So here’s the moment of truth. I actually found last year’s resolutions and now I get a chance to do a post-mortem of 2009 and see how well my accomplishments actually stack up with my expectations. My 2010 comments are in pink.
I was dating a check this morning and realized with a shock that January is flying along, and here I haven’t even made my New Year’s Resolutions! This is one tradition I just can’t bring myself to deep six, so in the spirit of better late than never, here goes.
Well, in the first place, I sat down to write my resolutions almost three weeks earlier this year (January 3, as opposed to January 22). That’s a good start!
For as many years as I can remember, one of my resolutions has been to exercise regularly. I know I am not alone, as looking for a parking space at my fitness club lately recalls the less happy aspects of shopping at the mall at Christmas time. My friend Tricia assures me that come Valentine’s Day, all these New-Year’s-Resolution people will have given up, and life will be back to normal.
I’ve been to the gym every single day this week for one class and thirty minutes of walking. Go me! (The parking lot at the gym is still a disaster.)
Well, that got me to thinking about how people in general, and me in particular, tend to approach resolutions. We generally set unrealistic expectations that feel more like a punishment than a way of promoting self-improvement. What’s the use of resolutions if you either ignore them, or worse, if they damage your self-esteem? I want resolutions that motivate me, and will make me feel good about myself when I look back over the year!
In that spirit, I think I’ll start with a year-in-review look at 2008. My chief accomplishment last year, although I cringe a bit at using the word “accomplishment” to describe it, was in caring for my parents (along with my siblings) after both were diagnosed with terminal cancer. Along with the heartache, there were happy periods mixed in there as well, and I can look back now over that time with the sense of peace that comes from knowing that I did everything within my power to bring a measure of comfort to my parents’ final months.
On March 20, what would have been my parent’s 60th anniversary, we held a memorial service for them. It was very healing.
Later that year, my siblings and I also worked in concert to settle my parents’ estate. It was a Herculean effort to empty their house and get it ready to put on the market, and a tribute to our efficiency skills that we not only did so in record time, but were able to sell it shortly before the market tanked. As my own house is now stuffed to the gills with my parents’ furniture, art objects galore, glassware, and boxes of old papers, I can perhaps be forgiven if “eliminate clutter” does not appear at the top of my New Year’s resolutions list for many a year.
I still haven’t gone through the boxes. Maybe next year…
In the course of notifying family friends and relatives of my parents’ deaths, we rekindled acquaintanceships that had been dormant for years, some going clear back into my early childhood, and I was excited to discover two “new” cousins of our mother’s, hitherto unknown to me, that I am now in contact with.
Joining Facebook this year really helped with this also. Go Facebook!
Besides all this, in 2008 I managed to find time to hit the gym on a reasonably regular basis, all things considered, I wrote frequently, and had the pleasure of seeing a respectable number of my writings published on the web, took inspiration from my writing group, and mastered (most weeks!) the Wednesday NY Times crossword. Not bad for a year that started off on such a sorrowful note!
I hit the gym 3-5 times most weeks, wrote pretty much everyday, got my first writings in print (one story each in Cupcakes on the Counter: The Stoves and Stories of our Families, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love), joined a second writing group, mastered the Wednesday NY Times crossword puzzle, and made the happy discovery that if my family makes it a communal effort, we can complete most days. Plus I had a “My Turn” essay published in the Oregonian, and people are still coming up to me (four months later) and congratulating me on it, making me a mini celebrity of sorts around these parts.
I note in passing that were I to judge myself by the number of resolutions I actually met in 2008, I would come up short! So this year, I decided to craft resolutions with a twist, by focusing not on a rigid set of expectations, but instead on identifying hopes, dreams and goals for the coming year, an idea that was suggested to me by one of the guiding questions in a Cup of Comfort on-line forum.
Still like this idea.
Now I think I better define, for the purposes of this discussion, what exactly I mean by hopes, dreams and goals. I guess I’d say that a hope is something that you want that can reasonably be expected, in the best of all worlds, a dream is something a little wilder and perhaps a little less attainable, but nonetheless something to strive for, and goals are the concrete steps to take to move towards these elusive hopes and dreams.
That being said, my hopes for this year are for maintaining my health, having my family and friends thrive, and getting more of my writings out there both on the web and in print. Okay, this is definitely hard. I’m not sure where a hope ends and a goal takes over, so we’ll move on.
Ditto for this year.
Dreams? Don’t even get me started!
My goals now, in no particular order. Focus on family and friends. Check. Write every day. Check. Try something new. For starters, I volunteered for Komen and Wordstock. Tackle the Thursday NY Times crossword. Check. (see above) Read just for fun. (I read at least one “fun” book a month). Exercise more. Check. Spend time in my garden. Check. Attend some writing workshops. I discovered the NW Author Series and attended several workshops. Actually read some of the writing guides I purchased last year. (Finally read Bird by Bird, Half Past Perfect, and Writer Mama. Also, read Writing the Memoir, Novel Shortcuts and Creative Nonfiction) Work piecemeal on getting the house organized. Getting there. Think about tackling a major house project (and maybe even do it!). Remodeled a bathroom. Take one day at a time. Check. Make time for myself. Double check. And finally, don’t judge myself too harshly if I fail to make great strides in any category. But I did! If I learned anything from the past two years, it is that sometimes just getting by is enough. Here, here.
An upcoming biopsy has started this year on a somber note. This isn’t my first biopsy, and I imagine it won’t be my last, but I refuse to let it get me down, and deter me from living my life to the fullest. Hence the importance of keeping my focus on hopes, dreams and goals. As any self-respecting kid can tell you though, the fastest way to take the fun out of something is to be told you have to do it. Keeping in mind that my list is more in the line of friendly suggestions that I came up with of my own free will, not inflexible action items, how can I possibly fail? And when New Year’s Day 2010 (or thereabouts) rolls around and I sit down to review this year, I’m perfectly sure I will have a whole new set of accomplishments to laud!
The biopsy eventually came out clean, thankfully, but it was yet another reminder not to take anything for granted. So was losing three more relatives from my parents’ generation this year.
So did I succeed with my resolutions? By any measure, I’d have to say emphatically, yes! All in all, 2009 was a good year. Here’s to good things for 2010!