself living in Minneapolis for my second January. Take four degrees and subtract them from zero, and that’s the temperature at this very minute – and it doesn’t even seem all that unreasonable, given the stiff and hypothermic potential. My survival strategy is to just keep living – and in January, I’ve decided that life will be made up of only two things: working, and running on the treadmill.

It happens to all of us at the start of every new year, doesn’t it? Making resolutions, resolving to re-solve what we’ve deemed wrong about our lives. As usual, I’ve decided that the root of all that’s wrong with my life is not, in fact, my fallen nature, but the circumference of my thighs. My re-solution? To run.

To run a freaking marathon.

Ha. That was actually my New Year’s resolution – to run 26.2 miles, twice as far as I’ve ever run, twice as far as I’ve ever wanted to run. Annieeeeeee. Why must your goals always be so extreme??

But since then, some thoughts.

First, last week I listened as a wonderful dinner companion shared about the Ignatian method of discernment called Examen, a prayer-fueled mindfulness that involves the idea of consolation and desolation. Each night, one is to review the events of the day and pinpoint the moments that were consoling (life-giving, inspiring, connecting) and the ones that were desolating (draining, despairing, isolating); in other words, consolation is movement toward God, and desolation is movement away.

As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.

A few days later, I listened to an episode of Steve Wiens’s podcast in which he makes the case for “change that actually changes you.” So much of what he said parallels the idea of Examen. You should listen to the full episode, but for now, I’ll share the simple daily prayer offered by Steve at the end: “God, I want to experience life in all of its fullness today. Please lead me there.”

Do you feel how different this way of life is from our crazy New Year’s resolutions, those hard-hitting, full throttle plans that we think are going to turn our sorry ass luck around?

At the Christmas dinner table, I told my sister-in-law Ashley that I am thinking about training for a marathon, but that I’m nervous that if I commit to it and say it out loud that I won’t actually be able to do it and then I’ll be a total garbage person failure. She said, “I guess that you’d need to know that the process of reaching the goal would be just as worthwhile as achieving the goal itself.”

This morning at the gym, I ran for 45 minutes while staring at a poster in front of the treadmill that said, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s a preposterous notion, really, since we can and do fail all the time. So I changed it in my mind to, “What would you do if you knew you might fail, but you’d kind of like to give it a shot anyway?”

Here’s the truth about today: I’m glad I ran for those 45 minutes. I feel awesome. That run felt like consolation. I want more of that feeling.

Here’s another thing that’s true: I was not well in 2016. The quiet stress I experienced during the first half of the year wreaked havoc on the second, health-wise. I had an eye infection that lasted for two months. I got shingles. My body harbored infection, I was sick over and over again, and I couldn’t sleep. But in November, when I started getting back into running after years of not running, I started to feel better. The beginning of 2017 finds me quite well, physically. I credit much of this to running, which is reason enough to keep doing it.

I don’t know if I’ll run a marathon this year. But at the risk of feeling stupid later, I’ll say it anyway: I’m going to try. I’m going to follow this training plan day by day, as far as I can take it, and give it everything I’ve got.

Maybe it will result in the torturous achievement of running 26.2 miles all at once, or maybe I’ll find that running 26.2 miles via multiple runs spread out over a week is a pretty cool accomplishment, too. Last week, my new friend Barnabas said something like, “What if running 15 miles 10 times is just as big an achievement as running 26.2 once?” I like that. When we drop our rigid expectations, the world opens up to us (the most Oprah thing I’ve ever said); success can take so many different forms.

(But I really am going to try for a marathon.)

I hope 2017 finds you experiencing life in all its fullness and moving toward consolation, New Year’s resolutions or none. And if you’re dying for a getaway, please come visit me in Minneapolis. I have a brand new furnace.




  1. Hilary on January 5, 2017 at 12:29 PM

    Oh, Annie, how I adore you! You make me laugh and you make me think, and those are pretty much the qualities I cherish most in people. (Oh, and you like wine and cheese as much as I do. The trifecta!) Maybe I’ll hit the treadmill today in solidarity!

  2. Patty on January 5, 2017 at 12:39 PM

    INSPIRING!!!! You go, Gal!!!
    I used to set over-the-top goals & then after months/years of being irritable & exhausted, I went on a trip to just decompress. On my long daily walks thru Nature, I started having some clarity on what was energizing me & what was draining me. My next challenge was figuring out how I was going to let go of the things that were draining me & where the need to do those things was coming from. (What “voice” was telling me “I needed to do this”. That is my governor now in my life. Another reason Nature is so powerful. It quiets the mind from all those “voices”. Enjoy your journey! You have the courage most people do not have, Annie. The courage to be introspective and change things that are no longer working for you.

