I am lucky to have a bunch of cool, smart friends. And one of the coolest and smartest is Deirdre. Beautiful inside and out, and a talented musician and songwriter, she is all things funny and savvy and thoughtful. And so on this last day of 2016, my way to repay her for over thirty years of friendship is to unabashedly steal her thoughts about New Year’s Resolutions, and how they suck, and how to do it different and better. You see, a few years ago, Deirdre wrote on Facebook that New Year’s Resolutions set you up for failure, and they give you permission to drop the ball as soon you fail. Planning to go to the gym three times a week? Yeah, well, when you miss that target two weeks in a row at the end of January, it’s easy to let go of that resolution. You’ll feel bad about yourself (again), and it’s another reason for some pretty negative self-talk, and then it’s forgotten until next December, when you do the same thing all over again, and hope to have different results. And we all know what that’s the definition of, right?
Deirdre proposed that instead of making resolutions, we pick a word, a single word, that we wanted to use to define the coming year. A theme word. And she made us Facebook banners to put on our pages so we wouldn’t forget our word. Brilliance, right? Because if you think about what you want to resolve to do, you can keep doing it. You can’t fail at a theme word. When you revisit your theme word at the end of the year, and you consider the one you’ll choose for the next, you will find that you lived your theme word. I don’t just leave it on Facebook, though. I put it on sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, near my phone charger, on my desk. It’s there, seen but necessarily noticed all of the time.
In 2014, I picked Fearless. Yep. Fearless. I grew up with the deeply ingrained belief that the world was frightening and unsafe. The only place I ever felt remotely safe was at my grandmother’s house. But even there, it didn’t override the sense that the other shoe could drop at any moment, that things could turn on a dime, that someone’s mood would switch and I’d been shaking inside from the angry onslaught I’d tried desperately to avoid. And I carried that into my adulthood. Once, when I was dealing with C-PTSD, a therapist asked me, “What if the world was a safe place?” Dude. What? I was so upset and angry that I left and didn’t go back for three weeks. I was a raving lunatic at the idea that he’d said that to me. So, Fearless. I decided that when opportunities presented themselves in 2014, I was not going to hide, avoid change and try to force myself to feel safe, I was going to do all of the scary things. And I did. I changed jobs. I changed clothing styles. I said what I thought instead of keeping the peace. I went out and met people. I took risks. Not every day or every time, and I didn’t ever risk my life, but I remembered throughout the year that I wanted to be more Fearless.
2015 was different. I’d liked Fearless. But my favorite part of that was Fun. Because part of being Fearless had been doing some things that were Fun. I’d missed Fun. Being a single mother with no support — emotional, physical or financial — and no one to rely on for any help, is hard work. Add to that the child having medical problems? And having to work closely with his school? Not a lot of time for fun. And I’d avoided fun things to do until I decided to be more Fearless because that gave me leave to ask people to watch the kiddo, to go places I didn’t think I could, to do things I hadn’t done in years. So my 2015 word was Fun, and I said yes to every opportunity that came my way to have fun. I went to concerts, wine tastings, new restaurants, and bars. I started dating. I won a fitness contest. I tried aerial yoga and hung upside down and loved it. I said yes instead of no.
I don’t remember what I was thinking in 2016, but I recall being a little bit obsessed with glitter and love and kindness. I call it the Natalie Levin effect. She is warmth and truth and glitter opera yoga. She is so real and open. And so, I chose Sparkles as my theme word for 2016. Clearly, I was drunk, and given how 2016 has played out, it was, at best, a questionable choice. I can’t really think of much that Sparkled over the course of this past year, but lots of things fizzled. Not exactly a good choice. But you know, I was more like Natalie and her glitter and Sparkles. I have been much more open about my struggles and fears, and that has helped others be open and feel not quite so alone. I allowed myself to connect. I have tried to sprinkle glittery joy where I can. I’ve tried to bring light and happiness and healing energy to others, and I’ve turned toward people in need instead of away from them. I’ve learned to thank people for allowing me to help them, which was an amazing lesson in kindness from another amazing woman. So while Sparkles may not have been the best theme word, its intent was not entirely lost.
This week, Dee (not Deirdre, and yeah, I know I have a lot of friends with names that start with D) and I have been thinking about what our theme words will be for 2017. Because I want this year to be transformative and powerful, but those are not the word. If you choose to do this, you will be surprised at what first comes to mind. If you’re resolving to lose 30 pounds and exercise, “healthy” or “active” might be your word. You may not lose those pounds, but you can revisit “healthy” every time you eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for dinner or tag into a bag of chips. It can recenter you. You can’t fail at it, because you will make healthy choices. And it’s that simple. You’re not doing it because of a meaningless resolution. You’re doing it because you want something that will help define who you are going into the next rest of your life. But see what pops into your head and then play with it and think about why.
I’m thinking that 2017 might be Success. I’ve never felt much like one. I’ve never felt very good at much. And looking at the quagmirous mess that is my life, no one would accuse me of it. So maybe that’s it. To be a better mom. To be more present. To get my finances in order. To write. To do things I love. To be healthier. To be kinder and more gentle. To be the Kraken. I don’t know. It’s a good umbrella word that would point me in the direction I’d like to move. And it builds on what I learned from being more Fearless and having more Fun and maybe even Sparkles. We’ll see.
Honestly, given how today goes, it could be Cupcakes or Netflix. We’ll just have to see.