In these early days of January, most of us have made resolutions for the year ahead. Some will last weeks or months, while others have petered out already. But every once in a while, we make a resolution that lasts a lifetime. However, those changes don’t usually start on January 1. Those types of transformations require a clarity and conviction rarely available to us in our post-holiday haze.

More often, it is in moments of crisis (though sometimes just out of the blue) that we have a vision of how things might be different, how we ourselves might be different, and how that difference just might change everything. And suddenly, more than anything, we want that change. We want to be that change. Suddenly, that resolution isn’t something we have to do anymore; it’s something we can’t help but do. We are resolved, no matter how difficult it is, or what the task asks of us. We change our habits and our way of operating in the world. We fail repeatedly, but we don’t give up. The vision of what’s possible holds us fast, because it really is that good.

In the course of my life, only a few resolutions have taken hold of me in this way, but I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

  • There was the resolve to become a birth mother, 26 years ago this month.
  • Marrying Tim, 23 years ago.
  • Becoming a Weight Watcher, 6 years, 2 kids and 20 pounds later.
  • Joining the YMCA, 10 years ago.
  • Writing as a spiritual practice and starting this blog, 9 and 5 years ago respectively.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-8-40-57-amLast month, I had a chance to talk about one of these resolutions (or “course-corrections” as I think of them) on the podcast Contemplify. Paul Swanson, the host, asked me to reflect on a book that had significantly impacted my spiritual journey. I immediately went to my list of “greats” – Merton, Rohr, D’Arcy, Keating, Bell, Bourgeault – the people I have read over and over again. But no one book had inspired the type of metanoia, or complete and total shift that I was looking for. Though they have re-shaped the contours of my heart, their influence has been steady and incremental, more than seismic.

And then I remembered the last big resolution I made and the book that inspired it. In the spring of 2013, I came across The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Keara had just turned sixteen years old and I was so far from the being the mom I wanted (and she needed me) to be. For all my spiritual work, my daily disciplines and practices, I had been blind to how I was failing to truly love the person (and all the little people in my home) who needed my love the most. I was loving them to the best of my ability, which is to say, not nearly enough. In that moment, I resolved to love them better, more fully and consciously.

It is a resolution I am still committed to, though I fail to keep it each and every day. My hope is that my kids see me trying and that the effort itself will inspire the grace and forgiveness we’ll need to grow old together in love.

That’s all I’ll say here about the resolution, because I hope you’ll tune in to the podcast. If you’re a parent, grandparent, or even have a few “parent issues” you’re still working out, I think you’ll find the podcast interesting and maybe even inspire you to check out the book!

You can download the episode on Itunes. It can be found under Contemplify, Epidsode 17.

Or listen at

Episode 17: Voicemails – Alison Kirkpatrick on The Conscious Parent

Few of you have had a chance to listen to my voice, or seen me speak in person, so I hope you’ll enjoy the alternate experience!




 Let me begin my first post of 2013 by saying that I hate New Year’s Resolutions.  I never make them and I get uncomfortable when people begin to talk about them. It’s like talking to someone with a booger hanging out of his nose; it’s awkward and embarrassing for both of you. Personally, I can never find time over the holiday season to reflect on what truly needs to change in my life and how I am going to do it effectively and for the long-term. Who can think straight with eggnog, peanut M & Ms and sugar cookies at your fingertips? Companies don’t hold major strategy sessions in December. They hold parties and give bonuses! I try to be as kind to myself as I am to my employees, or would be if I had any.

 In that spirit, I am tabling any discussion of “resolutions” for a later date. Until then, let’s talk television.

One of my favorite shows of 2012 was “Homeland” on Showtime. If you haven’t seen it, let me summarize it briefly for you: Carrie Mathison, played by the fearsome Claire Danes, is a CIA agent, whose mission in life is to catch terrorists who want to attack her beloved USA. Carrie is tough, talented, insightful and excellent at her job. Carrie is also bi-polar, spotty about taking her medicine, and has recently undergone electro-shock therapy. I know it sounds crazy so far, but the writers make it work. The audience believes in Carrie, her insights and methods, because she is never wrong. When every Chief Knucklehead at the CIA doubts her decisions, or refuses to follow up on one of her leads, we all shake our heads in collective disbelief. Apart from willful obstinacy, why would you doubt someone who is always right?

Eric Deggens, a TV critic from Florida, named this phenomenon PDS: Persistent Disbelief Syndrome. He called it a cheap trick that good writers shouldn’t rely on. Its use isn’t limited to “Homeland” either. PDS is a mainstay of CBS’s “Elementary,” and USA’s “Psych,” among others. According to Deggens, there is no reason for characters who are so consistently right to be so consistently doubted. He concludes, “In the era of excellent series like ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Homeland,’ why do producers turn, time and again, to the simple crutch of Persistent Disbelief Syndrome?”

I think I know why and I don’t think it’s a cheap trick.

PDS isn’t just a storyteller’s gimmick. PDS lies at the core of human nature. We doubt what we can’t see for ourselves, what we don’t understand, what we didn’t discover on our own. There may be exceptions to the rule, but they are primarily limited to scientific principles.

No matter how many times I am right about directions, my husband still doubts my ability to get us there. No matter how many times Tim predicts trouble when our kids start to wrestle, I let it happen anyway, only to have clean up the wreckage shortly thereafter. No matter how many times we urge our kids to put on shoes before they go outside to play, they ignore us, only to frequently hobble back inside a few minutes later with a stubbed toe, or a bee sting in their heel.

