I am not so much of a resolutions-girl anymore.
For most of my years, though, I was quite the goal-oriented person, feeling a little thrill with every endeavor I put in writing. I made huge lists of changes to make, getting myself so excited and pumped. It was great--except for the fact that two days later, the wind was gone from my sails, and I was horribly discouraged at my inability to instantly change every area of my life that needed reform.
My issue--which is a common one--is that I am sometimes so well-intended that I bite off more than I can chew, and then of course end up choking on those big old chewy intentions. It is obvious to me (and most definitely to those of you who read LuLu) that I struggle with balance.
When I finally realized how ineffective was my new-year's-reformations current method, I started narrowing my focus. Picking only one or two things to improve. But even that was daunting, because I made them so specific.
An example of my process and how it changed:
My typical age 12, 1996 goal list--
Write in journal 3 pages every day.
Never fight with Abby.
Shower every day. (I don't even do that now. You think that's gross? Whatever. Every other day and some deodorant does me just fine.)
Age 17, 2001 goal list--
Write a novel (HA!)
Work out 6 days a week for 45 minutes each time (even while training for a marathon, this didn't happen.)
Lose 2 inches in my thighs (I will tell you that I secretly hoped this would happen in 2 weeks....oh, me and my thighs. We're still in counseling together. It's a rocky road.)
Get a job, save up enough money to get my own apartment (haaaHAAAAA.....)
And even as a mom, my more ambitious (and less realistic) lists--
Never lose my temper (actually, I still have hope that one day I will not have the habit of yelling. Anger may come and go, but the yelling thing....that's one that I have to be mindful of every day.)
Wake up early every day (I've already run this issue into the ground; I've concluded that it is something I'll have to work on off-and-on forever.)
Work out 6 days a week for 45 minutes each time (Hi, 17-year-old Rae! Where did YOU come from?!)
Lose 2 inches in my thighs (Shut up, 17-year-old Rae. Just shut up.)
Write for an hour each day (I still have that novel in mind--no joke)
Practice my cello 30 minutes each day (told you this was the more-ambitious less-realistic list)
Drink 2 liters of water every day
Have only one small sweet treat a day--or none at all
It all comes from a good place--that part of me that so badly wants to do as well as I can at the things that matter.
I know that there is nothing wrong with ambition, and nothing wrong with a desire for improvement. But when I try to do it all at once, I am simply going to shut down. It is too much. Too much for anyone to do at one time.
The new way I think about how I want to improve--new as in only maybe last year and this year--is that I am very broad about it. Some people like one word to remind them of their areas of focus. I like to consider what is good about what I'm already doing, and then decide what most needs attention.
Oddly enough, this year, one word does sum up all of my areas of focus.
This is a word that reminds me of women with soothing voices on yoga DVD's, telling you to balance your energy or balance your chi or your breath or your mind or whatever--a word that has, I think, been thrown around loosely. But in its purest sense, this word is just right for me.
At my worst, I am all-or-nothing. I can't play my cello today because I might not be able to play it consistently for the next few years. I can't write only a page today because I might not keep writing tomorrow. I can't do the dishes because I need the whole house clean first. I can't clean the house until I work out, I can't work out until I eat breakfast, I can't eat breakfast until I drop Reed off and I can't drop Reed off until I wake up and if I don't wake up early then everything goes south and--you get the point. Tying myself in knots.
At my best, I am mindful that a little bit goes a long way. Each effort has merit. Each day leads into another, with more opportunities to finish what I didn't the day before. I remember that progress is gradual, and that I might not see the fruits of my labors until much later. But none of my hard work will be for nothing. We get out what we put in.
So in a gentle way, I am applying the word "balance" to my life. I might not get up early every day, but I will keep chipping away at it, and maybe 7:00 will become habitual. I may find my temper flaring at moments throughout the day, but maybe with practice, it will become second-nature to act with patience and a quiet voice in these heated moments. I may not publish a novel this year, or next year, or in the next decade or two or three....and I might not be a virtuoso cellist....or have photos published in some notable magazine or win a prestigious photography contest or book more shoots this year than last. But I can still do something creative each day, and enjoy the things that feed my soul.
Even if the end result might not be perfection, the effort is worthwhile. (What a balanced sentiment!)