In my younger, more innocent and naïve years, I sat down every New Year’s Eve with a pen and a fresh sheet of paper. I then proceeded to do what most people do on this most angst-producing, stomach-churning, headache-inducing day: I wrote down my resolutions for the upcoming year. To lose weight (duh). To stop worrying and fretting so much. To stop consuming tremendous amounts of chocolate. To exercise more. To exercise…at all. To do better. To be better. To stop being a flawed human being. To stop being a loser. The problem was, because I was born with the self-esteem of a mosquito, the inevitable breaking of each resolution, year after year, merely reinforced my belief that I was, indeed, a pathetic loser. Yet I continued making these empty promises to myself every year as I turned the calendar page to a shiny new year, because I felt obligated to resolve to make myself into something new, even though it was always something I simply wasn’t ready to be.
At some point, I stopped. Since I would never keep any of these resolutions anyway, the easiest way to not break them was to not make them in the first place. Plus, if I was going to make some kind of life-changing promise to improve my life, I could just as easily make it on March 21st or August 9th. Why did the symbolic changing over to a new year have to bring about massive change, ultimately ending in soul-crushing failure when I admitted defeat?
What I did instead was wait. For inspiration. I’m a writer, and I know that sometimes inspiration is ready and waiting for me when I sit down with a pen and paper or at the keyboard; other times I must wait. So I waited, and when the time came for me to change any part of my life, I waited. Then I waited some more. And when I was ready–and I mean really ready–I made changes. I changed careers. I lost more than 100 pounds (then I gained almost half back and lost them again, but I digress). I began to take weekend trips alone to write. None of these things were resolutions. They were inspired choices that brought a tiny bit of light into my life.
As life has drawn me into its darker corners, however, I’ve noticed the resolutions that I tended to make during those more innocent times could not possibly provide illumination now. Sometimes life throws things at you that you cannot avoid. You can duck, hide behind the couch, or lock yourself in the bathroom, but eventually life will find you, hand you a boiling cauldron of emotional pain, and leave you alone as the steam burns your face as it mixes with your tears. What will you resolve to do then? Fix the unfixable? Heal someone who cannot be healed? Help someone who is in denial of needing help? Shake your fist at God? Hold onto a lifetime of pain at the expense of your own well-being?
No, these are not the times to make a resolution or wait for an inspired choice. The only thing to do during times of emotional turmoil is to go through it, one painful minute at a time. I’ve tried all the tricks of the avoidance trade–walking around the pain circa Canada or numbing it with Nutella–but the pain was always waiting for me, stalking me at every corner. I have recently discovered that to turn around and face this pain, to look at it squarely in the eye and take its punch head on, is much healthier in the long term. The moment comes, it hurts, then it is over. I can then move on to the next moment. And the next. This is not easy for someone who worries and frets endlessly about the future, but everything, it seems, is so completely out of my control anyway that what, exactly, is the sense of all of this worry? I must plod along, moment by moment, graciously accepting whatever Fate has in store for me. Whether there is some cosmic lesson for me to learn from all of this, I do not yet know. What I do know is this journey is mine and mine alone. I can only hope for the inner strength to continue on the path. My path.
I will never make another New Year’s resolution. If resolutions work for you, that’s great. I’m all for whatever brings about a revolution in someone’s life. As for me, I’ll just sit here waiting for inspiration that will lead me to the steps necessary to make important life choices and then try, with every molecule within me, to be in the here and now every moment for whatever life throws at me. I’m ready, 2019. Bring it on.