I’ve been thinking a lot about New Year’s resolutions. How we take our experiences from the previous year, condense them, and decide that the year was either positive or negative. We do that with our character as well. We write a list of things we need to work on, to be better humans and we let that list determine whether or not we are a success or a failure. I have a list of my own, and it isn’t short. I’m trying to take a different approach this year. I’m trying to look at my experiences individually; giving them all merit, either as memories to look back on or lessons to move forward with. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the concept of new year’s resolutions, and I participate in the tradition. It’s motivating; the idea of a fresh start, a chance to fix your mistakes. It gives you hope for progress, and hope is a powerful tool. Staring down a list of things you need to change about yourself, can be overwhelming. It can set us up for disappointment. I wanted to adapt the way I look at resolutions, to set myself up for success.
My best friend and I made vision boards, with goals for 2018; better health, self-care, financial responsibility etc. Little envelopes on a poster board. The envelope is marked with a resolution and holds an index card. Goals change, as we change, so I wanted the resolutions to be adaptable. I can grab one of the index cards, and let that one goal be my focus for the day. The expectation of total perfection, that we want to accomplish by February, is wildly unrealistic. “I have to be kinder, more disciplined, healthier, more responsible, eat better, call my grandmother”, and all by the end of the day. I decided to stop thinking in terms of a total overhaul, and I’m hoping that if I allow myself to focus my energy on one improvement, it will become a habit. Under “kindness” for example, I have “think kindly” and “recognize anxiety, so you can better respond to it.” I consider myself a kind person. I’m not sure if considering myself kind, speaks to my level of kindness, but here’s hoping my moral compass isn’t malfunctioning in some way. Even kind people can act unkindly though, especially when you introduce life’s stressors. Put me in traffic, when I’m late for work, and I can show you unkind. I am trying to stop letting those daily stressors affect the level of kindness that I’m projecting- and sometimes I need that reminder.
“Fitness” has been a fun category. It’s fun because a lot of my focus right now is fitness, with the pending hike, but also because I wrote that I can’t say “no” when it comes to physical activity. I made the mistake of telling people about this resolution, and they are certainly taking advantage of it…
My sister: “Do you want to take Bachata lessons?”
Me: “Ummm, I mean I don’t really have the coordination for that sort of…”
She interrupts: “Well, you can’t say no, so…”
It looks like I’ll be learning the Bachata soon. So, I’ve got that going for me.
To be honest, it’s because of this “can’t say no” resolution, that I have had one of the most interesting winters of my life. I tried cross-country skiing for the first time. I started water aerobics, Pilates, and Yoga. (Pilates was a suggestion from a blog reader, actually- so it looks like I’m not saying “no” to you all either). Then there was my ice skating adventure. Exercise-wise, ice skating was probably the least effective. Take a minute to imagine a fat girl in her 30’s on ice skates for the second time in her life. Yeah, it looked exactly like that; close proximity to the wall, butt out for imaginary balance, hands ready for imminent impact, fear of passersby. I was basically the ice skating version of an old man on his porch, yelling at the neighborhood kids to slow down. Those damn hooligans, with their blue laces, and their funky tricks. Plus, I went with a friend who does know how to skate, and she was on some mission to “lap the derby girls.” I don’t really know what that means, but I just let her do her thing, and I did mine. I guess what I’m saying here, is that I spent more time in the warming yurt, with an Allagash in hand, than I did on the ice… but I put the skates on, just like she asked me to.
I feel better, physically, than I ever have in my life and I think this new year has offered me some emotional clarity as well. I don’t know if it’s because I am more disciplined, or just because I’ve given myself better direction, but it feels like I am making changes for my life and not just for the year; not for some obligatory resolve. I’m also learning that you’re allowed to cut yourself a little slack. We can’t use that slack as an excuse not to progress, but we can’t be perfect either. My friend, Rachael, once told me that she gives me the wrong start time, to decrease my chances of being late. Ok, so I have a small issue with time management. Don’t worry, I’ve added it to the list. She then said something that stuck with me. She said that people are made up of their positive characteristics and their… not-so-positive characteristics. We should strive to make changes, for a better life, but sometimes the not-so-positive characteristics mold you in the same way, and one wouldn’t be the same without the other. She described me as a whimsical person. I’m pretty sure that was code for “kind of a mess”, but that’s just not the index card I’m choosing to take with me today. She went on to say that whimsy doesn’t necessarily fit with someone who is rigid in time management. If I were the kind of person who was always on time, and it came naturally to me, I probably wouldn’t be the kind of person who has the adventures that I have. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I reflect on 2017 and focus on my goals for 2018; to strive for forward-movement, but allow myself to fumble.
The truth is, my interest in these activities didn’t just start at midnight on January 1st. I didn’t wake up that morning like, “you know what my resolution is going to be?” I’m going to change everything about myself and learn the Bachata.” I had a long-term goal to hike a bit. That was it. Something that I have always enjoyed, but something that was tough for me, because I haven’t had the kind of endurance that hiking requires. When you resolve to lose weight, every other relatable goal, somehow only becomes possible after that weight loss. “Once I lose a little weight, and I’m in better shape, I’d like to start cross-country skiing.” Then weight and diets become the focus, and you’re losing weight to cross-country ski, instead of cross-country skiing to enjoy your life and get healthier at the same time. I’ve decided that I’m not going to let my weight or anything else, be an excuse not to try something new. I’m learning to acknowledge that who we are right now, is and always has been the combination of all of our traits, positive and not-so-positive. I’m learning that we have to be grateful for the things in life that are grueling, like training for a hike, and the discipline that resolutions require. We have to try, of course. That’s all resolutions really are, a plan to try. We have to channel courage, and know that excuses don’t make changes, but we also have to see beauty in imperfection. Because it’s the imperfection that will keep us working towards our goals….. with the added perk of helping us maintain our individuality. Or whimsy, if you will?