How to Have a Better Year – A Beginner’s Guide to Resolutions

Have you ever had a long run of difficulties, so long that it seemed unending?  By the time December arrived you were painfully counting the days to make it to the New Year?  Maybe you considered buying a child’s advent calendar, stocked up on chocolates or escaped into fantasy football, binge watching bad television (is the word television relevant anymore? Or is it just streaming…). Anything to give your tortured spirit a way to crawl to the finish line.  Please come December 31st on to January 1st.  Bring in a fresh New Year, an unmarred white canvas of Hope.

Yup.  Been there done some of that. 

The last few years have been a trial for me and many others I know.  Lots of really big life changing decisions and painful losses.  For me the trail of tears had no horizon, as I trudged along through the burned up landscape, my boots making that sucking noise with each painful step in the muck.  Psychologists report that one of the many quirky aspects of the human mind is that when things are bad, our brain tells us “This will never end…”.  Funny though, that same fickle brain, when things are going great, tells us “This will never end!”  Silly brain, way too many thoughts, such blurry vision. 

My recent incarceration in Life’s sloppy mud filled trenches felt hopelessly like that.  Unending. Fortunately, the corner turned about 6 weeks ago, as I finished hitting those “a year ago today _________ happened” anniversaries.  Someone once advised to never underestimate the power of an anniversary.  Wise words recorded in the “Book of Really Helpful Life Stuff.”  Yes, I do have a book like that.  It started as a file in the paper dependent ‘80s and ‘90s. Later those and other insightful nuggets were transcribed into a small leather book sometime close to the millennium.  After decades the sweet book is now crumpled, wrinkly and full of really wise words.  Same look I hope to be wearing someday.

Yay upswing!  No need for advent calendars this year.  Clouds lifted, holidays were pretty much joy filled. Praise the sun for rising every morning! 

Now how did I get here?

A couple years ago in the middle of my emotional/spiritual Purgatory, I discovered a small pile of old New Year’s resolutions.  While cleaning things up and out, I stumbled upon those pages and a lovely pristine leather notebook (ok, so I like leather notebooks. And?).  Scraps of paper meet clean fresh pages of a delicious unspoiled notebook.  Onto the unmarred pages I scribbled the backlogged annual resolution lists adding commentary after each year.  Surprisingly the action resulted in an interesting single-system study.  One subject – moi – numerous years of data plus analysis.  Hmmm.

Here is what I learned: 

  1. The holidays cause weight gain.  Every year recorded had “Lose 5-6 lbs”
  2. Increased exercise is believed to solve #1.  Again “Exercise/Yoga more”
  3. Maintaining health is more difficult the older you get.  Repeated “Eat better, Sleep more”
  4. Psychological well being is probably linked to #1-#3
  5. Adventure makes a year worth living. 

My post-musings about those years of resolutions could make a comic-tragic short film with thrills of victory and agonies of defeat (cue visual memory of Olympic ski jumper crashing with accompanying trumpet fanfare).  Some of the resolutions were achieved, many not or worse just repeated in a cyclical drone.  The last two years though marked a change of timbre with results more satisfying.  By that I mean, my resolutions and the realization of them matched closer than years before.  Sounds like progress!

The “better” result years had a piece that was missing earlier.  The most “successful” recent year had a thread through it all – a specific focus on what was deeply desired to experience, not superficial satisfactions.  The data was a bit sketchy but older resolutions may have been too grand or fantastical.  Or no real commitment was made.  Perhaps they lacked resolve (duh).  But solid patterns over time emerged.  On the whole the overall resolves could be grouped into two distinctive categories.

First, top of the list resolutions each year referred to items more like reminders.  The first resolutions were directed to take care of physical and mental shortfalls (stop with the junky eating would you please? And hey, get a move on your bum and please go to bed earlier!).  These corrective actions had an urgency to them.  I theorized an intrinsic necessity given the slow death pandered during the holidays.  Yes, that 3rd quarter hedonistic decline that lays in wait of each calendar year end. 

Starting in October insidious little trick or treat “mini” sugar bombs appear followed by endless giving thanks buffets (with leftovers) that are trumped by a relentless passing of hors d’oeuvres served anytime before the winter solstice but not ending until the glittering ball descends at Time’s Square. The gatherings, celebrations and obligatory festivities are an eating gauntlet.  The poor body bears the burden bloated, tired and slightly sick as the last days of each year are counted down.  Perhaps that is why January’s resolutions start off in a deprivation waltz of #1, #2, #3…1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3… and so on. (see above lessons learned)

I love indisputable evidence and story telling.

So, this time, after acknowledging my excesses and outlining my amends, the resolutions changed.  My dreams, aspirations and longings floated up.  I included the 1-2-3’s but this New Year my spirit is more in tune with what has been evolving.  I beseech the powerful Universe to hear my soul’s yearnings.   I write down things that appear beyond my capabilities, though on my personal bucket list.  In 2017 and 2018, I recorded more soulful dreaming.  I continued that course now, asking for courage, strength and help from above to live the fullest life possible.  To carry away burdens that paralyze me in fear.  To own my limitations more realistically without diminishing my wants and abilities.  To be of service, to pay forward. To live a meaningful year.

Last year my resolutions were big and expansive.  I met most of them, greeting them with excitement.  Doing my “analysis” of last year before penning this year’s resolves I found that last year was full of…well…living well.  No, I did not get to check off all the boxes.  Very few “photo memories” worthy of social media were recorded.  But I lived like I had never lived before. 

Last year I felt it, grieved it, celebrated it almost every day as Life was unfolding.  I cried more than I have ever cried over people and pieces of life gone, injured, suffering or painful. I laughed more and felt joy in a way I never thought possible.  I was truly with people and their joys and heartache.  I turned away from negative forces with more Grace.  Living together with others or alone, mostly in the “present moment” as the Budda followers would say (cue tiny gong with yogi in an awkward lotus position, Grasshopper). Living Life on Life’s terms.

So Hail Yee! to 2019 resolutions. So grateful to be here among friends. 

Each day will I wake up, a beginner at Life.  Sometimes it will rain, often the sky will be filled with light and promise.  Sadness, anger, loneliness will happen.  Excitement, joy, and calm will be around too.  But now I wish mostly for Peace. 

As I put on my rain boots, garden muckers, hikers or nothing at all, I greet whatever is waiting, God willing.  Recently I added a reminder on my phone (oh I am soooo techy).  It chimes in the early evening.  “Trust the Peace” it tells me.  What good boy you are little phone chime! 

May your resolutions be clear, heart forward and include an ask for help from whatever lies out in the great abyss.  May that benevolent power bring you all that Life has to offer and the strength to endure and enjoy it all.

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