I’m not big on resolutions and massive goals. I do love looking back over a year and noting what I learned, the ups and downs, and then looking forward and identifying the dreams, the changes and the accomplishments I hope to see happen in the new year.
Last week I sat down one quiet afternoon and made a list of what stood out when I reflected on 2015. A list of the lows, and across the page, a list of the highs. It shined a spotlight on what matters the most in my life, made me see a redemptive perspective already on some of the difficult events, and helped me clearly see some gaps I can focus on filling this year. Most of all, as I thought hard and honest about the year, I felt thankful. What I’m sharing here is a modified list, but in the unabridged version, the highs out number the lows by almost double. Even with the many fears and frustrations, sad days and difficult transitions, it was a good year. It was a simple year, more so than usual for us. And yet I looked over the lines of happy memories and felt the richness of it. The things that made me smile were the things with the least flair, the unpretentious happenings of every day life. If you’re looking for clarity as you start a new year, I think this simple exercise is a great place to start.
Because my current settings do not support quality photos (oh who am I kidding, more like the current administrator does not have competency to adjust said settings) I doubt you'll be able to read much of my list, so here are some highlights:
Lack of community
A closed door on what had appeared to be a dream job
Hard days with a struggling child
Facing bad habits and thought patterns that feel impossible to change
Make Over Your Mornings course with Brit
The opportunity to share my writing and interview for a job
Feeling a healthy and happy attachment in a relationship that started off tough
Morning walks with Jazz
Cy reading and loving 1st grade
Storyline Conference with two of my dearest and best
Taking the girls to see their first theatre performance
Speaking a dream out loud and daring to put it into motion
Out of this list, I clearly identified about 10 things for this year. 10 goal-ish things. It could be said I have a tiny issue with committing. But really, I want to have some ambitions, some accomplishments to pursue, some clear points on the horizon to move toward, but allow plenty of open space for the point to move, the route to change. I don't want the guilt of unmet goals, I'm not sure any of us have time for that. I told my littlest brother a year ago at Christmas I'd run a 5K with him last year. Guess what's on my list for this year? Run a 5K with Landon. I didn't know what all last year would hold. I don't know what this year holds. In stead of beating myself up over last year, I'm putting it down on this year's agenda and going to see if I can get us registered for a spring run.
I have weekly walks with Jazz on my list. There will be weeks it won't happen, because of weather or travel or health or attitude. But I've identified it as something that revitalizes my body and soul, so I'm setting a manageable ambition. Maybe I'll go more often, maybe less. Having it written is a good reminder to do something I love.
I have a few vague ones too, just like all the pro goal-setters say to exactly not do. For example: Give More Hugs. I don't know when, or how many. Frankly, a formula for hugs wouldn't move me closer to the point I'm wanting the "more hugs" goal to propel me towards, which is to take life a little less seriously, give love and affection a little more freely. I read an article on hugs recently, and realized it's something I don't do much (personal space is my specialty), but I concluded it's a very affordable, VERY simple way to initiate more warmth, more felt safety, more acceptance and more unconditional love in my family. Instead of focusing on trying to change all the things I don't like (take everything too serious, lecture too much, etc.), it's a way to focus on implementing a good habit. I love what Allison says in her post Why Setting Goals Often Doesn't Work.
We move in the direction that we’re pointed, so why not point ourselves toward what we want to invite into our lives, rather than what we’re trying to get rid of?...[Y]ou can’t simply get rid of a bad habit. You really have to replace it with a better one.
I have a few other important things on the list as well, better habits I'd like to cultivate in my marriage, in prayer time, in loving my family this year. There are a few dreams I'm chasing too, ambitions that seem so crazy and nigh unto impossible I'm scared to even see them in writing, let alone share them here (yet). Writing these things down, the hopes and ambitions and desires for change, can feel vulnerable. It can be an act of faith, really. We know where we want to go, but we don't know for sure how to get there, what all may lie in the path, and what detours or total re-routes may come up. I'm hanging my list beside a few other prayers I have written, because for me it's more of a prayer than a plan. I hope it will remind me to get up and live this one wild and precious life. I hope I can see it as an invitation I'm both giving and receiving; I'm invited to show up and bring the ink to this story that is my life, and I'm inviting God to turn the pages and guide the pen.
What practice do you find meaningful at the fresh start of a year? What's on your list?