I have a confession.
I hate New Year’s resolutions. I hate them for me, I hate other people’s, and I think we should unite as a society and rise against them.
Also, it has taken me way too long to realize how fun it is to post a blog and hear my husband’s resultant sigh as his phone pings with a Twitter notification (this blog is attached to a Twitter account). He tolerates me. We like to bother each other. It keeps our marriage strong.
Back to the resolutions, though. Why do we pretend that the New Year is the best time to reinvent ourselves? Other than the fact that I am off work today and lounging in bed with my dogs, I don’t feel any different than I did yesterday. It is Tuesday. I am still 35. I still woke up to the smell of dog breath because our pug/boxer mix weaseled his way into becoming the little spoon. (His name is Duke, he is a shameless hussy, and for a dog we picked up out of the dust under a tobacco wagon, he has acclimated a little too well to blankets and pillows.)
I am the same person I was yesterday with the same job I had yesterday, the same issues, same quirks, and same foundational belief that separate bathrooms save marriages and that no matter what people may tell me, beets are gross and taste like dirt regardless of how they are prepared.
I guess I hate resolutions because part of my job is to teach people how to set goals for themselves and then how to reach them, what it takes to stick with one and realize that motivation is a myth, achieving anything worthwhile is going to take a lot of baby steps and failures, will suck at some point, and is often completely un-fun, and because the veneer of most resolutions is chintzy.
Resolutions are gold-plated lug nuts sold as diamond rings. They require work, dedication, purpose, and the assistance of several other pieces of hardware that tend to go unnoticed in order to perform the function for which they were created. But people toss them around like confetti, then hope that by the third week of January the book will have written itself, the relationship will transform into a true-love story for the ages after three whole ‘dates’ without the kids, said kids would altruistically wash the dishes without being asked, and that kale will magically taste like cotton-candy drizzled with chocolate.
It sounds fantastic.
I’m sure this year everything will be different and by January 21st, or February 1st, or even by July everyone’s resolutions will still be in full swing, new habits will have been formed, and 2019 will be the year everyone’s life will be transformed. The chrysalis spun on January 1, 2019, will have helped everyone metamorphose into the butterfly they were created to be.
I have another confession: I doubt it.
I think kale will still taste like kale by January 21st, the idea of the resolution will still be a good one but the execution will have been too difficult (read: inconvenient) to be sustainable. The shiny gold plating on the lug nut will have started to flake off under the torque of guilt resulting from not being able to make it more than a week or two without backsliding.
I could spend another 364 blog posts on how to set goals and actually achieve them, which takes not just resolve but also grit, accountability partners, feedback, self-discipline. Those, in turn, take the courage needed to ask for help, the humility necessary for admitting we need help and that we are not Disney princesses or super-heroes regardless of what we post on social media, the fortitude to be honest and transparent even when it hurts like hell, and the grace and kindness – for ourselves and those around us – to admit out loud that we do not appreciate some of the feedback given but we can respect the person and the heart giving it. Then it takes the deliberateness of choice to move forward with that same person or persons and maintain accountability and relationship with them. All of that relies on a vulnerability that is not comfortable and on having good people in our lives who, though flawed themselves, love us enough to tell the truth with kindness.
Very few people know how to do the latter. Very few resolutions succeed because of it.
Instead of dedicating 2019 to writing something that the self-help gurus have already done (and whose editors made sure they did it quite well), I’m going in a different direction.
What if, instead of resolutions – rather than building a better beach bod, forcing ourselves to write for at least 30 minutes every day, drinking a gallon of warm flower water every morning, solving the world hunger problem, or inventing something that can warn us every time we’re getting ready to step on a lego that shouldn’t be in the floor – what if we spent more time being grateful for right now?
For example, I write quite a bit about my issues, which frustrate me, but I am incredibly spoiled. I am loved. I have experienced hardship, but less so than several of my employees, my friends, even my husband (we lost his dad in September). Our dog is a shameless hussy and he has to be walked for at lease two miles every day in order to prevent him from becoming spastic – also because he refuses to poop in our yard or within a 500-yard radius – but he keeps us healthier than we would be without him and he is always happy to see us. How special is it that there is a creature on this planet who is fulfilled simply because I exist?
What if we spent more time dwelling on thoughts like that? What if, rather than a resolution based on who we want to be, we appreciate who we are and what we already bring to the table?
It took me over a decade to get here, but I realized recently that I have arrived at a place in my life where I love me some me. I don’t mean my ego is out of control – I try not to tell people how much I like me. I mean I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. I can admit my faults. I have started to get to know other women and stay out of the trap of comparison (a trap every girl and woman falls into and one that is almost impossible to stay out of) and instead appreciate that they offer something as a human that maybe I don’t, and rather than feeling the guilt of not measuring up to an imaginary standard I created for myself, I think it’s awesome! I am confident. I am less worried about appearances and what other people think of me than I’ve ever been, because I have learned over time that (a) it is none of my business what other people think of me and that (b) I have no control over it, anyway.
There is freedom in that place like I’ve never known.
What if we spent 2019 focused on what’s good about now? What would that look like?
I resolve not to set a resolution, then. Instead, I want to throw myself shamelessly at life the way Duke throws himself at the nearest human if he thinks he can get a belly rub. I want to wallow in it the way he wallows in the bed.
It’s good to have goals.
(As a side note, I do want to write more and see what I can do with this blog. I already have a notebook or journal – or ten – in most of the rooms in the house. It won’t be a stretch. Plus, it posts to my husband’s Twitter feed. I think he secretly loves the notification.)