It’s still the first week of 2016. The very first week. Inside 7 days. Like, if I’d started driving to California on January 1st, I’d hardly be there by now from where I live.
And it’s already hard.
This is where many people give up. It’s likely where I have always given up.
But I have chosen this year–2016–to be the year I do not give up. Intentionally.
So I had to look at all of it and say, “How do I make this year different?” How will this year not be like the others. The answer is pretty simple, really. It’s the same reason that certain marriages survive when so many others don’t. It’s not because life for the survivors is better…or perfect…or easier. It’s because the survivors–the hangers-on–have chosen to keep their grip. You don’t give up, because you just don’t.
All the love I had for my resolutions two days ago is gone. I’m home from the honeymoon. My resolutions are still pretty and they still sound good. But they’re hard and I’m not feeling it. I wonder if I’m up to the task.
It wasn’t the smoothest of mornings. I woke up with enough mucous in my head to supply a family of 6 (thinking I might do this or at least tweet about it). My kids are coughing and were at each other before 7 a.m. about who got to sit in front of the fake logs (this is a real thing. I’m not making it up.). My neighbor–we’ll call him Denny, because that about fits how I feel about him this morning–has the city digging up my yard because of his sewer problem. And I didn’t get as much as a post-it note on my door warning me that by noon there’d be no more grass in my front yard. Awesome.
So I’m in a crummy mood and my pants are tight and a backhoe is in my yard. And this is the point at which a donuts day might be just the thing. Or a morning of Hallmark movies. When you are sick, or exhausted, or frustrated– a new year of trying might begin to seem hopeless. But it’s not hopeless. It’s just hard.
So what am I going to do now that the
love grass is gone?
What do I do when my pants are tight, even though I’m making an effort that isn’t showing up (yet)? Well, I’m gonna put on pants, I can assure you. I haven’t been able to find an acceptable pantsless society, so I’m going to have to wear the tight pants.
The following list is for me. If it benefits anyone else, so be it. But I’m making the list for me.
How to make progress when you hit a wall:
(1) Acknowledge that what you’re doing is hard. If it was easy it wouldn’t be a New Year’s resolution, it would be this morning’s to-do list.
(2) Accept where you are today. Better habits are good. Change is good. But there’s danger in deciding you hate where you are–or who you are–now. The person I am today is the one making the decisions, writing the lists, building the accountability buddies, etc. That person got me where I am today. Don’t be mean to her.
(2) Be patient. Again, your resolutions are long-term and slow-going. If you get there too quickly, you won’t get to remain there.
(3) Pace yourself. Remember the tortoise and the hare. Though I’ve never seen a tortoise or a hare in the wild, and it’s possible they don’t even exist, there’s a reason this is a wildly popular folktale. The person sprinting like a mad hare toward the finish is probably going to poop out and go eat some cabbage by the side of the road. The person stepping and a slow, steady, consistent pace will finish, however slowly.
(4) Be consistent. Whatever you’ve mapped out for yourself to do, do it. Consistently. Don’t take a week off for donuts. Don’t worry about how much progress you did or didn’t make in an hour or an afternoon or a day. Just take consistent steps toward the goal.
(5) Don’t feel. Do. Who cares if your head is full of mucous and Denny dug up your last remaining patch of St. Augustine grass? Who cares if the scale doesn’t move or the pants rise up against you in the night with a serrated knife? Who cares if the love is gone? You made a resolution. You resolved. The definition of resolution (which incidentally, I cannot spell on the first time through. Ever.) is a firm decision to do or not to do something. So what’s on your to-do list today? Do as much as you can muster for the day that you’re having. Each day has its own challenges and parameters, but you can make progress, however small, every day. Do. The feeling will come.
As I was typing this list to myself, a call came in to my cell phone. It was a city number, and since there’s city people crawling all over the front yard today, I figured I should answer it. So I did. It was the Automated Library Lady with a message for me: “According to our records, you have 5 items that are very overdue. Please return your items to the nearest library branch as soon as possible.” Very overdue? I have never heard this before. Do they really use adverbs now? Was she intending to make me feel guilt or just to get my books back faster? I have chosen to forgive her for her judgmental tone and am adding one final thing to today’s list:
(6) Return very overdue library books.