There is a wicked, giddy little part of me that just loves New Years’ Resolutions. It is a critical, spiteful voice inside my head that thinks, “Finally, I have another chance to whip this woman into shape!” (Notice that the underlying notion is that I am not okay as I am.)
The list of resolutions (read that improvements) is just about the same every year.
I will cook healthy meals.
I will exercise three to five times a week.
I will live within my budget.
I will make no mistakes.
I will save the planet.
I will alleviate all suffering.
Those of you who know me, know that the New Years’ Resolution process isn’t working very well. Just thinking of all of the things I need to do flawlessly makes me want to eat a cookie, lie down on the sofa and tune in the shopping channel.
But this year I’ve decided to try something different. Lecturer and Author Susan Jeffers, Ph. D. has the crazy idea that if we accept ourselves and learn to enjoy and appreciate our lives, all our other desires will naturally fall into place. She recommends several things that I have decided will be my new list of New Years’ Resolutions. See what you think.
1. She accurately states that the day is often filled with stress and challenge, and suggests we give ourselves one, tiny, little gift if we start each day with a few uplifting moments before we plunge in to the news, or a house full of things that need to be attended to. Every morning, right after waking, and before getting up or doing anything else, she encourages positive thoughts. This can be in the form of an audio tape, inspirational book, prayer, lovingkindness meditation or any other activity whose focus is positive. There are millions of sources to choose from. I have gotten in the habit of reading a little something as soon as I wake up, and I find myself actually looking forward to these few inspiring moments.
2. Susan also advises a “Book of Abundance.” The idea is to write 50 wonderful things that happened during the day in a notebook. I find writing too time consuming, but as I’m lying in bed, reflecting on the day before I go to sleep, I can make a mental list of my 50 wonderful things, and that’s challenging enough. The interesting part is to try to come up with 50 outstanding things that happened. The first day I could only think of about a dozen, but since I knew my goal was 50, I started to pay closer attention. In no time at all I found myself grateful for the sunlight on the mountain in the morning, the smell of fresh coffee, the smile on my sons’ face, or a stretch in yoga. You get the idea.
3. Another of her recommendations is to let go of expectations. This is often hard for me. On some level I thought that I would always be happy, my mother would live forever, my children would be successful and everyone I knew would stay healthy. She suggests asking yourself “What if this situation is exactly okay just the way it is?” What a concept! What if it IS okay to become ill, get angry, or fail for example? If that’s true, then I can’t possibly make a mistake. I just learn, change, adjust, say good-bye or whatever needs to happen, and carry on. This particular notion is especially freeing for me. I may move it to #1 on my resolution list.
4. The final concept I plan to incorporate in my list is to find a “Gratitude Buddy.” It is so easy for me to get together with my friends and complain. I can complain about the weather, my body, the attitudes of youth today, sex, money, you name it. Dr. Jeffers suggests choosing a friend and agreeing to only share things we are grateful for with each other. I’m really anxious to give this a try.
The critical voice inside my head is screaming right now. She is sure that I cannot be a successful human being without her constant pressure and reproach. I’ve decided to be nicer to myself this year, and it’s driving her crazy. Who knows how it will turn out. I have a whole year to play with the ideas. And when my critic gets too noisy, I can take solace in this passage from The Talmud
“In a world to come we will be called to account for all the beautiful things God put on the earth that we refused to enjoy.”