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Rethinking the “New Year’s Resolution”

 

Cheers!“What’s your resolution, Grandma?”

I fielded that question years ago, when my grandchildren were much younger, having already abandoned the concept of an annual commitment I may or may not be able to keep. There’s got to be a better way, I told myself, as the issue grew into discussion that grew into a process of life planning I’ve kept for years.

I don’t resolve to complete anything. I plan. I dream. I explore. I follow the sage advice of a wonderful teacher from my adolescence who, when questioned about how she knew “so much about everything,” replied, “Each year I pick a subject about which I know nothing, or am curious about, or that simply appeals to me, and I use my spare time to learn more about it. I may love the subject, or hate it, but I won’t really know until I immerse myself in it and see where it takes me.”

That was my beginning. And in that beginning, I studied horticulture — extending the one-year study to three when I fell in love with plants. I dabbled in interior design. I learned to crochet. I studied children’s special education law. I explored poetry and discovered pre-Raphaelite art. I went back to college. My lists are almost 40 years long now.

So this week, as I revisit those studies, I began my 2007 lists, making three lists that shape-shift from year to year, since what fits in one year may be totally wrong for the next. The lists aren’t just about the physical act of learning; they have evolved into ways of being, ways of moving to the future.

This year’s one-year list will likely include exploration of Indian cuisine (the preparation of), a foray into playwriting, the planting of a new perennial garden, greater attention on health, exercise and diet, and a search for new authors to read. As in the mind-mapping process, each of these may develop lives of their own, with diversions and/or stumbling blocks along the way. And that’s the point. These non-resolutions do not require completion; they are  simply something to strive for, something to move toward at my own pace, rather than the antiquated, guilt-laden resolution concept. I may work at most of them, but probably won’t hit them all. I’ll just chip away at the list, bit by bit.

I also make two shorter (2-5) items list of longer range, two and five year goals. Finish my MFA one semester at a time. Explore where I might want to teach. Keep filling my ‘loose coin’ jar toward the 2010 trip back to the Amazon. Keep peacefully protesting until we are out of Iraq.

Gail Sheehy, in the modern classic Passages, wrote “the shoe size is the same but the fit is different.” It’s what happens as we grow up, as we age, as we fill ourselves with life experience and spiritual awareness. What suited us in our 20s and 30s may not fit our 40s and 50s, or beyond.

So I sit here at my desk, thinking about the past year, its unanticipated tragedies and its unexpected blessings; I take the images of the past year out,  look them overand put them away, for now. I can’t change it. All I can do is move forward, seeking out the things that will enrich my life in the coming year, and perhaps set the pace and plans for several years to come, knowing that the only thing certain is change. I work at catching that element of change and riding it to destinations as yet unknown.

No resolutions here; just an ongoing journey in the company of friends and family, and friends I’ve yet to meet.


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