Promises and Resolutions

notebook-writing-document-paper-wallpaper-previewIt’s that time of year again when everyone is making or avoiding, talking about (or avoiding conversations about) resolutions. I’ve never been big on new year resolutions. While I did fall into the hype of an arbitrary date on the calendar giving rise to new expectations, I never had enough confidence in myself or my convictions to actually set a resolution. It was customary in our family to circumvent that baseless tradition at all costs. My mother made a resolution in 1974 to never make another resolution. She’s kept that one to this day.

For me – this year it will be different.

First, I want to ditch that word: resolution. It doesn’t fit for me. Or maybe it’s just too political in connotation for my comfort. Or it’s too trite – badgered and cowed for years without consequence. For whatever reason, I don’t want to call it a resolution (perhaps this is another way for me to sidestep responsibility and follow through?). Some favor setting goals for the year. But, that feels somehow mercurial (I’ve never been a goal-setter, and it shows). So, I’m making a promise to myself this year. Promises are important to me. I don’t use that word lightly, or take it casually. I have broken promises in the past – not intentionally. And it is a terribly painful and arduous process to heal my heart and soul from these acts. I choose delicately now before I promise things. I have had others make insouciant promises to me. I have been deeply pained by the ease with which promises are offered – with no intent to keep them. Over my many years I have learned to spot some of these feigned promises from the start. I adjust my acceptance of their words carefully. I still miss many of them, however. It’s the calamity of an open heart and a wishful soul. For me, a promise means something. So a promise is what I offer.

I thought about the typical resolutions that float around each year and I started my list:

  • I will be kinder to myself
  • I will exercise more regularly
  • I will make better food choices regularly
  • I will set aside specific time for volunteer efforts, not just ‘when I have time’ or ‘when something comes up’
  • I will spend focused time with my son each week (game night, anyone?)
  • I will practice meditation more regularly and get better at it
  • ….and so on, and so on….

It all felt like a chore – the whole list-making process. I was not motivated or invigorated by it at all. And, while everyone has their own method or reason for making or keeping resolutions. This didn’t work for me. I need to feel inspired. And, more often than not, my inspirations come from external sources not internal. I can hear the self care warriors crying to me now, telling me I’m worth it. I know you can’t pour from an empty vessel. I understand the sentiment and I have quoted it to many friends and colleagues who I’ve seen struggling to be all things to all people. But for me, actualization and effort are spurred by what I can do for others. There is nothing altruistic about it – I derive peace and pleasure from seeing my friends (or strangers) happy because of something I had a part in. This is my self care. It gives me purpose. Caring for myself in extended ways does not feel purposeful to me. Caring for others feels like home.

I left my unfinished lists on the table thinking I would dress them up later, after I’d had time to ponder a bit more. I went back to my regular chores for the day. In the middle of washing dishes I got my inspiration. I chose my resolution promise for the year:

Each month I will add one resource saving habit to my life. Whether it saves time or money, or water or paper, or saves my body or the earth from unnecessary chemicals….I will find one way to make my life a little less taxing.

It’s not much – one new habit per month. It’s not immediately life-changing for me or anyone else. But, it feels right for me. It will ease some of my burdens (though I know it may initially add to them until I get used to new ways). It will hopefully make an impact on my carbon footprint or waste. It will teach my son that there are options to how we choose to live. Maybe he’ll have some of his own ideas to add to my efforts. As a teenager, I’m fearful that not showering may be on his list. I’ll have to watch for that.

We practice some sustainable routines in our home now. We use cloth napkins and reusable straws. We compost food scraps (though this needs adjustment, as the wildlife in our backyard seems to find its way into our compost bin far too much). We have few single-use products and talk freely about the differences we can make in our choices. Finding new ways to expand our efforts – learning to live mindfully – will be good for both of us.

That’s my promise. It’s not much. I’m not going to save the world by shopping at farmer’s markets or thrift stores more. I will make healthy changes and teach my son more about global living. What we do makes a difference – to everyone.


May your resolutions or promises or avoidance of the whole lot bring happiness to your coming days.


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