…some random thoughts that turn out to be about resolutions
It is an obnoxiously adult moment. I am shopping for books for my nieces and nephews when I realize that only the five year old twins are still young enough to shop for from the kids section. All of the rest are in “chapter books” and beyond. No more spending hours looking at beautiful picture books trying to decide which book will fit the personality of which child. I start to mourn. They are growing up too quickly! They are perfect just the way they are and should not change a whit!
Like I said, obnoxiously adult.
I go to my parents for the Thanksgiving holiday. Fourteen of those nieces and nephews are gathered in all their glorious chaos. There are skirmishes and occasional tears, as there will be. But mostly they astound me with something new every time I see them. I love to see them try, fail, dust themselves off, try, succeed and celebrate. I love to discover what they love. I watch them naturally becoming who they are – kind and thoughtful, grounded and ambitious. I have to repent of wishing to hold them back. While I really do love who they are and who they have been, I feel so privileged that I get to watch them grow up.
I have been thinking about it since then. How hard it is to give children room to grown and change as they ought. And how much harder it can be to give adults room to change. People don’t change we say, and we are shocked when they do. It is confusing and frustrating and hard to give those we love room to change.
But, I think, not harder than giving ourselves room. And that’s what I’m pondering along with my New Year’s resolutions. Do I give myself enough room to change? I like to think that I am just me, and am as I always have been, but I am not. The last few years have changed me in some big ways. I sometimes feel knocked off balance by identity crises I never would have expected to face. Despite the fact that I think the changes are mostly for the good, I find myself having to consciously look for a kind of grace to accept them. Who I am today is ok. And that doesn’t mean I have to decide that who I was yesterday was not ok. She’s just not who I am anymore.
I wonder if that’s the real difficulty of resolutions. I can’t imagine a resolution worth setting that wouldn’t change me profoundly. But when embarking on the change feels like it requires an outright rejection of who I am now, it feels like I’m starting from a place of failure. If who I am is not fundamentally enough, clearly I don’t have what it takes to change for the better. While I like to think I don’t believe this of myself or of anyone I’m afraid I can read this type of thinking in many of my old resolutions. Years of rigid lists of precise steps designed to checklist me to perfection. No room for grace.
It’s been a while since I set resolutions that way. My goals are no longer forced marches. And they wouldn’t pass muster in any goal setting workshop or lecture. They aren’t SMART and they defy analysis. I give myself a focus point and at the end of the year I decide if I kept my resolution by deciding whether my life was changed by it. That is all. There is room to breath. There is room for grace.
Who I was is enough. Who I am is enough. Who I will be is enough.
I’m not sure how it is that I stumbled into this method, if it can be called that. I do know that I no longer dread my journal entry in which I assess the previous year’s goals and set new ones. I no longer feel as though I’ve let myself down. I look at my year and see how the direction I was looking, what I was focusing on, changed who I am. It feels peaceful and natural and beautiful. In some ways it feels childlike. And while sometimes the changes bring me to places I don’t recognize, I find that as long as I treat myself gently I can give myself room for those changes. All of my selves, in fact. Past, present, future.
And that is enough.