Goals trounce resolutions

The statistics kings, or as I refer to them- “they”, say that we break 65% of new year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are designed to be broken, which is why I did not make any.  I can experience failure any time I want, sometimes several times within a day, so I’ll be damned if I am going to court it.  I was not always this way.  I spent much of my 20’s and all of my 30’s on one self-help road or another striving to be better.  Better than what?  Better than me.  It took me 43 years to accept my successes, my mistakes, and the whole package that makes up who I am, taking into account how much I have learned and grown.  With my thirst for learning and new experiences why would I not continue to grow ?  I now revel in some of my imperfections, such as a raunchy sense of humor and blunt honesty.  The world does not have a surplus of those two attributes, so I feel I add something worthwhile to the mix, just as you and your imperfections do.

Year-long promises that usually involve abstaining from a desire/addiction or performing acts that we think are good for us but do not really want to do are set-ups for failure.  One slip and I get to feel like I broke a promise to myself.  No thank you.  I prefer denying myself unhealthy habits and working toward my dreams in bite-sized increments so I can savor each daily, weekly, or even hourly victory.  I was the kid that easily made a candy bar last all day because it made for a better day.  I am not going to wait all year to pat myself on the back for going to the gym 3 times this week.  I see the calorie counter on the treadmill and I earned a candy bar or even a dish of ice cream.  This strategy makes it much more likely that I will return to the gym next week.  If I bury myself in a novel in front of the fireplace instead of going to the gym, I do not let myself off the hook for the rest of the year because I failed.  My discipline frequently lags, but not living up to a goal breeds vigilance the next day.

Another reason resolutions fail is because willpower cannot fix every problem.  Trying harder often equates to increasing frustration as I try to fix things out of my control or slap a band-aid on a problem that needs a tourniquet.  If I concentrate on the short-term goals on the branches of my big dream tree, I can appreciate how all things work together.  If I go to the gym I have more energy and sleep better, improving my cognition so that I work smarter.  Also, my jiggly parts are more perky, gaining me extra spousal squeezes and increased confidence, which ultimately leads to a better love life.  When I eat greens and lean protein I feel lighter and not a bit guilty when I indulge my love of chocolate.  I proved this to myself once again over the holidays because there weren’t any Christmas salads, but there were plenty of desserts.  When I write daily I am a happier person (so my husband says), which makes me more successful in my relationships.  When I read literature, non-fiction, or contemporary fiction, it makes me a better writer.  When I perform detailed research on career options I often discover aspects I was previously oblivious to and it motivates me to spend more time writing and constructing a virtual assistant business.  If I volunteer to work with disabled veterans, I feel better about not contributing to my community with a paying job and exposure to veteran perspectives and characters enhance my writing.  If I meditate and journal today the unemployment blues abate somewhat, which makes it easier for me to take action rather than spending the day on the couch unshowered thinking of how unfair this situation is while the TV drones in the background.  It all works together.  I am not the only one thinking this way, as evidenced by an app at iTunes called Resolutions 2012 which deconstructs resolutions into bite-sized, realistic goals that encourage a person to think about what it will take to meet a wide-sweeping resolution like losing 20 pounds or quitting smoking.  I think the best resolution all of us can strive for is doing something nice for someone else every day.  If that took off I would not need to challenge myself with meditation as often, but wishing for something hardly ever makes it so.

The American lives even more for his goals, for the future, than the European. Life for him is always becoming, never being. 
-Albert Einstein

New Traditions for a New Year

This year I felt enhancements to our New Year traditions were in order.  Our ritualistic purging is commonplace; out with the old dust bunnies and unworn clothing, make room for the new year’s new dirt, new ideas, and new fashion.  2011 was anything but commonplace in the Schultz household, and I have a strong feeling that 2012 will be chocked full of more surprising, yet positive, change.  While I did not want to give up our tried and true merrymaking recipe,  I did want to add more symbolism to the mix following a more dramatic purging than in past years.

Every time I clean out the closets I spy my wedding dress languishing in plastic and think what a waste it is to have such an exquisite gown that I just cannot bring myself to use as a  zombie bride costume.  Our daughter married in 2011, giving us a new appreciation for the cost of a wedding.  So, this year my dress is in the donation pile hoping to be worn again by a happy bride on a budget.

