New Year’s Resolutions. We’ve all made them. Lose weight. Save money. Eat healthy. Buy a new car. Some happen. Most don’t. I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I work with a difference plan now, and its not limited to just one year.
That down time between Christmas turkey and the glitter of the New Year (which I usually view through closed eyelids), is the time I set aside to assess, re-assess, red line discontinued items and add to an ever shape-shifting list of — dreams.
Dreams are just plans that haven’t come true yet.
I take the time to review what worked and didn’t work in the past year. At my age (57), I now pay quite a bit more attention to both my energy level and my stress level, since they feed off each other, and really, it doesn’t matter how well you take care of yourself, for most of us in the AARP range, life lives a bit harder on this side of fifty.
Since I always pay attention to my body, I know what my triggers, my pressure points, are, and what the relief/treatment should be. The basic rule is that you have to take of yourself first, or you will not be fit to take care of anybody else. And yes, there are times when you can’t shift the burden, but I learned some time ago that there is light at the end of every tunnel. Sooner or later, you step into it. And there is this serendipitous world energy that seems to send the right people into one’s life at just the right times. Don’t question; accept the gift.
Having looked back, figured what I did right and what I could have done or handled much better, I try to tuck most of it away and move on. But move on to what?
The puzzle of the the next few years continues to unfold, since there are hopefully a long number of “next few years” still in my life. Thus, I make a one, two and five-year plan.
The one year plan has twelve items, everything from the “find a whole foods or coop market within 100 miles of Clarksville” to “add more green veggies” to my diet (more green? I’ll turn green!). Walk more often and for longer periods. Be more succinct in recording my dreams. Pay attention to detail. Get better at saying NO. Finish my teaching semester (that one is not negotiable). Mentor both granddaughters through those first two years of college. Feed them (buy more food).
My two year plan is a shorter list, a mix of the concrete and my hope. Graduate. Continue (note the word “continue”) to work on that book publishing thing. Move to a place with an office to hide all this paper in. Broaden my social life. Pare down my work life. Take time to do — nothing. Get better at yoga. Look for a liberal, freethinking and arts-centered community that will foster my energy and revitalize me as I much as I can revitalize it.
My five year plan, which now puts me at early retirement age, is shifting drastically. If. in my family hard hit with Alzheimer’s, my mind stays mercifully clear, I would continue to work, to write, to volunteer, and shift the balance of all of that. And I would go to Thailand and back to South America. Not necessarily in that order.
Since I am far from perfect, and do have familial ties and responsibilities, these are hopes, dreams, goal, objectives. I list them knowing full well I have no expectation of succeeding at all of them, or even half of them. The idea is to work toward them. Start to make them happen. Don’t say “I can’t do that so I won’t even try.” Try!
Be realistic too. Gail Sheehy, years ago in her book, Passages, looked at life as a shoe: “the size is the same but the fit is different.”
On my first trip to Peru, my best friend and I joked about being “50, overweight, out of shape asthmatics with bad backs. So what are we doing trying to climb the Andes and breathe at 13,000 feet? Why are we sweating through the Amazonian rainforest? Oh yeah, it’s the adventure of a lifetime!” We went at it with the attitude that we “would do as much as we can and not worry about the rest.” In the end, we did it all, and more. At our own pace.
We change, we grow, and along the way the things we want may change as well.
Resolutions read like a mandate over which will will likely feel guilt at the end of the year. “Goals” take the pressure off. They are a target, a hope, a wish, and something to work toward. Once reached it will be that much sweeter for the effort and the waiting.
Maybe I can’t do it all this year. So what? I’ll be one step closer next year.