  3. Lauren Lahm on January 5, 2017 at 12:44 PM

    Annie. Let’s do it.

  4. Lan | MoreStomach on January 5, 2017 at 1:51 PM

    Minneapolis, MN is on my list of places to visit – dw’s college roommate lives there and he has the very cutest family i’m desiring very much to meet. but as i’ve told him, i will tell you, the -4F keeps me from hopping on a plane. it’s a comparatively balmy 31F in baltimore, and i am barely keeping on.
    good luck with your running! dw is training for 2 halfs and a full, and i have volunteered to pack snacks & drive alongside with Eye of the Tiger blaring. that is all i can muster.
    PS. every night at dinner we try to say what our most favorite thing that happened that day, big or small. it keeps me grounded and grateful and it gives me just the right mount of kick to spend the next day doing things that i could possibly say was my favorite thing that occurred.
    PPS. last, for -4 degrees you are not all that bundled up! your legs! i’ve hovering near my space heater just looking at your pic.

  5. Christina on January 5, 2017 at 2:44 PM

    Wow, do I love the consolation/desolation analysis. Without call it exactly that, this is sort of what I feel like I’ve been doing approaching he New Year — removing the desolation,, as much as I can, inching closer toward people/things/activities that console. With all we’re facing in the wider world right now (DESOLATE), I’m trying to make my personal, close-to-home world as consoling as possible. Can’t wait to hug you

  6. Debbie Barnett on January 5, 2017 at 4:29 PM

    Mark Miller always says that the marathon training is healthier for you than the marathon itself. Maybe that could be your goal – to TRAIN for a marathon, but not run one. :)

  7. Colleen on January 5, 2017 at 4:50 PM

    My 52-year old arthritic knees are yelling at you to NOT DO IT! After 30+years of daily runs, most of them 5 -10 miles, I can now look back and see how foolish it was to my body. I can’t even hobble after my dogs when the get out of the gate, let alone run a mile. I’ve had two knee surgeries and I’m staving off a knee replacement hoping stem cell replacement becomes a real thing. Goals are great. Marathons, for your future body, are not.
    P.S. I love and miss you!

  8. Allison on January 5, 2017 at 6:53 PM

    Love this! Thank you!

  9. Rachel on January 5, 2017 at 7:29 PM

    Way to inspire Annie. I don’t think I could run a marathon, but I could cheer while you run.

    I have a few things on the list of ‘want to even if I fail’…. mulling over your very inspiring words.

  10. Pamela on January 5, 2017 at 9:17 PM

    You can do it!!! Happy new year, Annie!

  11. Paul PARSONS on January 6, 2017 at 6:47 AM

    Annie, I am so thrilled that you are drawn to the Examen. May consolation find you around every turn of the canyon walls.

  12. Katie Noah Gibson on January 6, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    I love the word “consolation.” And yes, the process can be just as important as the goal itself. (This is why yoga is so good for me: it’s a practice, and I have to keep showing up and practicing.)

    Happy New Year, Annie. Wishing you consolation and health in 2017. xo

  13. Ginger on January 6, 2017 at 1:09 PM

    Yes, yes, yes! So many good things. I hope 2017 has you doing so much more of what gives you life!

  14. B Hope Glenn on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 PM

    Please come visit me in 2017. ❤️

  15. Mark Allman on January 16, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    Best wishes on training for your run!

  16. Sarah on January 19, 2017 at 10:17 PM

    Just awww… I try to be inspired by you. I’m so caught up in my own rut in life, that it’s still hard to find motivation to make change, but I keep on keeping on. And I really love your writing – I’m so glad you keep doing it.

    I found this planner and ordered one for myself. It’s undated so you don’t really feel like you’re skipping a day if you skip a day, and it has space for writing about your goals and reflecting on the previous week and what you could do better. Here’s a link:

    Just a “here’s a neat idea” from one planner user to another :). Take care!

  17. Sarah on January 21, 2017 at 11:29 AM

    As I´m coming out of my writing shell, I come back to your blog and find this. Resonates with me and I´m cheering you on from my own place of figuring out exactly what you said: “As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.”

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