I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions.
I adore planners and lists, and making New Year’s Resolutions – planning an entire year, the big picture, the whole enchilada – is just a grander and more glorious version of the daily to-do list. I started each January with excruciatingly detailed plans for all the things in my life I wanted to do, do better, undo, not do in the first place, tweak, organize, reorganize, and/or change completely. I loved that part.
But I hated the feeling of failure those lists produced when I realized on day three or four that I hadn’t made it to consistently do all (or even some) of those things, and if I was honest about it, I wasn’t going to.
I finally just quit. Starting every year doing something that made me feel like a failure did more harm than good. And these days making New Year’s resolutions is just a painful reminder that what I most want to change about my life is the one thing that is totally inaccessible to me. There are no plans or resolutions I can make that will undo Bill’s illness or bring him back. That single circumstance – losing him – changed everything. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel and create To Do, To Be, and To Change lists each January first; change is where I live every day and my “new normal” – if there even is such a thing - is still evolving.
At a certain level, regardless of our specific circumstances - even if you haven’t experienced the upheaval I did – that’s true for all of us. Life isn’t static. Time passes. Stuff happens. Things both big and small impact who we are, how we feel, what we think, and what we do. Just one good night’s sleep (or a bad one) can significantly alter our perception, mood, mindset, creativity, energy, activity level, and schedule. Some traits – the core essence of who we are – remain constant throughout our lifetime, but we’re not exactly the same people we were last year or last month or even last week: we learn, we grow, we mature, we evolve, we adapt, and at times the things we do and the way we do them have to adapt and change as well.
That’s where I was at the end of 2018. Because my life is yet such a work in progress, I felt the need to take stock of where and who I am as I move forward into 2019, but I needed a different way of doing that than making resolutions. So I tried this:
I got out my planners and my journals, went over everything that happened last year, what I’d accomplished, and where I am now, then I asked myself three questions:
What brought me life?
What gave me joy, made me feel most alive, left me with a sense of meaning, accomplishment, gratitude, and connection? Are there ways to incorporate more of those things into my daily round?
What did I find challenging? What did I struggle with? What was hard and painful?
What do I need to do about those things?
Is there something I need to continue to ponder? Something I need to tend? Something I need to quit messing with and hand over to the Holy One? Or do I need to kiss it good-bye, give it a decent burial, and just let it go?
(I know what you’re thinking here, and, yes, I am aware that, technically, there are more than three questions in the preceding paragraphs. My apologies if that bothers you; this is not a math blog.)
I’m going into the new year “unresolved” – without resolution(s) – but I’m taking those questions (however many there happen to be) with me into each day, and will adjust accordingly as I continue to live into what my life is now.
We’ll see how it goes.
If New Year’s resolutions work for you, Yay, you!! Keep making them. If they don’t, or if, like me, you’re in a place where you need to try a different approach, I hereby give you permission to experiment with all manner of new things until you find a practice that is life-giving and doable for you.
“…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…”
Luke 2:19, NIV