New Year’s Resolution? Be Better.

Oh, how cliché. It’s New Year’s Eve 2019 and I’m making a pit stop at my much-neglected blog. Forgive me WordPress, for I have sinned. It’s been two months since my last post!

Cliché or not, I have the time (paid holiday) and inclination (new year inspired stirrings) to write something today. I’d like to say this will become a regular habit again, but I make no promises. After fifty-three years on this earth, I’ve learned that simply making resolutions and thinking that’s enough to make them stick is only a recipe for failure. I have one goal as we round the corner into a new decade. Just keep working at being better.

One thing I appreciate about getting older is that I’ve relaxed a little bit. My perspectives toward others and toward myself have softened. We are all human, and humans fail. Repeatedly. Some worse than others. What I’ve come to realize is that not all behavior is a conscious choice, but often the result of circumstances and environment. I think we can all love each other a little better if we remember that. And so maybe we can love ourselves a little better as well. I’ve begun to understand at this point in life is that the only true failure is accepting the shortcomings. Without hope, without perseverance, life can get pretty miserable. In 2020, I will keep pushing forward, pick myself up when I fall, and take another step.

One thing that I will not have to work hard on is fitness goals. That’s because, over the past year, I’ve found something that works for me. I have never been an athlete, and for the first thirty or so years of my life was not particularly health-oriented. When I finally made some changes for the better, they were pretty limited. I just didn’t know how to make the right changes. Still, it all worked well for a while, until it didn’t. As I entered my fifties, my body began to rebel. At the same time, I was spending a lot of time caring for elderly parents and I was simply tired all of the time. When my gym buddy’s schedule no longer fit with mine, I chose to stay in bed more often than I chose to get up and go to the gym … where I was barely breaking a sweat anyway.

IMG_8975One day my daughter mentioned that she was curious about a particular at-home workout program. It sounded familiar, and I remembered a former coworker who was active and coaching in the same program. I contacted her, signed us up, and was invited to join an online accountability group … a tribe of wonderful people who encourage each other through the failures and successes on a daily basis. That tribe was the key. I learned to eat better (not that I always do!) And I started out slowly, streaming the at-home workouts and committing to move my body regularly with a four-day per week program. Instead of doing the same few stale exercises day after day, during which I never broke a sweat anyway, I learned a multitude of new moves. I discovered that I can and do sweat! I learned that I could get stronger. I woke up in the mornings excited to start my workouts and didn’t even have to leave the house to do it. My confidence grew and soared, and it felt SO good. Every time I finished a day’s workout, I gained momentum and motivation to come back for the next one. And just this week, I finished the eightieth and final day of one of the more intense programs. I worked out and worked hard six days a week. I’m seeing toning in my middle – a place I never thought would be toned again. I’m noticing muscles I didn’t know I had. My body feels better than it has in years, but more importantly, so does my mind.

The workout program I just finished is something I never before would have attempted. And without the support of my coach and other challengers, I likely would never have kept trying. I literally cried with happiness when I completed the last day. It makes me want to keep working, and I will. I want to be fit and healthy so that I can not only live longer but live better during the years I’m around.

The realization that I can tackle hard things makes me believe I can do other things I’d sort of given up as lost causes. Every year, as one year comes to a close and a new one looms ahead, there are things I think I should do better, or simply start doing. Spend more time with family and friends. Write. Volunteer. Go back to church. There are things I used to do routinely, with little thought. I just did them. Some of these things seem so simple, and yet now that I’ve let them go, I struggle to take the first step in getting back to them. Next thing I know, a whole year has gone by and I’ve failed to do most of them. The days and weeks pass in a blur. When I come home from work, I often give in to the belief that I’m too tired to do anything productive. I tell myself I deserve some down-time to relax at the end of a long day. And sometimes that’s true. But sometimes, it only compounds the belief that there’s nothing left in my tank. I think I could use a bit more balance. I know that often, when I have specific plans after work, or simply talk myself into doing something more productive than vegging on the couch, it’s easy and it feels good. I feel accomplished and less sluggish. I want to do more of that. The mind is such a powerful muscle. It can literally make you … or break you.

