So have you already broken your New Year’s Resolutions? Many people have so you’re not alone. Actually, I would have been included in this group if I did make New Year’s Resolutions. However, I learned a new method of moving forward in a new year that doesn’t feel like I’ll face my own internal mental guillotine if I break it.
Instead of a resolution, I now focus on an intention. I started this in 2007 when I was a caregiver for my mother, who had Alzheimer’s and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Faced with too many irons in the fire, I decided that I didn’t have the energy or commitment to make a resolution. Instead, I decided what I wanted to focus on for that year - the concept of compassion. I figured I would need it in trying to deal with my mom’s issues (doctors, nursing home, etc.), my aging father as he grappled with his wife’s decline, and Mom herself when she did uncharacteristic things due to the Alzheimer’s disease. What I unexpectedly found was that I also needed to apply this word to my own life when I wasn’t able to keep up the standards that I had had for myself because of the overwhelming exhaustion of caregiving.
However, after Mom’s death in 2007, I didn’t try an intention again until 2014 when I found myself under an increasing burden of caregiving. The selection of an intention came about when some friends casually asked me what my New Year’s Resolution would be. I noted that there were too many unpredictable things in my life for me to make a resolution so I decided to again focus on an intention for the year. Because I had so many loose ends in my life, I decided to call 2014 the “Year of Completion and Conclusion.” And while many people call for major goal-setting, I just focused on those few words and accomplished a whole bunch, including:
- Completed and defended my dissertation (which in itself would have made the year a success).
- Got my mother’s will probated.
- Worked with Dad to get his will and health care proxies updated.
- Cleaned out Dad’s storage locker and redistributed some of his extra furniture and supplies to family members and friends.
- Sold or donated Mom’s fabric collection (she had more than 80 large tubs of fabric that she had collected when she passed away).
- Went through a bunch of old family photos and sent them to relatives.
I must admit I still have some items left over from my “Year of Completion and Conclusion” to tick off so it’s going to bleed over into 2015. However, I feel a greater level of accomplishment from 2014 than I have in recent years, especially since I also was faced with dealing with a loved one’s health issues for about two-thirds of the year.
So what’s my focus for 2015? I’ve decided to have an intention of “healthy.” I picked this word precisely because of how broadly it can be interpreted. I’ve reached an age where I’ve come to realize that time is ticking so I want to focus on quality. That has changed the way I interpret “healthy.” In my 20s, healthy would have meant losing 20 pounds and go to aerobics class every day to try to lose the stubborn cellulite on my thighs. Today the concept of healthy takes on a more nuanced view. While I still want to include diet and exercise, I also want to focus on building a healthier quality of life. For me, that means making thoughtful choices in a number of areas, including mentally (opting for quality instead of quantity – or trashy), creatively (trying new hobbies and resuming ones I have enjoyed but haven’t had time for), spiritually (meditation and finding avenues to tap into soulfulness), socially (finding more time to spend with family and friends), and environmentally (cleaning up my too-tall stacks of stuff, thinking carefully about what I bring into my home, and trying to create an outside presence that supports wildlife). (Note – I’d encourage you to read this New York Times column by Paco Iyer that takes a similar stance.)
So to tell you the truth, I did eat a few too many chips the other day – but I also managed to watch an uplifting movie on Netflix that a friend recommended that made me think about the journey of life. So whereas a resolution would have been broken, my 2015 intention stays intact. I hope you’ll join me on this type of journey.
Published On: January 06, 2015