2016 New Year's Resolutions!

The Holidays are dead! Long live the Holidays!

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Christmas is over, friends!* It was all that it should be: chaotic, joyful, alcohol-soaked, and absolutely saturated in fat. Too much was given, too much was gotten, we ate too much, and stayed up playing too late. Gloria in excelsis excess, amen and good night! We made wonderful memories with the kids and family, and a fine time was had by all.

And, boy howdy, am I glad it's over.

This is not just because I am the humbuggiest grinch who ever humbugged, although that is sometimes true. It is also because now I get to enjoy my own personal Most Wonderful Time of the Year: New Year's! I absolutely love the idea of a fresh start, ripe with the potential of self-improvement and reinvention. As a former teacher, I predictably thrill every September when school starts, the weather turns colder, and we buckle down to whatever work is at hand after the languorous days of summer. But that excitement is nothing compared to the that of welcoming a new calendar year.

Think of it! A whole new year is just around the corner, and ANYTHING could happen! It's the cleanest of slates! The freshest of starts! The current year in 12 quick chimes numerically becomes the past, and all the possibility of the new year lies ahead! If a new school year is the clean sawdust tang of sharp, new pencils, then the new year is the unmarred virgin snow surrounding the wintry forest from which such pencils have yet to be hewn. It is existentially new, untouched, and unknown. At the transition from old, worn, known year to new, we can become anything and do anything. It is the edge of the new world that maps have yet to chart, and it is painfully gorgeous in its pristine purity.

Better than fresh pencils. And I LOVE fresh pencils. (Image Source)

Over the top? YES! But allow me this, you all who have celebrated a sacred and joyful season for at least a month. Your pleasure is distributed over roughly 30 days, whereas mine is condensed into a single stroke of midnight. My exhiliration is mighty both because it comes hard on the heels of all the effort of the Christmas season, and also because it is so temporally finite.

Given my enthusiasm for the changing of the year, you can bet your jingle bells that I'm a dedicated and longtime resolution-writer. For years I would begin writing my resolutions in early December, a long list that fell into neat categories that I'd cross-reference and refine into sharp, actionable points. These lists were as beautiful and well-considered as they were rigid and unyielding. Although I miss the satisfaction of the former, the painful confinement of the latter ultimately made them unworkable. I learned after a few years of attempting to mold a year into predetermined actions and aims that resolutions require flexibility in order to last long enough to be fulfilled and have changed my strategy to suit that need.

Thus, I have adopted the one-word resolution strategy touted by some of my favorite bloggers, with some modifications. Previous year's words have been "growth," "vigor," "self-care," and "growth mindset," most of which led to good outcomes and healthy personal development. This year's, I hope, will be as useful and a lot more fun. Friends, readers, Smarties, I bring you 2016's theme...

More of the Good Stuff!

Yes, I'm probably cribbing from my own previous blogging here, and I don't care! My year, my word, my good stuff!

Now, here's what this means: While going through my 2015 planner to add birthdays, etc., to my 2016 planner, I noticed that the times when I went out of my way to do truly soul-nourishing and gratifying things, no matter what the effort in doing them, I was happier. Sure, getting regular babysitters to take care of the Smartlings while I enjoyed my subscription to the Hugo House's Literary Series was work, and getting myself ready and out the door with two little skirt-clingers thwarting my every move required effort. The satisfaction, though, of going out with smart, word-nerdy friends and listening to wonderful writing was immeasurable compared to the alternative of staying home, tidying up, and surfing the forgettable web or watching forgettable TV. Yes, making time to read excellent books recommended was more difficult than flipping through magazines in the tub, but it fed my soul rather than just distracted my mind. And taking family trips and hosting family friends was more fulfilling than the ease of sticking to routine. This was The Good Stuff, and I need more of it.

It's easy for me to feel that the work of seeking The Good Stuff - the meaningful and rewarding activities and events in life - is not worth the effort. My foolish assumption since accidentally becoming a stay-at-home-Smarty has been that I'm too tired to do the work required of the good stuff, that the good stuff is too much work, that doing the hard stuff with a baby/a toddler/a toddler and a baby/two unruly kids/a work-absent Smartner/whatever excuse arises that day is impossible. And some days that was true.

But most days it plainly wasn't, and my overwhelm was often due to filling my days with decidedly O.K.-to-meaningless stuff. My planner from last year is absolutely filled with tasks and activities that I took no pleasure in doing and that, for the most part, could have been avoided entirely or performed by others. Why did I volunteer so much for things I had no passion for? Why did I work so hard on hobbies I only cared for in a childfree past? And all the lists of to-do's filled with unnecessary obligations and tasks? What a sad waste of time.

So, in 2016, I pledge to seek out and work toward More of the Good Stuff. More plays, more good movies, more exercise, more reading excellent books, more time with close friends. And to do this I'll have to edit out the Meh Stuff. Fewer chores, less implementing others' plans, fewer "shoulds," more "no's." More intentional pleasure. Less mindless distraction. More deep conversations. Less Facebook chatter. I'm going to fill my time and my life with quality, regardless of the energy required to do so. The Good Stuff is work well done for a life well lived.

And that is what I want for 2016. When I read through my old, battered, ink-filled planner this time next year, I want to high-five myself for having enriched my year with extraordinary pleasures and meaningful experiences. Here's to the new year, friends! Here's to editing out the mediocre and ushering in the wonderful!


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*Mostly. We actually have one celebration left, to be scheduled sometime in mid-January, but the big shebangs have successfully executed and enjoyed!