Resolved: The Unplanned New Year

The best resolution I ever heard was from my middle son when he was about eight. After explaining what resolutions were and why people made them, I asked him what he wanted to do in the new year. His response? “Have fun.”

The most interesting time of year might just be now, when people decide the lives they are living are deficient in some ways and overabundant in others. To wit: resolutions. New calendars. A whole new set of twelve pristine months in which to beat ourselves up over goals we set while listening to the top-100 songs of the past year with the Year In Review Time Magazine lying next to the sparkling white pages of the upcoming unsullied year.

Resolutions to have more fun. Watch less TV. Get IT together. Lose weight. Buy organic. Quit smoking. Volunteer more. Get a different job. Drink less. Go back to school. Start a garden. You’ve heard them all. You’ve probably made some of these resolutions yourself.

got it togetherIn my younger years, when I demanded a lot from myself and even more from others, I also hopped on this bandwagon. (NB: Being highly, unremittingly demanding of anyone, even one’s self, is a recipe for disaster, but that’s a topic for another day.) New Year’s Day found me starting a new journal with outlines of what I needed to accomplish in the next 365 days. Such outlines included projections, charts, deadlines, pictures, and even punishments and rewards for when I failed to or actually achieved these things. Those journals now have the first ten pages ripped out and are sitting on my shelf waiting to be repurposed.

In my forties, I sent the resolution bandwagon on ahead without me. And, you know what’s interesting? I have gotten more done in the past seven years than any of the years when I wasted those journals. I have made some purposeful steps; some of them at the outset of the year, but many of them as they came, as the opportunity presented itself.  I bought a house; accepted a new position at school; taught a new class; made new friends; spent more time with friends deepening relationships; cleaned out boxes of junk (literally and metaphorically); made peace with the past; learned meditation. These things didn’t just happen, but I had them in the back of my mind, and as the year progressed so did I. No resolutions needed.

Last year, I started the year purposefully — with a word. Change. 2014 was going to be a year of change; it was time for me to unstagnate, move forward. Nothing was written down; no calendar was set; only a general idea was in my mind, but I worked bit by bit in an uncalendared way on making changes. And, you know what? It worked.

Don’t get me wrong, I planned. Man did I plan – but only when I needed to –  to move; to renew my teaching certificate; to take my son to college. Other times, I just had a general idea or no idea at all and that opened up my life.

The I-have-a-calendar-but-I-only-look-at-it-occasionally approach has allowed me to sit with friends in the hospital, commiserate with those facing troubles, accept invitations for drinks, help the neighbor rake his lawn, sleep in, and bake treats for colleagues. At the same time, taking an unoutlined, uncharted, semi-purposeful approach to life has opened my eyes not only to the evolution of my own life, and rather than bemoaning a missed workout or a failure to rise early on Saturday, I have had time see and rejoice in my friends’ opportunities and changes. By not being too committed to things that I decided were important one day at the very start of the year, I have had the privilege to be a part of and see my friends rediscover lost passion, change the course of their careers, more fully invest in their families, move across the country, find new love, lose weight, start a new hobby, recover from illness, celebrate birthdays…the list could go on.

I have always been in awe of people who have a specific calendar and stick to it. In fact, I have aspired to that kind of organization and purposefulness. My mother has kept a kitchen calendar (she calls it her “book”) as long as I can remember. My mother writes down not only birthdays, but also when she is buying cards and gifts and when she is sending them. She keeps track not only of people’s birthday, but also of their ages. Mom writes in reminders of when family members have died, or “left us” – the term she prefers.  She even writes L/S on every day of the year, reminding herself to do laundry and plan supper. Every day of the year.

I am not my mother. This apple not only fell far from the tree, but also rolled down the hill, across the road, and under the fence. I now get birthday gifts on time for everyone, but some days you might find me thinking that popcorn at 9pm is a perfectly legitimate supper. I don’t plan my life with a calendar or with a set of resolutions charted on December 31.


So, whether or not you make resolutions and keep a calendar, here’s to the messiness of life, to all the celebrations, new friendships, poetry readings, hand-holding, driveway shoveling, unforeseen messes, late-night conversations, silly text messages, brunches, tears, bestsellers, cross-country road trips, comfort foods, springtime flowers, cocktail hours, kisses, homemade soup, fall leaves, vacations at the lake, new hobbies, old friends reunited, snowmen, sold houses, new wardrobes, art projects, concerts, and cake.

May 2015 be filled with unexpected and unplanned beauty.

Oh, and make sure to have fun!





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