Not purposely, I purged my job, and more importantly my paycheck in 2011.  I naïvely asserted my rights under the American with Disabilities Act, urged onward by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who assured me that it really was the right thing to do.  Not the practical thing, but the right thing.  I think some of the dressy items I wore to work will be appreciated by a woman who does not have associated bad memories attached to these blouses and jackets.  My next job is still unknown, but surely it will require a new-to-me wardrobe.  In the meantime, I received comfy clothing for Christmas that better fits my current writing persona and requires the space taken by old items reserved for annual events I will no longer attend.  Out with old, out with the old, this year’s purging may take a couple of weeks.

After cleaning and organizing much of our nest, I turned to my right-hand-man (Google) for symbolic new year traditions practiced around the world.  There is a Scottish custom called “first-footing” whereby after the stroke of midnight a young, handsome, dark-haired man brings coal, money, bread, salt, and whiskey to your door for good luck, wealth, and good cheer.  We could not adopt this tradition because good-looking dark-headed gentlemen are hard to find, while blondes and red-heads are plentiful around here, but are considered bad luck in this Scottish tradition.  As the only handsome dark-haired guy in the neighborhood, I couldn’t have my husband visiting our neighbors all evening giving away our whiskey.  The Ecuadorian tradition of burning things that you do not want in the new year sounded more promising as long as we subtracted jumping over the fire and courting an emergency room visit.  I put out the call to my Mom to print pictures of unwanted 2011 ideals and absurdities.  Throwing joblessness, disease, food lines, and fat cats in the fire pit was as cathartic and celebratory as I hoped.  If we do not wrestle with those problems in 2012 it will be even better.  A new year is a time for new hopes.  In that spirit, I alerted my family and friends to the South American tradition of wearing brightly colored underwear for good luck; red for love, and yellow for money.  Everyone agreed that if they could not find red and yellow underwear they would settle for yellow, perhaps because we are already blessed with love and those that are single figure they can easily find romance once they have loads of dough.  I anticipate how lovely it will be when all of us receive a windfall in 2012 and will let you know when the cash starts rolling in so you too, can wear yellow underwear next year.

Our older traditions of drinking, feasting, and kissing excessively were still loyally held to, a sign that not all old things need to be purged, perhaps just embellished a bit.  I hope that your 2012 is filled with new possibilities and stripped of the 2011 things you no longer want or need.  Happy New Year!

Happy New Year?

I received a notification informing us that donations to Michigan food banks will no longer be tax-deductible after December 31, 2011, which coincides with the expiration of federal extended unemployment insurance programs.  The expiration of federal extensions will immediately drop 2 million unemployed from the rolls and millions more will follow as state benefits expire in 2012.  Also heralding in the New Year, Michigan will reduce unemployment compensation to a maximum of 20 weeks from 26, the standard of all states for more than 50 years.  Because unemployment compensation is designed only to cover living expenses, it is commonly accepted that all of these monies are promptly dumped back into our lagging economy.  A doom and gloom outlook for the unemployed and needy has been the forecast for a few years now, but the perfect storm of 2012 will add to poverty statistics at a head-spinning rate.  My inclination to seek out positive and humorous perspectives about any given situation has become more challenging, but I think I can do it for the remainder of 2011.

With the holiday season approaching my thoughts predictably turn to what I am thankful for and what Jesus gifted me with on the day he was born.  If there were ever a time to relish the present, it is now.  I plan to savor Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts with my family members who are currently healthy, fed, housed, and humorous.  My focus is on blessings that money cannot buy nor replace, such as loving and supportive friendships and a stable marriage.  We will give what we can, not for the benefit of a tax deduction, but because we appreciate the need to share our bounty now more than ever.  People are pulling together, one of the few upsides to our economic climate, and I believe we will experience more brotherhood in the coming year.  While Christmas commercials and electronic ads are inundating a broke America in a futile effort to pry money from near empty wallets, we will buy gifts from local crafters, small businesses, wineries, and breweries.  2012 promises to be a challenging year, but I plan to have a rocking good time during what remains of 2011 and adopt a Scarlett O’Hara attitude of not thinking about it today.  Helping me to delay thoughts of next year is The Michigan Beer Cellar, the only micro-brewery in Michigan that is also a winery and artisan distillery,  conveniently located only a few blocks away.