All I’ve seen online this weekend are articles on how to make and keep a New Year’s resolution. I took all the Christmas decorations down this morning just so I could reclaim my house and have some semblance of normalcy again and now I’m supposed to “resolve” to change? I don’t think so.
Why? Because New Year’s resolutions feel so mandatory; they’re so guilt-laden. I don’t feel any “renewal” on Jan. 1. It’s cold and snowy, I’m in a huge emotional let-down from the holidays – hardly a good place to be when resolving to change something negative about myself – and it’s all I can do to throw away the old and hang the new calendars around the house. The only difference from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 is a number at the end of the year, but still I feel such angst, such pressure to change something. I’ve felt that way every month – no, every day – for three years now.
It all started in earnest on Jan. 1, 2005, when I resolved to lose weight. It was the first resolution I’ve ever kept. It was a good thing to do, losing weight. No doubt it’s changed my life. But in the ensuing months and years, I’ve sought to improve everything about myself. And believe me, my friends, that’s a lot of self-improvement, most of which is still in progress or waiting to be discovered to be improved. I’m exhausted. I’m downright, absolutely, beat-to-the-ground exhausted. I don’t want to improve anything right now. I simply don’t have the energy.
So it was with great relief that I read M.J. Ryan’s little article in this month’s Health magazine about resolutions. I read it last night as I fussed in my head about my exercise routine, my eating habits, the way I am (or am not) organized, how I spend money, what I will change about myself this year. Then I read, “This year, forget the resolutions!”
‘What?’ I thought. ‘You mean that’s possible?’
“What if this year you and I resolve to accept ourselves exactly as we are?” writes Ryan. “Imagine the relief we’ll feel if we kick the relentless self-improvement habit. You know – if we stop reciting chapter and verse about all our failings and mess-ups, and, instead, take pleasure in who we are right now.”
Taking pleasure in who I am right now isn’t something I’ve thought much about. I take pleasure in the person I’m becoming. I forgot that there really is a person I am right now.
“Can you do it?” Ryan continues. “If it seems difficult, that’s no surprise. In fact, I once read that the most frequent question to Ann Landers was, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
“Because we see ourselves as endless self-help projects, we’re constantly holding ourselves up to impossibly perfectionistic standards in everything from relationships to body shape to clothes-washing. And there’s no good reason for it. The truth is, our imperfections and inconsistencies, our messy closets and unmade beds, are just incidental parts of our wonderful, fulfilling lives.”
Did you hear that? Our imperfections make us who we are. I’m not intentionally mean or forgetful or unorganized or flat-chested or someone for whom belly skin is an issue. I don’t mean to forget to call someone back or send an email or take out the garbage or pay a bill. Generally speaking, I’m a nice person. I’m a good person. Chances are, you are, too.
This year, I’m adopting M.J. Ryan’s philosophy. I guess you could say I’m resolving to make no resolutions. Like the Rush song says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” If I choose in 2008 to change something about myself, which no doubt I will, I will do it because I want to and not because of a date on a calendar or because everyone else is doing it.
Are you making a resolution? Post a comment. Let us know if you are or are not, what it is or is not, or if you are, like me, going to breathe deep and get to know the you you are now.
Here’s Ryan’s advice on “How to say no to perfection.” It made me smile last night and took a huge load off my shoulders:
Take a break: For a full month, do nothing to improve yourself.
Make a mistake: Try a small, intentional slip-up – on purpose – and notice what happens. Don’t call back the moment you said you would. When you do call, apologize and ask how you can help now. Leave the house a mess before having guests, and then check in with yourself after the party. Did everybody have fun even though you aren’t perfect?
High-five yourself: At the end of the day, notice at least three things you did well and say, “Good job.”