A New New Year's Resolution by Susie Michelle Cortright
This is the time of year when it's most difficult to stay on track with our goals.
It's also the time of year when we're all in a rush to make new ones.
It seems to me that we all have a certain ideal, a certain way of living, that gets completely blown each Christmas. We can't stick to a diet around the holidays because, every time we turn around, we're met with a truffle. Either our houses are in shambles with suitcases, pine needles, candle wax, and dirty dishes, or we're not even home. We're out of our routine. Our minds are chattery. Our bodies are in crisis mode, searching in vain for some broccoli and a treadmill.
Do you suppose that, perhaps, this isn't the best time of year for any serious and purposeful reflection?
During the holidays, we moms are buried to the neck in "shoulds." We should not get snappy at Aunt Bernice, even after the third comment about the size, smell, or overall presentation of our home. We should not be eating crème sauce on the vegetables. We definitely should not be eating any dessert that has an official title, particularly any that include the word "Decadence." We should be spending at least an hour a day at the gym we joined because we just knew it would turn life around.
It seems to me that most New Year's Resolutions are cleverly disguised and noble-sounding shoulds. And who needs more of those right now?
In fact, this year, for me, there will be a paring down--and not a building up--of the shoulds. Over the past month, I have re-examined my shoulds to determine which belong there, and which, out of kindness and gentleness and plain-and-simple personal integrity, do not.
It started with a day in which I questioned all of my assumptions. Before I popped anything into my mouth, I asked myself if I liked its taste . . . or if I was simply accustomed to it.
Henry David Thoreau counsels, "Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." As I walked through my home, I looked to see which items meet the criteria. (I found a lot that did not.)
Then I took the same eye to my list of shoulds. As a stay-at-home mom, I'm plagued with a few assumptions that continue to hold on with both fists, as much I've tried to shake them off the list: "I should be home with my children all the time. I should be enjoying myself continually. I should never be bored.even on the 6th round of Hide and Seek when my 3-year-old refuses to find a hiding place other than Daddy's closet."
The experience was really rather liberating. To attempt to adopt an unbiased perspective and asking: Do I really like this? Is this really good for me? Is this really important to me? The experience also granted a sense of where I might be able to lighten up. And where I might need to take things a whole lot more seriously.
At the end of such a day, I demanded honesty from myself as I answered: What do I truly value? What is most important to me? How important is my spirituality, my family, my professional identity? With my ranked list on the table, I made another list: a list of those things I spend my days doing.
The lists didn't entirely jibe. So, I now have a few fewer shoulds. And a few new ones.
It was Christmas Eve, which was, by design, a quiet affair in my home--filled with some gentle soul-searching and reflection on the meaning of holiday--when I crafted a new mission statement, written for me and my work. Who am I? Who am I to be?
This is such a wonderful instrument for clarifying your purpose in life. The statement may include your values, your priorities, your philosophy, your commitments, your goals. How do you wish your children to live? Are you living in such a way?
It allows you to identify and define your parenting philosophy. Your spiritual beliefs. That which you find useful. That which you find beautiful.
When you write such a statement, do so in the present tense. Sign the statement in bold ink and place it where you'll read it at the start of every day.
Then expect a shake-up of your shoulds. You may be surprised at the subtraction of certain long-standing and familiar goals, and the addition of some unexpected new ones.
Don't rush the process. Let it rise organically from a careful study of your life and the way you endeavor to live it. When you're finished, know that you will soon begin the process anew.
That means the first assumption you may question is that which says New Year's Resolutions must be made by the stroke of midnight, Monday.
May the year to come be filled with light, love, peace, joy, and some kinder, gentler shoulds,