Resolutions, Judgments and the “Could Have” Game
Once again we tuck Christmas back on the top shelf of the closet as the New Year gallops closer by the minute. These few festive days between the two celebrations I find to be a good time for reflection.
But I don’t make New Year resolutions. Why would I want to set myself up for failure? I know that I am unlikely to get gentler, younger, richer, skinnier or more beautiful just because I mouth the words that I will do (insert resolution here) and some magical something will change my life. I learned long ago that if I don’t get up and change what I’m doing, I will keep on getting what I’m getting. Frankly, right now I can think of nothing I am motivated to change.
My friend Chuck said, “But if you were going to make a resolution . . .”
“Chuck, I don’t need a resolution. When I want to change something in my life, I change it. Take this year. I walk a bit every day. I feel stronger than I have in years. I have made up my mind to not fear winter the way I did last year. I refuse to hole up in my house until I succumb to a virulent case of cabin fever. I’m active. I’ve joined a garden club. I have new friends. Life is good. I give myself a gold star.”
“Uh huh. But if you were going to. . .”
At that point, the telephone rang. Saved by the bell. It was my daughter. I decided to do something dangerous. I asked her, “If you were going to give me a resolution to follow in the New Year, what would it be?”
She hardly paused three seconds. “I would have you resolve to stay longer when you visit. At least a week with each grandchild.” I reminded her of the guests and fishes three-day rule. She growled at me, “That’s not long enough.”
Another friend called a few minutes later. I asked him the same question. “That’s easy. Work on your stubbornness.” He laughed so hard he dropped the phone. I thereupon resolved never to ask friends or family to make resolutions for me.
The truth of the matter is that I am a reasonably happy person, not perfect, but happy. I spent a lot of years striving to make myself better, to make my life better, to be “more”, to do more, to have more. What a lot of wasted energy. I know now that all I have to do is accept myself as I am, appreciate my life as it is and to do, as well as I know how, whatever is in front of me to do. How simple is that.
Despite what my children and my friends say, my greatest character flaw is not my stubbornness. It is my tendency to be judgmental, to label events in my life as “good” or “bad”. I have a hair-trigger judgment gene. Later, when I see the big picture, I soften my judgment. When something interrupts the flow of my day, I tend to immediately say, “That is bad.” Or if the interruption is welcome, “That is good.” In reality, an interruption is simply an interruption, neither good nor bad.
For example, on one of my trips back to Montana after visiting my children in Washington, my car broke down. It was mid-afternoon, mid-winter. I didn’t have a cell phone to call for help. “This is bad,” I said to myself. But three hours later I was in a tow truck on the way to Moses Lake. “This is good.” The driver deposited me at the repair shop. They closed in ten minutes. “This is bad.”
“The dingy-whichadoodle is shot, but I ordered a new one for special delivery first thing tomorrow. We will give you a lift to a motel and pick you up when your van is ready.” This was such a mix of good/bad even I couldn’t figure it out to label it. I could have been stuck on the road all night. I could have broken down over Lookout Pass. It could have taken the shop three days plus the weekend to fix my car. It could have cost more than the thousand dollars I paid. I could have played the “could have” game a long time. The reality is that my car broke down. I got a tow. The men fixed my car. My trip took an extra day. No good. No bad.
Like my broken car, I am neither good nor bad, I just am. I think I’ll leave myself alone and enjoy my day. Happy New Year.
HDN: Looking out my back door
December 29, 2011