I hesitate to call these New Year’s Resolutions…those are nothing more than rules we make in order to have the mixed joy and shame of breaking them. We don’t really “resolve” anything – we know when we make them that we will not keep them. We make them almost as a sort of game – how long will we keep them this year? How long will it take us to break every one on the list? It is a running joke, for many of us.Funny as this always seems, it strikes me (after having learned so much this year!) that this is really a very self-destructive process. We set ourselves up for failure, and each failure (though we may laugh about it) is another nail in the coffin of our sense of self-worth, of confidence, of capability and trustworthiness. Every single time we fail (having made that nearly inevitable for ourselves) we lose a little more faith in our own abilities and strength. And every ounce of confidence and faith we lose weakens us that much more, making failure even more likely the next time.

I’m not doing that anymore. I am through with tearing myself down. I spent so many years doing that, and not even knowing it; but that phase of my life is over. I am looking forward, eyes on the prize – and the prize is happiness, self-respect, strength and joy. All the things I had lost through my own ignorance and self-doubt. No more!

So this year, I am not making “resolutions”. Instead, I am making a list of things I can do to improve my life, my health, my happiness, and my contribution to the world around me. I may or may not be able to integrate all of these things into my daily life, but I can make myself more aware of the things I, personally, can do to change the world.

So here they are:

1. I can try to meditate, if not daily, at least as often as I can. This strengthens my spirit; it soothes my soul and calms my mind and fills me with a peace and serenity and personal strength that make every day better and more rewarding. This is not only good for me, but for those around me who reap the benefits of my calmer, stronger persona.

2. I can continue my personal journey toward a healthy, strong body. This can be accomplished through maintaining my new, healthy eating habits, and taking every opportunity to engage in healthy exercise, as well as making opportunities when none present themselves. Again, this benefits not only me but also those around me. When I am strong and healthy, I am capable of caring for myself and for others to a much greater extent. I am happier, I am calmer, I am more joyful, and I am setting a wonderful example for my family.

3. I can be as patient as possible with the shortcomings of others. I have long since accepted that I am not perfect, and I should strive to accept that in others as well. I can make allowances for bad-temperedness, for poor manners, for selfishness, for over-criticism, for laziness and other things, WITHOUT seeing those things as acceptable. I can continue to strive to avoid those things in myself, without condemning those around me for not meeting that standard. After all, I will most certainly not manage to eradicate those traits completely from myself; what right, then, do I have to expect a complete absence of them in others? I can be tolerant, recognizing an unpleasant trait without placing blame or passing judgment. There is a Judge who is responsible for this, and it is not me.

4. I can be as loving as it is possible to be. I can strive to release my fears of rejection, of judgment, of scorn and mockery, and offer to those I love and value the very best of my nature. I can show them that they are important to me, that my life is far the better for their presence and would be far the worse for their absence, without fearing that they will not return my regard. My life is bettered by the very act of loving others; if it is returned, then my harvest is twofold, but if it is not, the value of my own act is not lessened. I need not be loved by all whom I love, in order for that love to be a positive force in my life.

5. I can take more time. I can strive to slow down in every aspect of my life, to stop rushing from one thing to another so frenetically that I rarely devote to anything the time that it deserves. I can accept that in the course of a day, there are things that will not be accomplished. Some of them may even be very important things, but at no time will that signal the end of the world. There will always be tomorrow, and if there is not, then I will be beyond any concern for the things of this world. In the time I am given, I will make each moment count, for myself and for those that I love.

6. I can spend more time with my children, just being. I can sit with the Cricket and watch a movie, or play a board game, or go for a walk with the Nightingale or just sit in her bedroom and have a long conversation about nothing much at all. I can show my children that my time is valuable and that they are worth whatever amount of it they need. I can give them the gift of myself, without needing a reason or rushing into something else.

7. I can remember financial prudence. I can be mindful of each dollar spent, as much as I am of each moment lived. I can remember the difference between “need” and “want” and act accordingly, giving to my money the full value that it possesses. Through this, as well, I will be demonstrating good, strong, wise behaviors to my children.

8. I can explore the value of forgiveness. I can remember that the human heart has an infinite capacity for healing, and I need not guard it so fanatically that I refuse to open it to anyone or anything. Like a city under siege from without, its own walls can be its downfall, keeping enemies out but also keeping out nourishment and revitalization. I can remember this and be aware of my own guardedness, striving to open my heart even to those who have hurt it in the past, without flinching from the possibility that they may hurt it again. If they do, I will heal, as many times as necessary – but at least I will have lost no opportunity for the nourishment and revitalization of love and friendship.

9. I can strive for order and organization around me, in my work and in my personal life. I can remember that chaos and lack of structure inevitably result in unhappiness, uncertainty, fear, and, ultimately, loss or regret. Mistakes are made and damage done by a forgotten bill, a missed deadline, or even simply the rush of struggling to get something done at the last possible minute, resulting in lowered standards. I can strive to make my life simple and clean and structured, while allowing time and room for spontaneity and unscheduled laughter.

10. And last, but certainly not least, I can “always be a little kinder than necessary”. I can watch for opportunities to do a kind thing or lend a helpful hand to those around me, whether it is bringing a co-worker documents from the printer or spending a Saturday working at a local shelter. The tiniest acts of kindness do good for both he who gives and he who receives, and no matter how little I may be able to do, I can strive to always do that little.

These are things I can do…things I should do…and things I will try to do, whenever possible. I recognize that I may not always accomplish them, but I also recognize that though I miss thirty opportunities to live by these precepts, if I seize upon a single opportunity, then my life is still better.

I am not perfect, and I will not be perfect – no more than anyone, or anything, in this world is perfect. I will not even STRIVE for perfection, for that, again, is not only inviting but demanding failure. Yet I will strive for betterment, and to live the happiest, fullest, most peaceful and joy-filled life that I can live, in the time I am given. I cannot imagine any better way to live.

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