I sat down today to list the many ways in which I stink.
This annual cataloging of faults (with accompanying promises to do better) is a practice better known as making New Year’s resolutions.
Coming up with raw material was not the problem. Au contraire, my pen flew across the paper. Rereading the list, I realized with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that there was nothing new here. All of my resolutions were old friends (by which I mean the kind of friends who only hear from me once a year.)
Resolved: broken. Resolved: broken. Resolved: broken. Do we see a pattern here? Despair rose within me at the reminder of how often I have tried and failed. That despair threatened to swamp me.
As I looked at the list I realized that although it was written in my hand, there was a ghost author at work: societal expectation. Something shifted in my brain. For the first time I felt the stirring of a new response - anger.
Who says? Who says my worth is measured by success in these arbitrary arenas? Does a faceless, nameless THEM get to decide what is important for ME?
Get Organized. Bills, bank statements, investment reports…the paper residue of the business side of life litters my home. As part of last year’s resolution to get organized I bought one of those scanners that comes with a filing program. I even tried it a couple of times, but it baffles me. It’s like reinventing the wheel every time I use the thing. So I gave up. My paper molehills have become mountains piled around the dusty scanner, silently mocking me with the reminder that my attempt at clutter busting merely added the requirement to sort and scan to the old duties of file or toss.
I’m going back to my old system. I will stuff everything in a file until I get around to going through it on that magical, mythical day – someday. Out of sight, out of mind.
Get In Shape. I have been various degrees of fat for most of my life. I may have actually been fat for my ENTIRE life, but I didn’t realize it until I was a toddler. That’s when it became clear to all that the legs I was toddling about on were chubbier than the average.
With few stops along the way, I have been in the process of gaining or losing weight for that entire time. My feeling of self-worth rises and falls inversely to the scale’s readings.
No more feast or famine. No more skipping the class reunion when on the high end of the continuum, no more smug self-congratulation when squeezed into my skinny jeans. I will work-out regularly because I want to keep my body strong and I will go for walks because I LIKE to walk. I will never be able to open bottles with my butt-cheeks, and I’m OK with that.
I’m not abandoning good health, I’m just admitting that “I yam what I yam.”
Improve My Mind. I know I should like Ernest Hemingway because my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Nixon, told me so. Mark Twain, Thomas Hardy, Dumas and the collected works of Shakespeare stare down at me disapprovingly from the wall of bookcases in my living room whenever I sit down to watch Toddlers & Tiaras.
With apologies to Mrs. Nixon, I don’t LIKE Hemingway. But I do like Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Dickens, George Orwell and Jane Austin. I will continue to read the authors I like when I want to. And if I choose, instead, to spend my time marveling at how little fabric is deemed necessary to cover the modern pop star, as revealed by US Weekly, that’s OK too.
Write A Book. You can’t be a writer unless you get published by someone willing to pay you for the privilege. The little column I write every couple of months for the local paper, the blog that I labor over so diligently – these are merely the self-indulgent scribblings of a wanna-be. That’s what I’ve always thought, deep down in my soul.
I’m not saying I won’t write that book someday – chances are good that I WILL. Even without seeing my name on the New York Time’s bestseller list, though, I am proud of what I write. And I am eternally grateful that anybody else wants to read it.
Don’t get me wrong. By dumping the usual failure-list I am not giving up on the process of crafting a better version of myself. I’m just not going to beat myself up about it quite so much. To that end, here’s my new and improved New Year’s resolution. It’s a line from The Desiderata:
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars: you have a right to be here.
What’s your resolution?