I’ve been asked what my New Year’s resolutions are.
I don’t do annual resolutions. It’s a nice thought, starting fresh, dropping the baggage, wiping the slate, but it’s not something I buy into. For me, today is like any other day: I helped my daughter clean her room, spent some time with my husband, and did another load of the never-ending-laundry that always threatens to engulf your 600-square-foot apartment when you have a two-year-old. I could probably see the ball drop and fireworks from Times Square from the roof deck in my apartment building, but I’ve never cared for fireworks anyway. If anything, we may go over to my friend’s apartment, play board games, and watch a movie until midnight– provided we manage to stay up until midnight.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I start each of three hundred and sixty five days with a clean slate. True growth isn’t possible otherwise. My life quickly amounts to a shit pile of resentment and shame when I insist on carrying the past into tomorrow. Heck, sometimes I even start over multiple times in a single day. This morning I lost my patience and yelled at my angel of a daughter. When I’m really aware of the damage I’m doing, I can’t dwell on it. I’d be so busy hating myself that I would never learn how to love any better.
So no, I don’t have a New Year’s resolution to be a better mom. I call that a surefire recipe for self-loathing. What does it mean to be a “better” mom? What is good enough? What is perfect? What does my daughter deserve? When should I bring out the whips for the ritual self-flagellation when I inevitably fall short of the vague and impossible standard I set for myself?
Instead my resolution for the rest of the evening is to deal with my anger in a healthy way, with the people that are capable of helping me, as opposed to unleashing it at my unsuspecting two-year-old. String together enough of these moments, three hundred and sixty five of these days, more of these years, and ultimately, I become a better person.
Baby steps. Looking back on this year, I can’t say with any confidence that I am a “better” mom or wife than I was a year ago. My vision is skewed. It’s a great deal harder to raise a toddler than a one-year-old. I’ve also managed to write a book in twelve months, and consequently, other aspects of my life have taken a hit. But I know for a fact that I’m a better person than I was five years ago, and my commitment to that journey has only increased. I can’t see it now because one year is too narrow a window, too thin of a slice to reflect progress.
That’s why I don’t bother with resolutions. I stick with what works for me.
And here is what works for me: earlier this year my husband and I tried a 90 day sugar fast. Heard it takes 40 days to break a habit, 90 days to cement in a new one. I never actually made it to 90. Stopped around 55. But we both loved the process, felt so much healthier and motivated by the achievable goal. Personally, I liked writing the fast day on the calendar real big. Something very satisfying about that, especially when you get to 55.
So we’ve decided to always have some kind of 90 day challenge in our house. First up: saying a prayer as a couple at the end of each night. I mean kneeling on the floor together, holding hands, and taking turns saying it outloud. None of that laying in bed, half-asleep, muttering a “prayer in our hearts” crap. We started last week and are on day nine so far. Nothing to do with the New Year. After this we’ll probably tackle having a family meeting every single day, then reading daily scripture, and then who knows. We’re taking it a tad more seriously than the sugar fast. It means that much more to us.
This way we’ll compound four solid new habits in each year. Before Zoe even starts kindergarten, can you imagine the wealth of positive changes this would effect in our lives? And just to be clear, this is in addition to our individual efforts to, for instance, eliminate anger in our lives. Those lofty goals always sound so daunting until they’re broken up into smaller bits. Tonight eliminating anger looks like keeping it together for the next three hours until my daughter goes to sleep, throwing the crap of today down the trash cute, and waking up tomorrow again aware of my sacred role in her life, grateful for the blessing that she is.
A year is such an arbitrary and unkind measure. I’m trying my best today, and I’ll try my best tomorrow. That’s what I’ve got. Happy New Year and happy life.