I am not the best at New Year’s Resolutions. Coming up with them and sticking to them is a recipe for an anxiety attack, most of the time. For me, anyway. For you, maybe it works.
This year, I mentioned to a couple of my friends that I wanted to hear what their resolutions were, kind of hoping they’d spark an idea in me of a better way to do this whole self-improvement year-over-year thing. They did, but it wasn’t what I expected.
Some of my friends use a different approach to “resolving” what to do in the coming year. They pick a word. Or a phrase, but usually just a word, and use that to guide their actions throughout the year. Everything they do will be with that word in mind. I’d never thought of doing it that way myself, really, because in a lot of ways, I do better with lists. I rely on lists for most aspects of my life. Example: A running list of house projects to do (just crossed one off last weekend), a list of books on Goodreads that I want to get to and might someday (there’s probably 600 on my want-to-read list currently). I even make mini to-do lists in my planner day-to-day and set reminders in my phone with a list of things to get done.
Naturally, I expected what would work best for me for setting goals and a resolution was to keep up that list mentality. Make a list – it can be short – of things you want to accomplish this year. And then proceed to stress about getting the things done on the list and if you don’t by Dec. 31 you’re obviously a lazy failure.
I looked into the statistics a little though and saw that most research says I’m not alone. According to various outlets, an average of about 10 percent of the people that make resolutions actually follow through with them. Cool. Good job, everyone.
All of this considered, I took a few days in early January and thought about what I really wanted and needed in the coming year. And I’d be lying if I said 2020 and all its insanity didn’t play a big part. I talked a little about the challenges from last year and how it changed the way I look at some things in my last post. But I didn’t mention what was possibly my biggest takeaway from the year and how that has influenced me and changed my thinking going forward.
I did tell you that I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the pandemic looking for an end date. I was searching the internet for a news story with a credible source that said exactly what day we could “go back to normal.” I clung on to deadlines our company set for getting us back in the office and watched as they came and went. I online dated because I wasn’t as good at being alone as I initially thought. I stressed about the things that got cancelled, and if they’d be able to happen at a later date, if at all. I wondered and worried what would happen in my company, with my job, what was I working towards?
Y’all. That shit’s exhausting. And fairly unnecessary, honestly. Because you know what it does? It takes you out of the moments you’re in. You don’t focus on or enjoy the present because you’re so worried about the future. And in the end, that doesn’t help anything! You can dread something or worry until it happens and then what? Did that change anything? Nope. You just wasted a few more months fixating on it. And in the meantime, you missed what was/is happening right in front of you.
The day that all clicked was like a switch was flipped in my brain. Seriously. Not to say that I’ll never have my anxiety again about what comes next, what will happen later, what if what if what if. BUT. Holy shit am I getting much better at slapping those thoughts out of the way just about as quickly as they come.
I also saw a quote somewhere – let’s be honest, it was probably Insta – that said “Be where your feet are.”
Duhhhhhhhhh. What? OF COURSE.
It’s the second time in my life that I have been significantly affected by a simple phrase that should be pretty obvious to most people. (The first was in one of my first therapy sessions ever when I worried about everyone’s opinion of me and if they were mad at me all the time and she said: “It’s not about you.” and my life was forever changed.)
But think about it. With social media, and smartphones, and needing to keep yourself distracted all the time (especially in the past year because DUMPSTER FIRE), most of the time, most of us aren’t where our feet are. Not mentally. I think about how many times I have been in a room with people I love and scrolling through my phone at the same time. Not for any reason in particular. Just because. Or I was there but I was in my head about something at the same time — a person, a conversation, a milestone that I had set for myself based on everyone else or something arbitrary.
And then came a year when I couldn’t be in a room at all with most of the people I love. And I realized I’d taken that time for granted.
Where it really hit me though was when it came to my nephews. They are growing so frigging fast. And I don’t want to miss a second of it. So why take myself away from any time with them by not completely, fully being there.
I don’t want to be worried about making more money and having enough to retire or when I’ll get married and have kids of my own when I have two kids right in front of me that want to play and want my attention. Or when I’m with my friends playing Jackbox games virtually, or watching Married at First Sight.
Besides the fact that it takes away from being in the moment, its fruitless. Worrying about money will never stop. Because as soon as you have enough you want to have more. Or your car has a transmission problem and you have to throw all your extra emergency cash at it and drive your dad’s old truck for a week. (First-world problems, I know).
Worrying about when the pandemic will end does nothing but make each day full of anxiety and another day to just “get through.” Before what? Before I go back to being so super busy to stay distracted and forget everything I learned in the last year? (That’s not to say I wouldn’t have liked to learn it without a global pandemic but lemonade, right?)
Worrying about finding/starting a relationship and what that will look like and when I can be a mom doesn’t help anything because how will that change it? My trajectory in that department isn’t gonna look like I thought when I was younger, but I also thought I’d work for Rolling Stone one day. Focusing on wanting another person to…. what? Validate that I’m awesome? Make me happy? Feel like I’m worthy of something? I know, most of the time, that I’m awesome. And worthy. And cute AF. Worrying about a timeline for possible future kids and my ability to have them does nothing but take away mental capacity and time I can spend loving on ALL of the kiddos currently in my life. (Full Aunt LaLa blog coming soon too…)
Also. Damn. It’s a lot to carry and I don’t have to. I’ve gotten to know myself even better in the last year and like I said before, I have to keep working on giving myself grace, and loving myself more.
Because, as my girl Ru says so wisely:
Can I get an Amen?
So anyway. My resolution for the year is to have no resolutions. But I did pick a word. And I’m using that word to influence and inform decisions I make, things that occupy my time, and my mental health. It’s already begun. I have consciously made decisions in the past few weeks with this word in mind, and I have felt better for it.
The word? PRESENT.