Monday, December 31, 2012

new year's resolutions


There is something about the arrival of a new year that stirs something within me. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect back on the waning year and make goals for the new one. I like that sense of hope and renewal - the excitement and determination to be a better person.

While reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter a few months ago, I was struck by a passage about new year's resolutions. The author, Peggy Orenstein, compares the goals of a modern-day girl and a young woman from the 19th century. The contemporary girl resolved: "I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can... I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories." The young woman of lore wrote: "Resolved: to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversations and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others." Orenstein comments: "... though the 19th century girl may have lived in a more repressive ere - before women could vote, when girls' sights were set solely on marriage and motherhood - her sense of self-worth was enviably internal, a matter of deeds over dress. Whatever other constraints she felt, her femininity was not defined by the pursuit of physical perfection; it was about character."

Though I definitely desire to improve in some external areas (a haircut is a must in the next few weeks and I really need to start working out again!) I am inspired by the old-timey girl's self-awareness and internal sense of self worth. Thinking before speaking and practicing more self-restraint are good goals for me. And being dignified? In this age of Twitter and Facebook and tell-all blogs and TV shows, that seems to be a forgotten value. I would like to be more dignified...

A few years ago I tried assigning a theme for the year... in 2011 I vowed to seek more tranquility in my life. Alas, in 2012 I was really just trying to get by, so there was no true resolution set beyond survival. IVF cycles, an uncomfortable pregnancy followed by the birth and care of twin boys chased all bits of tranquility away. There are so many areas of my life where I seek improvement, but I this year I want to follow in the steps of that young girl from the 1800's and cultivate more thoughtfulness in my actions. This takes on as plethora of other habits and values needed to reinforce that goal.

How does one become more thoughtful? For me this means:
- truly listening to other people when they speak (and remembering what they say) rather than waiting for the opportunity to say what I want to say. This will require thinking before speaking, so that my words are not used to grab attention, but to convey meaning and uplift others.
- performing acts of kindness and service, no matter how small, that are personal and meaningful to those around me. This will require cultivating intuition so that I can find the inspiration to serve. I think intuition is honed through prayer, scripture study, meditation and healthful living (getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising..). When my body and spirit are in tune with each other, there is clarity in the mind. Oh my, this will be a challenge for the spacey girl that I can be!
- being aware of the world around me, focusing on the present moment rather than constantly making plans for the future.
- sharpening my mind and learning new things. Reading good books, watching good films, interacting with good people...

I'm resurrecting my mantras from these quotes:

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with an open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden, and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.
~William Ellery Channing
(posted about this here)

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
(posted about this here)

Indeed, it is a bit ambitious, but shouldn't new year's resolutions be lofty and inspiring? I'm pumped! I'm ready to do some personal improvements! 2013 is going to be a good year!

1 comment:

Hailey said...

Love your list so much. I admire you and think that you are already all of those things! But yes, having twins does give one pause for reflection!