New Year, More Me: Seeking the Magis in 2022
As I move through this Christmastide alongside my spouse Kevin, also an educator basking in a much-needed break, our joy is real. I find myself cherishing the pause, the hominess of the house we moved into together this past summer, and the countless snuggles and walks with our warm pup. I appreciate the space for unrushed phone conversations with dear friends and for writing and movies and sleeping. I give thanks for the food and gifts we’ve had the privilege of sharing together, and above all, for the God-with-us whose in-breaking we celebrate in a special way during these sacred days.
Also, I am tired and anxious and sad. And I would bet all my remaining dark chocolate stocking stuffers that I am not the only one.
Christ is born, yet this era of collective grief and exhaustion continues. The mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual toll these past two years have taken on us was not erased on December 25, 2021. For a relentlessly hopeful recovering perfectionist like me, this reality, expected or not, has been tough to accept. No effort, no planning, no heartfelt desire to do and make everything “right” has made it so, and much of what lies ahead is clouded in question marks.
Unable to read the room, The World nevertheless insists on its annual inquiry: “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”
Inspired by Ignatian spirituality, one of my favorite Jesuit ideals is magis, Latin for “more” or “greater.” Essentially, the idea is to do more, greater, and better for the glory of God. I first fell in love with the magis as an early-twenty-something passionate about excellence in all things. My parents often described me as “driven,” which I took in as a compliment. I understood productivity and accomplishment as evidence of my gratitude for opportunities and resources, and I worked hard to prove myself worthy of the gifts I’d been given.
A common pitfall for us Jesuit-educated folks in the midst of vulnerability—certainly for me— is misguided magis. We mask our fears of not having, doing, or being enough with a quest for excellence. We strive to do more things…greater things…better than the person next to us. Over the past decade, I have cultivated a healthier relationship with the magis, aware that without its grounding in God, doing “more” can become an idol, displacing the real depth to which magis calls us. Perhaps it is easier, less risky, more instantly gratifying for us to achieve more than it is to go deeper—deeper with God, with others, and with our true selves.
Women especially are bombarded by the diet industrial complex with reminders that *now* is the ideal time to become “better” and “greater.” Now is the time to shrink our bodies…look different…become smaller. In order to be more, take up less space. In my journey toward authentic magis, my relationship with my body just might be the final frontier. I’ve come a long way, to be sure, but the voices shouting, “You can have it all if you just work hard enough,” are mighty and numerous, especially this time of year. In 2022, seeking depth in my relationships will include my body, too. I hope the same for all of us.
If you’re like me, then the thought of doing or being more sounds utterly impossible at this moment. And any resolution that suggests we are not enough or too much is not a commitment I am interested in making. It is not of God. New Year’s resolutions have the capacity to be meaningful if we are willing to question for whom, to what end, and in what spirit we are making them. This year, rather than being driven to more or to less from outside myself, I commit to letting myself be drawn. Perhaps in this new year, we all might allow ourselves to be drawn more deeply into our true selves and into Godself, and be open to the Mystery that awaits.