January 2, 2013
A New Year's Resolution...of Sorts
I have, for the first time in a long time, made a New Year's resolution. Perhaps it would be better thought of as a personal theme for the upcoming year, because resolutions are too often broken. I should know. I have yet to run a marathon, or a half marathon, for that matter.
The interesting thing about this resolution, is that the need for it has been building up for a while without my realizing it. The last couple of months of 2012 were fairly challenging for me, personally. While quite adept at dealing with the various ups and downs of family life this year: my husband's emergency surgery, a big and happy family wedding in the summer, our eldest son moving out, etc. etc., I have not been quite myself in other ways, suffering a bit from a mini identity crisis, which has chipped away at my confidence bit by bit. Most people go through difficult phases from time to time, but the fact of the universality of the problem doesn't seem to make it any easier on the individual. So, come December, I was sending out mixed signals to my friends and family, which, while confusing for them, was much more so for me. I will elaborate.
I am ambitious, but I'm also a self-preservationist. I want to achieve greatness, but I also need a good night's sleep. I need to work, both for financial reasons and for my sense of self, but I also need to be entirely flexible for the sake of my family - my husband often works long hours and we have no nearby relatives to rescue us in a pinch. I want to live a life of integrity and creativity, but I am often distracted by that odious mother-in-law of a word: 'should'. Sometimes I feel as if I'm living my life as a version of Dr. Dolittle's pushmi-pullyu, a sort of antelope/unicorn cross which has two heads and and a pair of corresponding legs at opposite ends of its body. When it tries to move, both heads and pairs of legs try to go in opposite directions, which leads the duck in the story to ask, "How does it make up its mind?" How indeed.
On a good day, the answer to my dilemma becomes quite clear and refreshingly obvious to me: I must do what I must do. I am essentially a creative person, so whatever I do must not drain my creativity. That in itself is an act of self-preservation, but it is, at the same time, ambitious because the world is rather against that way of living. The world seems to like people who think of creativity as child's play, and who strive to live within the acceptable norms of society, especially once they have grown up. I have never been very good at 'normal', but what is 'normal' anyway? My clever nephew, and the talented and creative musician James Lamb says, "Normal is just a setting on a dryer."
Although I really do enjoy preparing for Christmas I was still struggling through December and trying to keep a stiff upper lip for the sake of everyone in my life. One day after Christmas, when I was preparing the leftover turkey for soup, my girls were watching the last Harry Potter film, parts one and two. With an ear and sometimes an eye on the television, I went about my work in the kitchen. When the broth was bubbling away, I made a cup of tea and joined the girls in the living room. I have enjoyed the Harry Potter books and movies, but I would not call myself an avid fan of the series, or of fantasy stories in general. However, as the story's climax unfolded I felt a rising sense of something other than mere entertainment in the battles on the screen. After Harry and his friends had finally defeated the evil Voldemort I felt genuinely inspired, and I knew why. I believe the reason for the huge popularity of stories like Harry Potter is that they encourage us - in the real sense of the word - to fight for what is right, and to discern what, and who for that matter, is real and worthy in our lives.
Perhaps the key to living the way I want to live is to just get over trying to make so many different people happy, which is hard for me because one of the things I like to do is to make people happy. Perhaps the things in life which give me joy and a sense of fulfillment should be enough for me and for those who love me; it has been said by someone wise, "Do what you love and the money will follow." But here we come to the crux of the matter. I need courage to focus on what I love and what I love only, especially when it is not something easily understood by many to be worth spending time and energy on. I do know, in my heart of hearts, that I am going to be most unhappy if I veer away from my true purpose, as I think most people truly are. Most of the important people in my life assure me that something will work out for me, and to keep faith in the process. Perhaps I should pin up their photos all around my computer to remind me to believe in myself - except that's not really my style.
So, the theme of this coming year, if it has not already obvious, is to be more courageous and to have more spirit and more faith, not to mention more patience. It is time to practice what I preach to my children. True, the need for this resolution could have happened at any time in the year, so I find its timing interesting. I suppose the turning of the calendar from one year to the next is as good a time as any to acquire some new virtues. As Winston Churchill said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...because it is the quality that guarantees all others." Here's hoping...wish me luck?
I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. Photo by Shutterstock/nito