As each new year unfolds before me, I like to take some time to reflect on the past 365 days and compose some resolutions for the next trip around the sun.
As I mentioned in my post “Unyoke,” the word resolution has it roots in the Latin word resolvere, meaning to loosen or release, to unyoke. It felt like I was carrying a lot of baggage at the end of 2015. So I focused my resolutions for 2016 on the literal – releasing myself from the burdens I’ve been carrying.
I know many people scoff at New Year’s Resolutions. As well they might, because statistics show that less than 20 percent of people actually keep their resolutions. But I find it helps me to refocus and reframe my life.
Resolutions aren’t my to-do list or a catalog of all the things I dislike about myself and want to change. They aren’t SMART goals, either. I find goals too…constricting. Burdensome. Take for instance my first resolution – Write. If I wrote it as a SMART goal, it would look something like “Goal #1. To complete the first draft of my novel by March 1, 2016. To accomplish this, I will write at least 1,000 words a day for the next 35 days.”
Goals, clearly written and well-defined, are great tools. I grew up with just such goals written on a note card that I kept in my dresser drawer. I would read them daily to motivate myself. But sometimes, SMART goals just don’t work. My husband and daughter are my main focus in life these days. So my life needs to be flexible. The first time I miss a self-imposed deadline, I feel I’ve failed. If I only write 300 words a day for a week because I am busy taking care of a sick kid, I feel like a slacker. And these resolutions are about unyoking, remember, not burdening myself with arbitrary deadlines and constraints.
So instead, I treat my resolutions as a gift I am giving to myself and those I love. They are my secret promise to myself to grow and change into the best me I can be. A treat to be cherished not a box to check off.
So how do I plan to unyoke and set myself free in 2016?
Write. Write. Then write some more.
Writing is a release in and of itself for me. It helps me work through problems and clarify my feelings on a subject. There is something incredibly cathartic about distilling my thoughts into coherent words and arguments. And I enjoy using social media to share my adventures with friends and family. So I plan to use writing as a way to help me deal with the grief of the death of my father, and to stay connected to my support network.
But writing sets me free in other ways. It gives me a creative outlet and challenges my mind. It lets me sort out my own world, or create new ones. And so, write I shall.
Explore Spirituality. Without Guilt.
I was raised Catholic. My parents were Catholic. Their parents were Catholic. My ancestors who came over on the boat from Ireland at the turn of the last century were Catholic. I come from a long, long line of meat, potatoes and guilt.
While I appreciate many things about Catholicism, there are some things about the religion that I just can’t wrap my heart around. So off and on, since high school, I’ve been searching for a religion that speaks to me. Not spirituality. Not faith. I have that in spades. But a religion. A church. A brick and mortar place of mortals that I can feel comfortable in and draw comfort from.
Until this point in my existence, I’ve been perfectly content to be a spiritual nomad. I have no problem wandering in and out of religions like the wind across the desert. I drift among the many beliefs in the world, picking up ideas here, depositing unnecessary burdens there. Catholicism, Buddhism, Evangelicalism. There are good things to draw on from most faiths. I need only look to the night sky or the mountains or at my child to help cultivate God’s presence in my life. But now I have a kid, and she’s old enough to start understanding spirituality, at least on a basic level. So I’d like to find a place to help begin cultivating her love for God and his wonders. I’d like for her to learn the bible and share a faith with a community broader than Outdoor Guy and I.
So this year, I’m committing to seeking out a church that feels comfortable to me, and one that I am comfortable raising my own daughter in. I am releasing myself from a sense of obligation to the Catholic church and only Catholic church, from the guilt of going against my upbringing. I will confidently explore options that make sense for my family and our world view.
(And now I’ll go say twelve Hail Marys for the blasphemy of it all.)
She’s Still Little
Wyokiddo is an incredible kid. She is silly and fun, smart and joyful. She is also still just three years old. Which means she will be silly at inappropriate times. Make mistakes. Kick the back of my chair in the car. Lollygag. Get sidetracked. Lie. Disobey. Act out. Sometimes, I forget that. I forget she is still relatively new to this planet and learning how to act, how to control herself. And so, my gift to Wyokiddo is an ongoing one…to continue to grant her acceptance and love, even during those times when I don’t especially feel graceful. Especially during those times. I resolve to keep my expectations and my needs in check so she remains a silly, fun and joyful child.
Practice Random Acts of Consideration and Kindness
This year, I am going to set Outdoor Guy free from some of his burdens by what I’m calling Random Acts of Consideration. We have our division of labor in the house, and it works well for us. But that doesn’t mean that we each enjoy all our chores. I mean sometimes I really, really, REALLY hate doing laundry. And I’d imagine that Outdoor Guy feels the same way about starting the coffee in the morning. Or shoveling.
So my resolution is to do nice things for my husband for no reason at all, other than I love him. I will unburden him, sometimes, of his familial obligations. And for good measure, I’ll bake him more chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are what makes his soul sing. And let’s face it…when Outdoor Guy is happy, there’s a chance I won’t have to do the laundry after all…:-)