I’ve learned that New Year’s resolutions are not my jam.
One year, probably when I was especially enjoying the drinks at the party, I declared my intention to run a 10k. One especially lovely party-goer, who herself had run a marathon and was very sporty and not a 9 on the Enneagram, got very supportive and encouraging, and wanted to download an app for training purposes. My husband laughed, and started a New Year’s Tradition which he has kept ever since: he turns to me, right around midnight, smirk on his face, and says “Remember when you said you were going to run a 10k?” He raises his glass so we can cheers.
I like the idea of resolutions. I crave more goal-setting and structure to my life. Mostly to combat my random moments of anxiety. I sometimes lay awake, consumed with regret, because I didn’t play Qwixx with my six-year old so that instead I could take time to look at a stranger’s clothing choices, every day! so many days!, on Instagram. Because I heard that my sister-in-law was letting her kids pick out meals from a cookbook and then patiently cooking them side-by-side, and my kids would definitely become like my friend in college who needed me to drive over to his rental house to help him learn how to turn on his stove. Because I didn’t even light our home’s Advent candles once this year, and when we were walking to our car after church on Christmas morning my child said, “Now let’s get back to the real Christmas stuff,” by which he obviously meant he expected a second round of presents and no more Jesus-talk.
If I were a better person, I would have resolved to do family devotions at meal times. I would have resolved to purge one household item for 365 days. I would have resolved to delete Facebook, and download the meditation app. I would have resolved to use only natural sweeteners and drink less coffee.
But I didn’t make any public declarations — or any personal commitments for that matter — to become this new person at the stroke of midnight. Because one of the best things I did for myself this year was to stop resolving to be different, and start loving the person I already am.
This is probably not true for you, but for me the primary motivation to run that 10k had nothing to do with physical fitness and everything to do with becoming the kind of person who owns running tights, who wakes up at 5am, who responds with pride “five days a week” when asked by the nurse how often she exercises. It’s about being less me — who I get sick of and mad at. It’s about being more like someone else, who I perceive to be happier, healthier, more lovable.
One of the great lessons of mindfulness (which was my broken 2017 resolution, probably) is to stop judging, and start cultivating curiosity, of one’s own emotions, reactions, tendencies. And this idea has been really freeing for me, the idea that I can seek to understand myself before I seek to change myself. (This is not something that Calvinism has taught me well.) The idea that change can be rooted in love instead of disdain. Which is a million times more motivating and sustainable for me.
The best decision I made in 2018 was to get a puppy, who loves me so much she would literally eat my face. Her tail, probably bruised from its aggressive thwacking against the doorway when she greets me, tells me more clearly than most anything else in my life that I am not what I have, what I do, what people say about me. She believes that I am a miracle, walking through the back door at the end of the day.
And her joy is never more complete than when I pull the leash off the hook and lace up my tennis shoes. This is what I’ve learned about me: it’s love, not criticism or disdain or anxiety or performance, that gets those shoes on my feet. It’s love that makes room for change.