You know, I'm on the fence about making New Year's Resolutions. I feel there are more appropriate times to set goals - birthdays and September immediately jump to mind. There's something about the cool weather and expectation of a new school year to get the ambition pumping.
But despite my up and down opinion on New Year's Resolutions, I always seem to make one... or one hundred. Usually I overwhelm myself with so many resolutions that I'm just setting myself up for failure. My usual list would read something like this:
1. Drink 8 glasses of water everyday
2. Go to the gym at least 5 times a week
3. Go to church once a week.
4. Keep up to date on all my e-mailing
5. Don't eat out as much
6. Be more money-savvy
7. Get on a better sleep schedule
8. Learn french
9. Learn guitar
10. And the list goes on and on...
That's a lot of stress! Unnecessary stress. I'm a list person. I make lists of lists. I'm starting to discover that lists are also counter-productive. It's one thing to loosely plan your day, but it's another thing to jam 36 things on a list and then have a very real expectation that you can complete each and every one of them and have time left over for fun. It has been my experience that my lists make me, and everyone around me, miserable.
I find lists I've made everywhere. Lists of goals and projects I want to complete. Sometimes I find them tucked away in sealed envelopes, sometimes as bookmarks. I have a pile of half used notebooks with pages torn out that were intended for specific list-making activities. One notebook for listing all the food I've eaten, another for exercise. Maybe a notebook for sewing projects I want to complete. Another for my favourite websites. I often found myself going out to buy new notebooks for even more lists, because surely a new notebook will guarentee success in the current must-list goal or activity.
It has taken me 29 years to realize the negative energy all these lists and resolutions have brought into my life. This may sound cliche, but in time I've come to discover the truth behind this sentiment: Lists are detrimental to my mental health because they focus on everything I have not done. My lists are a constant reminder of how I've failed by not completing what's on them. Am I really less of a person if I don't do laundry, vacuum, plan my meals for the week and get groceries all before noon? That's a lot of stress for... no one's expectation but my own, really.
I don't know where this tendency for list-making and goal-setting came from. I recently found a list I made of "100 things I want to do before I die" that I made in junior high school. Is it normal for 13 year olds to be thinking about these kinds of things?! Of course this discovery made me laugh, but it also made me a little sad.
You know, sometimes it's hard to be nice to yourself. It's so easy to bend over backwards for other people, put other's before yourself. And of course, never to expect anything from anyone. When I truly think of what my expectations are of others they're simple: to be kind, respectful, and take responsibility. Well, why is it so hard to expect just these things from myself?
I guess this ties in with a lot of society's expectations too. When I was younger and didn't really know what I was talking about, I used to say I begrudged the female revolution because now it wasn't just enough for a woman to take pride in her home and family life, but now she has to have an amazing career and be fit and beautiful on top of it. I didn't realize at the time this revolution was about having the choice. But still, I can't help but feel that many of us out there continue to believe we need to do it all. I bet those women make a lot of lists too. Because life can be hard to control. Making lists is easy.
I think my goal-setting, project-planning, list-making self is somehow compensating for that fact that at almost 30, I haven't reached the goal's that society has deemed important. Yes, I have a degree. But no, I have yet to experience those rites of passage into adulthood that our parent's experienced at 21. No marriage, no kids, no house, no car, no career, no nest-egg. But I do have a dog, and sometimes I feel like even she ties me down. (Even though I love her very, very much).
Now, when I think my "don't-haves" through, I feel bad about myself. Why haven't I been able to follow that picket-fence lined road to adulthood? How is it that most of my friends from high school have settled into careers and married life with relative ease and I've somehow managed to fail miserably?
Well, I don't really have an answer for that. And I'm not exactly sure it should be defined as "failure." And I know for sure that there are millions of 29 year olds out there just like me, wondering the same thing. And I know for sure that those same 29 year olds are wondering if they would have been ready for all that responsibility 10 years ago.
I would like to argue that because I walked bumble-bee lines through my twenties that I have a more solid understanding of who I am now than ever. I know what makes me happy, what I want and the people with whom I wish to surround myself. I choose to believe that because of my meandering path, I will make more sound decisions as I negotiate the upcoming milestones of marriage, children and career.
And as I gather my ducks into my garden and start thinking about how I'll start arranging them in a row, I find myself making fewer and fewer lists. I also tend to treat myself more like a friend. You know what Christine? You don't have to go to the gym and do yoga and walk the dog every day. Why don't you do something active once a day. And if you miss a day, so what? There's always tomorrow. And isn't that just what a friend would tell you?
So this year my New Year's resolutions are kinder and gentler. Dare I say, they're written with a certain wisdom I have gladly earned these past 29 years. I will indeed do something active once a day. I will also become a better photographer. What are yours?