As the end of 2013 approaches, I have had, much like many others, moments of reflection poking their way into my daily thoughts. Many people on the various social media have posted about accomplishments and goals, hoping to share their ups and downs with others or hold themselves accountable for future actions.
As for me, I think there’s something magical about the winding down of one year and the revving up of a new one. Even though there’s only one second that splits December 31 from January 1, it feels as if those two dates have a chasm between them. I always picture it as a long journey from the very bottom right-hand corner of the calendar all the way up and around to the topmost left corner; with that visual in my mind, it doesn’t seem feasible that I can exhale December air, and in the very next breath, inhale January air.
What is it about the start of a new calendar year that gives the feeling “anything is possible”? Is there something about January that makes it easier to start a diet, rather than trying on December 9th or November 28th or July 5th? Why don’t people make Memorial Day resolutions? “I will eat less hot dogs and more salads during the summer months” or “I vow to take time each day to sit under the tree in my backyard and read for an hour” would be terrific resolutions, in my opinion.
Something about the words “New Year” gives the feeling that goals are within reach of the common man; that the overindulgence and undisciplined nature of the holiday season will be nudged back in line; that wrongs can and will be righted; that a slate is being wiped clean.
I suppose I’m not much different than anyone else: I like to use each new year as a springboard for a fresh start. If nothing else, it provides me with a reason to sit down and make a list of what worked for me and what didn’t during the previous twelve months. My list usually consists of sub-lists because I am what would be considered a “list person.” I love lists. I love making them and I love crossing things off them. I rarely get things crossed off, but I love it all the same, and the lack of accomplishments has not in any way diminished my desire to make more lists.
Regardless of the pitifully small percentage of items that actually end up completed on my lists, I find I function better with one. I have a track record of distractibility and will often enter a room, forget why I went there, and return to the previous room in hopes of a memory trigger. I leave things sitting out so I don’t forget about them, even though I’d prefer to have them put away. I can only multi-task to a certain degree; for instance, I can sit and blink while drinking coffee but will completely forget I have something on the stove if I go to another room without turning on the kitchen timer to remind me to come back. I once caused a (thankfully minor-ish) flood on the kitchen floor because I placed my glass in the fridge door water dispenser to fill it and stepped into the pantry “just for a second” to grab something. I found what I was looking for, took it to another room, and proceeded to start another task…until my husband walked into the kitchen, saw a floor full of water, and asked what the heck was going on. Huh. To be fair, a list probably wouldn’t have helped me there, but standing still for thirty seconds might have. And on a completely unrelated note, may I just say thank goodness for teapots that whistle.
Back to the lists… (I told you I was distractible.)
My lists for the new year used to be general, and focused solely on the physical. Always, always they started with the ever-present “Lose Weight.” As I got older, the goal became more specific with a certain number of pounds, frequency/types of exercise, or changing food habits. Changing one habit per month seemed to be successful because it didn’t set me up for complete all-or-nothing failure.
Lately, however, my lists encompass more than just the physical. Spiritual goals for growth were added. Two years in a row, I read through my Bible in a year. One year, I focused on all the Biblical ways to be a better wife; another year, I did a different word study each month on things I thought I needed to know and improve upon; yet another, I worked on memorization of verses.
Other types of goals on my list were focused outward: to organize my house, room by room; to donate to the food pantry once per month; to practice any one of the musical instruments in our house (there are a lot of them!) a minimum of ten minutes a day, with one particular instrument as the “main” one that received more practice time than the others at least five days per week; to make more time for spontaneity with friends; to have meals planned out a week at a time; to do something kind and unselfish (big or small) for someone in my family each day; to figure out a way to help financially, either by earning money or cutting expenses.
Some of the goals worked well, others were a bust, and the rest worked for awhile. (Some people see a list of New Year’s resolutions as a to-do list for the first week of January, and there’s a reason for that.) Still, as a result, I’m not half bad at the ukulele, though still mostly bad at the mandolin; I managed to make three months’ worth of meals before having to repeat any of them (seriously! I have a lot of good recipes); every so often I was able to do something nice for Tim before he did it for me—and that was a tough one, since he’s pretty quick on doing nice things for me long before I even have a coherent thought; I started copy editing and am now earning a small income for the extras and emergency needs that crop up from time to time.
The unmet goals were a bummer all around. I wasn’t able to fit in as much bike riding this summer as I did last year, with only a couple hundred miles on my wheels compared to the previous summer’s 1000+. Not only did I miss the enjoyment of riding, but my health & weight goals took a hit because of it. The house still needs another layer or three of clutter taken out, though to be fair, much of the space is taken up by books and guitars, so I’m going to have to focus on the non-musical clutter since we all know there will undoubtedly be more guitars, drums, etc., coming in the door throughout the year. And if you’d poll my friends, I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you I absolutely sucked at the spontaneity thing.
But. There’s always a “but” in there. I count on it, in fact, to make things better. The “but” in this case is that January is only a couple days away. Top-left of the calendar. Fresh start. Revised goals. Clean slate.