New Year, Not Exactly New Adventures

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Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Well, I had all but decided to quit blogging as of January 1st. But I tossed off a quick post about Julianna and—gasp—a whole bunch of people read it.

So I’m entering 2017 with a willingness to keep on keeping on, although I think I’m going to be more off-the-cuff than I have been in the past. I’m going to go back to MWF…at least, most Fridays…depending on availability of material. I added a post right before Christmas called Friday Funnies, in which I’ll be collecting all the things that make us laugh as we raise this wacky bunch of kids.

You know how sometimes there are themes in your life, the same messages coming up over and over again in different contexts? In the last ten days of 2016, that theme was being too busy, or more accurately, how not to be.

The thing is, nobody has figured it out. We’ve all recognized the crushing weight of too much, but we don’t see a way to reduce it.

In my house, for instance, Christian has six piano students on two nights; the third is occupied by choir; and during parts of the year we might be doing baseball or basketball on a fourth. (And doubling up with some other night, just for fun.) And then there’s piano on Tuesdays and adaptive gymnastics on Sundays and band early morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays and school choir early morning on Wednesdays, and weddings on some Saturdays…

So we have a lot of discerning to do. Because we miss the deep breath and slow exhale of the nights when we don’t have to go anywhere. When the neighbor can bang on the door and say, “Can the kids come out to play?” and there are pickup wiffle ball games in the cul de sac. When we can walk up to the park and let the kids play. Or pull out a board game and have an impromptu family game night. Or I follow a rabbit hole and discover that there was a line in a Star Wars movie that none of us had heard, so we spontaneously throw it in the DVD player and find the scene…and then watch the special features, just for fun.

Another thing that’s been turning around and around in my brain is the idea of luxury and Christian responsibility. Again, something many of us struggle with. I “happened” across a post in which someone talked about how all gifts are meant to be enjoyed by the receiver—and that the pleasure for the giver is in seeing that gratitude lived out. And that includes the gifts given by God. This resonated with me. I don’t remember where it came from, which kills me because I really like to credit original authors. Nor do I think it entirely answers the conundrum. Yet it is one ingredient, added to the stew pot in my mind. Hopefully answers will—eventually—begin to surface.

And then there was this, with which I will leave you today, because after this sentiment, anything I have to say is entirely superfluous:

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Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

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English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

English: New Year’s Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t intend to write today, as I’m on double deadline with kids at home (and, uh, I overslept my writing time this morning). But since today is that ubiquitous New Year’s Resolutions day, and I’m someone who has always made generally successful resolutions, I’ll put in my two cents on how to make them stick.

1. Keep them focused. “Get healthy” is amorphous and doomed to fail because you don’t know what it means. What does that mean? Eat more vegetables? Exercise more? Work less?

2. Keep them measurable–and realistic. For instance, I’m setting a goal to practice my flute 3 times a week this year. I’d rather say 5 times a week but the experience of the last few months has taught me that I won’t be able to fulfill that.

3. Focus on the spiritual (i.e. relationships) as well as the physical. You are a body and a soul, and your spiritual and physical health can uplift or undermine each other.

4. Don’t do this today just because it’s New Year’s. It’s an artificial deadline. People don’t like to hear this, but when you’re ready to do something, you simply do it. Two examples: My dad’s father quite smoking cold turkey one day because it was rough on his wife (see what I mean about physical and spiritual/relational?). I started losing weight in October of 2012 without any premeditation whatsoever, simply because someone mentioned the vehicle to make it happen (Loseit.com). This was after a decade of insisting to my husband that I was not capable of losing weight because of factors a) b) and c). When you’re ready to do it, you’ll do it.

5. To conclude, I wrap these suggestions together with a quote from Thomas Merton:

It should be accepted as a most elementary human and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say “no” on occasion to his natural bodily appetites. No man who simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person. He has renounced his spiritual freedom and become the servant of bodily impulse. Therefore his mind and will are not fully his own. They are under the power of his appetites. (From New Seeds of Contemplation)

Resolved, Unresolved

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English: New Year's Day postcard. Reads: "...

Image via Wikipedia

There are certain times of the year when the whole blogsophere latches on to the same subject. Every September there’s a rash of sentiment about kids growing up and the back-to-school transition. Every November 1st, we’re treated to photos of Halloween costumes. And for a week in January, the topic is New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions get a really bad rap sometimes. A surprising number of bloggers this year are talking about how bad they are. Some refuse to set goals because they’re going fail, and they think it’s pointless. One person even suggested that resolutions are a bad idea because they place our focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths.

But I think we as a culture look at a new year’s resolution in the wrong way. Sometimes they’re not made to be fulfilled. Some goals will never, ever be fully attained…but if you refuse to aspire, you’ll stagnate instead.

I’ve made resolutions for a couple of decades, and generally I’ve kept them…but not always. Sometimes I go into it knowing I won’t live up to them.

The first goal I set, knowing it was unreachable, was this: If I’m going to bother getting my flute out of the case on any given day, I’m going to practice a full four hours. “That one’s made to be broken,” I wrote, “but the pursuit of it will make me a better musician.”

Actually, I didn’t do half bad on that goal–I hit 4 hours of practicing 80-85% of the time that year. (Before you get stuck on that number, bear in mind I was a flute performance major preparing for grad school auditions. For a music major, practice = study.)

The thing is, self-improvement is a process, not an end point. You can lose the weight, after all, but you still have to maintain it. It’s not like you can check it off the list and go back to the way you did things before.

And that’s also why I disagree with the blogger who thinks we shouldn’t focus on or weaknesses. It’s a laudable thing to try to make oneself a better person, even if we stumble and fall along the way. Something resolved left unresolved, after all, still makes me a better person.

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I need to apologize to the Write On Edge people…when I set out to write the prompt today, it went a different direction than the prompt was meant to…I debated whether I had any business linking up at all. Hope you’ll excuse me. Usually I try to be very careful to follow exactly. 🙂

Write on Edge: RemembeRED