once more into the fray

It’s New Year’s Day again. Its arrival surprised me this year, a fact I attribute to the chaos that has enveloped my household this holiday season.

It’s not been easy.

Personally, I’ve been struggling with my depression and eating disorder, but the world outside my brain has been challenging as well.

Sickness abounds in my household – we took a risk on not getting the flu shots this year and in retrospect, that appears to have been a bad call.

My daughter is facing a significant life challenge that I cannot fix for her, only obsess about. It also requires me to start enforcing my boundaries and that’s something I’m bad at doing. I worry too much about the effect standing up for what I need will have on other people.

I really do prefer to sacrifice myself, regardless of the personal cost, rather than risk making people angry. I prefer to sacrifice myself rather than risk rejection.

It’s a bit of a problem, because I don’t live my own life then. I live other peoples’ lives.

My son’s life seems to be marching along in an acceptable fashion, but I know he’ll have struggles as well. It’s a function of life, after all.

So here I sit, at the dawn of the new year, thinking about inside and outside challenges and I’m paralyzed. What should I do, how should I change?

I’m not a huge fan of starting a new year in January. I prefer to make resolutions in September. It’s a hangover from my school days, I suppose. September still feels like the appropriate time to start things new and different.

However, waiting ‘til then is problematic. You can wait your whole life away. Waiting ‘til September to make changes, enforce newly recognized boundaries, and pursue my dreams leaves a lot of months of misery and denial to get through.

There’s magic in the fresh start. It’s as if everything that happened before can be wiped away. We’ll start over and be new, different, better, perfect.

We’ll get up early. We’ll cut back the coffee. We’ll exercise more and eat our vegetables. We’ll spend more time with others. We’ll follow our dreams. We’ll take that vacation.

We’ll be everything we’re not and everything we wish we were.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on an arbitrary box on a calendar.

We all want to be better; to be the best we can be.

We all struggle in different ways.

Perhaps instead of obsessing about the starting line, we should focus more on the ending. New beginnings happen every day. But endings are different. We don’t pay nearly enough attention to them.  We don’t take enough time to reflect on our accomplishments or give ourselves credit for the things we’ve done.

It’s January first. I’m not going to quit smoking today or give up coffee. I probably won’t go for a walk. I may not even make my bed. These are all things I want to do, but I’m not going to obsess because the calendar tells me to.

Instead, I will reflect on what I’ve accomplished. I’ll give myself props for the things I’ve done. It wasn’t as much as I wanted – it never is – but mostly I did the best I could in the moment at hand.

I made mistakes, I stumbled and fell, and I hurt people. I’m not perfect.

But I did better than I did in years past and really, that’s all we can ask of ourselves.  

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