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Twelve Months of Good Intentions

Once upon a time, I gauged the success of New Year’s Eve by how great the party was. I planned the fun, months in advance, as though my future depended on it. Ah, youth. Now, I am more likely to be at home in my pajamas, nursing a glass of wine when the clock strikes midnight than out painting the town red. I guess I must acknowledge the shifting perception that comes with age.

Like so many others, I find myself a little introspective as the new year approaches, reciting the platitudes that we all know so well. Somehow, before the page on the calendar flips from December to January, we drink a cup of good cheer, spoon a heaping serving of optimism upon our holiday plates and liberally sprinkle the dish with resolve as we make a list of resolutions, confident that anything is attainable. We vow to stick to the diet, save some money, and organize our homes. Like that magical night, when Santa manages to deliver a sleighful of toys while all the good little children sleep, nothing seems impossible. And yet, within a few weeks, we often abandon our good intentions and gym memberships as we are forced to confront the reality that change is never easy. That which alters your world as you know it can be uncomfortable and difficult. Trying to achieve measurable goals is often stressful, especially for the self-driven or competitive. So what’s the answer? Do we simply give up, dooming ourselves to failure or go along with the ruse, pretending that this will be the year that our intentions are not simply bricks with which to pave the road to hell?

I think there is a compromise. It is much like that proverbial elephant. You simply can’t eat him all at one time, right? So perhaps the key to real transformation is in taking baby steps, working on mastering one task before moving onto another. And maybe something as simple as remembering to take out the trash or eating broccoli once a week might be a real triumph. This year, instead of making big promises that I know will be difficult to keep, I am going to make a list of twelve simple objectives, one for each month of the year. Psychologists say that it takes thirty days to make a habit, so with that in mind, if I am able to concentrate on making something new happen during each thirty-day increment, then, I should be able to build upon the success of the previous month. I can only hope that by next December 31st, I will be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Wouldn't that be lovely?

I am going to write each of the following ideas on a slip of paper and put them in a jar. On the first of each month, I will choose one at random and let that be my focus for the days which follow.. The element of surprise might make it even more fun and challenging. Here is what I have so far:

  1. Learn something new

  2. Eat only “real” food, eliminating sugar and junk

  3. Exercise daily, even if only for a few minutes

  4. Donate clothes which no longer fit me and items I no longer use

  5. Meet new people

  6. Be mindful of my health and guard it

  7. Speak up for myself, by expressing what bothers me and asking for what I need

  8. Keep a prayer journal

  9. Read at least 5 new books

  10. Declutter, especially the "hidden" storage

  11. Volunteer

  12. Stop trying to multitask by concentrating on one thing at a time

  13. Work on Angelique’s Legacy

  14. Count my blessings

  15. Play upbeat music and dance daily

  16. Unplug – spend less time in cyberspace or watching mindless tv

  17. Sanitize the phone and television remote control on a regular basis

  18. Use my imagination in a new way

  19. Respect myself as well as others in thought, word, and deed

  20. Meditate, in spite of my monkey brain

  21. Try yoga

  22. Sing daily

  23. Remember to appreciate those who love me

  24. Finalize “important” papers

  25. Fiercely protect my joy

  26. Guard my finances by being aware of spending (That means less shopping.)

  27. Enjoy the time with family and friends

  28. Entertain at home/have a party

  29. Don't hold back

  30. Redecorate one room

  31. Replace the windshield on my car

  32. Spend more time outside

  33. Manage my energy

  34. Nurture my soul

  35. Go somewhere that I have never been

  36. Place kindness above all other behaviors

  37. Forgive someone who has hurt me

  38. Accept that which I cannot change and change that which I can

  39. Remember to always view the world from a place of love and compassion

  40. Keep on smiling, even when I don’t feel like it. Better yet, laugh.

Yes, I understand that there is more to this list than I will probably be able to accomplish in twelve months, but maybe I will get industrious and tackle two or three of these at a time. (Sanitizing the tv remote should be a piece of cake.) Some require action, while others necessitate a shift in thinking or a change of heart. Including the abstract as well as the concrete makes sense to me since obviously, the whole point of setting a goal is to develop into a better human being, regardless of the approach. There are folks who have, in fact, given up the whole concept of resolutions completely, opting instead for a word to live by or a mission statement. I like that idea, too. Certainly. such a tactic provides a litmus test by which you are able to measure your attitude and behavior. And repeated often, it can keep you on the road to self-improvement. Growth, even in the smallest of ways, is still progress, right? In my opinion, one of the greatest sources of unhappiness is in being stagnant. None of us are too old or ill-equipped, and it is never too late. Even for me.

I have often thought that even-numbered years were better than odd ones, that fortune somehow smiles more brightly upon those 365 days which are easily divisible, gifting us with a little more joy, a little more success. The biggest life challenges for me, including my two cancer battles which occurred in 2017 and 2019, have supported that theory. And the banner years of my life have been even ones. Maybe there is something to it. Who knows?

But like the rest of the world, I, too, am filled with hope on the eve of this new year, a special one which ushers in a brand new decade. Life is always full of promise, dreams to be pursued, days that are yet to be lived, a chapter yet to be written. None of us can predict what lies ahead. And that’s what makes it so exciting.

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