Nowhere is Persistent Disbelief Syndrome more prevalent than in our relationship with God. The Hebrew Scriptures are rife with stories of the Israelites forgetting who Yahweh is and what Yahweh has done for them. From freeing them from slavery to sending them manna from heaven and water from a rock, the Israelites continued to doubt that God will care for them. The New Testament shows that the followers of Jesus do no better. Though Peter witnessed miracles, healings and conversions, and even the transfiguration, he still jumped ship the moment Jesus’ story took a dangerous turn. The Apostle “Doubting” Thomas could be the patron saint of PDS (though we might call it Perpetual Doubt Syndrome in his case).

Over and over again, the scriptures ask us to “Be not afraid,” but that is easier said than done. Fear dissipates only where trust prevails and sometimes, it is really, really hard to trust God. How many loved ones have we lost before their time? How many once-cherished beliefs have been stripped away? How many hopes and dreams have been unmet, leaving us disappointed and lost? Those are ripe conditions for PDS to flourish. When someone consistently disappoints our expectations, credibility becomes an issue, even if he, or she is never wrong about the one thing

To avoid chronic PDS, I have to remind myself frequently that I can trust God about the one thing. I have not yet faced a situation I could not deal with, an obstacle I could not surmount, a hardship I could not grow and learn from when I have trusted in and aligned myself with the power of Love. But it is still hard.

“Love never fails,” a wise man once wrote; what fails is our ability to trust in that Love. And when we doubt, like Carrie’s coworkers on “Homeland,” all hell breaks loose. We go after the wrong target; we leave dangerous people in trusted positions; we make poor decisions based on our own limited perspective. Relying on our own imagination to decide what’s possible, what’s good and just in every situation, we are bound to screw up. But if we can get past our PDS and trust the Love that always seems to get it right, we’ve got a shot at saving our hearts, our lives, and maybe even our very homeland.

January 1, 2012

As this day approached, I began to pore over my thoughts and memories about January “Ones” from the past – events, people, resolutions, and if I am honest, the occasional hangover. But no matter how hard I thought about it, nothing significant was coming to mind.

I might have written about my lukewarm feelings towards New Year’s Resolutions, which might be due to my seeming inability to keep them. I decided that would be a subject better kept until late February or March, when I typically get around to turning over any new leaves that might want to sprout.

I could have written about my most memorable New Year’s Eve nights, but that would have been embarrassing, since most of them involve a bunch of little girls, banging our mother’s pots and pans with wooden spoons just before we passed out at 12:01. Fun? Yes. Engaging in print? Probably not.

Perhaps I should have written about the neighborhood party we attended last night, where middle-aged mothers rocked out to Just Dance 3 on the Wii system, thinking we were still in our prime, but that might have just sounded like déjà vu to many of you.

So I gave up and let it go, hoping that next year, I would have something insightful to say about the cosmic passing of one year into another.

But after our late night out, Tim, Molly and I had an early morning drive to Huntington Beach ahead of us today. As you can imagine, the roads were fairly quiet, as the sun rose on this New Year’s morning. The fog rolled in and out as we crossed the lagoons in Del Mar and hugged the rocky coast for most of our 90-mile drive. Molly, still in her feety jammies, had buried her head in her pillow with her pink blanky protecting her from the unwanted morning sun. Tim reclined his seat back and vetoed any music with too much bass, or vocals.  Left to my own devices, I turned on my favorite NPR station and listened to an interview with singer-songwriter Ryan Adams.

After a long period of non-productivity, Adams shared how hard he worked at completing his most recent album, including an exercise he called “Stacks.” Alone in his office, he would sit between two stacks of books, one on his right and one on his left. On any given day, he would go back and forth between the two stacks of books, randomly reading lines, trying to make a connection between one side and another, with himself as the conduit.

Tim scoffed at the idea, thinking it sounded contrived, but I was intrigued. What kind of books were in those stacks? How were they organized? How often did he get ‘lucky’ and actually find an idea for a song, a line, or a melody by that seemingly random method? The interviewer laughed at Adams description of his creative process and moved on to her next question, but I wasn’t able to get the image out of my mind.

Adams creative exercise sounded like a perfect metaphor for a way to live a more meaningful life. We compartmentalize things; we put them in stacks and think they don’t touch each other, or hope that they don’t. We stack up our feelings, hopes and fears about our work, spouse, friends, family, kids, money, spirituality (or lack thereof), health, self, security, etc… in these little ivory towers. I have plenty of stacks and some are grouped roughly on the right, and some on the left, but they have no conduit except me. Unless, like Adams, I am willing to sit down and open up to the possibility for overlap, connection and meaning, those towers stay solid but compartmentalized, and almost surely unable to contribute to personal growth, or a greater outcome. I might know what is in each stack, but I won’t know what they might inspire in me, if I don’t look at them in total, in relationship to each other.

So although I won’t call it an official New Year’s Resolution, I am going to try to live my life a little more like “Stacks” for the next few months and see what happens. By opening up the different towers of my life to each other, I hope  to find new connections, be inspired and generate some original thoughts. That last one is my main goal. Psychologists have said that 98% of our thoughts are repetitive, the same ones we had yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of those. As I begin 2012, I am ready for some new material and I hope you’ll join me.