This coming year, I’m not holding myself to a checklist of things that ultimately adds up to a list of failures and successes. I’ll be kinder to myself. I’m not saying I won’t try at all, but instead, I’ll encourage myself – like my fitness accountability group does – through both the accomplishments and the pitfalls. I’ll talk to myself like I would if I were talking to my daughter or my best friend. One day at a time, I’ll just keep trying to be better.

Another trip around the sun comes to a close

And so here we are again, at the end of another year, contemplating all that has transpired in the past 365 days, and imagining all that lies ahead in the next.

I’ve been off work since last Thursday, and it’s been absolutely wonderful to have a stretch of unplanned, and unstructured days. I have slept long and hard and rolled lazily into each morning.

To be honest, had I not scheduled time off from work, (which I only did because I recently realized that I had more PTO in my account than I was allowed to carry over,) the first couple of days would have been sick days anyway. My entire upper body was slammed by a cold virus the day after Christmas. I spent most of Thursday and Friday laying on the couch, coughing, sniffling, aching and drifting in and out of sleep. By Saturday, it wasn’t so hard to resist the daily urge to make and tackle a to-do list. And as miserable as the cold has been, I’m not even all that upset about it. It has given me a much-needed chance to unwind and to free my brain from the tangles of worry and stress that so easily take up residence there lately.

For at least the past year, I seem to be on some sort of self-inflicted race with no chance of ever gaining ground. And particularly for the past three months, since I started my new position at work, my thoughts are frequently held hostage by my job. I don’t know what it is all of a sudden, this belief that I’m falling short and sure to fail, but it’s not like me. True, I’ve always had a lack of self-confidence in varying degrees but in recent years and until just a few months ago, its been only what I’d call a healthy level of insecurity. Just enough to keep me from getting an inflated ego. 🙂

I’m sure this all-encompassing frantic feeling is due to a combination of the events of this past year. There have been some big changes and big struggles, and I’ve let it all take me hostage. There have been times I’ve stepped back, looked at myself on the whole, and wondered where the real me has gone. I’ve felt like a tightly wound spring, hopelessly fighting the inevitable snap. And too often, the only thing I’ve felt is a sense of sheer weariness. Too many days and too many events have only been boxes to be checked so that I can move on to the next required thing. I realize that I’ve often not been living in the moment, but going through the motions of each thing while my brain focuses on what lies ahead, never fully existing in or appreciating any single thing. And that’s just not who or what I want to be.

The past few days have been a reprieve, a chance to untie all the knots inside me, and appropriately, an opportunity to contemplate where I’ve been and how I want to move forward in the coming year. I realize, not for the first time in my life, that falling into the trap I’ve been in is so easy if I’m not paying attention. I tell myself I’m making the right sacrifices, being the best wife, family member, friend, or coworker only if I take care of everyone else first. And only when I’m ready to break do I remember that I can’t be the best anything for anyone if I don’t carve out some time to take care of myself as well.

IMG_7401[724]Too often lately, I do all the things that I think just have to be done, and then collapse, exhausted on the couch for maybe an hour of t.v. before bed, during which I most often fall asleep anyway. The past few days, I’ve remembered how much I love to read, how much I love to write, to do something … anything creative. And I’ve realized how much I have let those things go this past year. I do like to work. I thrive on routine. I’m happy when I manage to keep a clean house, cook a good meal, and take care of those around me. And I love the sense of accomplishment I feel as a result. But I’ve done those things lately at the expense of myself. I need to remember to recharge, refuel, and rejuvenate now and then.

My goals for the coming year include reading more books, writing more words here, more singing along to the music, more silliness and laughter, more dancing in the kitchen … and maybe a belief that the dust cloth doesn’t have to be used every single week. 🙂

I’m grateful for the lessons learned in 2018. May they make me stronger, wiser and more compassionate in the coming year.