So we're ten days into the new year. Maybe a little late to go on about New Year's resolutions, but there's a rumor the topic won't expire til the end of the month.
Over the years I've seen what cycles swing around at this time of year. The gym gets suddenly and annoyingly crowded for a couple of months. Magazines shout the diet that will slim you, books promise sure-fire ways to organize your life (for real this time) and Pinterest is rife with amazing photos of that gorgeous new decor that will make our skinnier, de-cluttered, virtuous lives complete.
Do I sound cynical? I turned 50 in 2013, and I've failed at enough New Year's resolutions that my Cynic's license is duly earned. That is not to say, however, that I have failed at making good changes in my life. It's just that changes don't happen at the turn of the calendar page--that's a hard fact for an instant gratification society to accept. Mea culpa--I've bought my share of diet books and let exercise equipment grow dusty.
A New Year's resolution is a tool that can work, in the right hands. It doesn't for me, because of that inherent trap of "all or nothing" thinking. Well, I ate that candy, I might as well blow it til tomorrow, or Monday. Or 2015.
But constant evaluation--that's a tool I can use. What areas of my life work well right now? Why? What extra mental (or physical) junk am I carrying around? What small concrete steps can I take to make gradual changes that don't stress me out? These days I'm more apt to make a big life change as a result of a medical scare (thank God it's benign) or a realization that my stress is self-induced, or a shock at discovering just how unbalanced an area of my life has become. But I'd prefer to keep tabs on things as I go along.
The hubs and I have been married long enough to know when mutual (but gentle) reality checks are in order. I am a grown-up...I know when I'm spending too much money on crap I don't need. I know my house would stay clean if I'd put stuff away. And I know I'll get stiff and old faster if I don't get off my ass and move. I don't need a magazine to cozen me into believing it's not my fault or promise the magic pill to fix it all for three easy payments of 39.99 plus shipping and handling.
There is no magic pill. That was as hard a lesson for me as it is for anybody.
But now that I've gotten used to it, I like it better this way. Because at the end of this year, or next month, or six weeks from now, if I've made a change, I know it's because of my own strength, determination, and intelligence. With each challenge mastered--no matter how unspectacular the process appears from the outside--I learn to trust myself.
Here's to small, consistent efforts to help ourselves grow wiser in the 2014, and all the years to come.