Happy New Year to all of my readers! Please disregard the nagging nature of this headline. It’s directed not to you but to me. But if you have the bad habit of trying to get others to break the bad habits that you share with them (maybe unbeknownst even to you!) then please read on ☺
Yesterday we packed up all the Christmas stuff, stripped the tree of ornaments and dragged it outside, leaving a path of needles along the way. The house looks bare now, with the garland off the mantels and the Christmas village and electric candles packed away. All of the photos and knick-knacks that previously filled end tables and shelves had been put away to make way for the holiday décor; now I have to remember where I stashed them and contemplate which ones I want to put back.
New Years is traditionally a time to examine our longstanding habits and attitudes and decide which ones are worth keeping. The holidays, with their emphasis on family, kind deeds and merriment, are a welcome distraction from the work of introspection. But the now-empty mantels and shelves are a reminder that I can make a change if I really want it. The pictures that stood there throughout all of 2011 (indeed, I don’t think I’ve moved them since 2007) don’t have to go back to the same place. Lightning won’t strike if I move them to another place, update them or keep them in the closet.
So which habits and attitudes would I like to retire? I’ll tell you: the very same ones that I lecture my loved ones about all the time. Here are a few lectures that I have given others but should play back to myself.
“Make things happen for yourself.”
My daughter Rachel moved to California without knowing anyone, found roommates and a fulltime job, then another better job. And here I sit, worrying about whether I will ever write professionally again because the holidays were a slow time. Time to start brainstorming for ideas and to stop fretting about where I filed my Mojo.
“Get all your hardest work done when you are most alert.”
John has awoken at 5:45 a.m. to tackle the 7th grade algebra problems leftover from the night before. So why was I playing Words With Friends at 7 a.m. today?
“Eat something healthy if you want a snack, especially in late afternoon.”
It’s 4 p.m. Where are the pretzel nuggets?
“You’re incredibly smart, but try to remember to listen.”
Listening is integral to being a good spouse, parent or friend. Why can’t I do it that well? I sometimes pressure myself to dispense advice, when really just lending a friendly ear is enough.
“Get out of your comfort zone sometimes.”
This is especially hard for me since I like things to be somewhat predictable and tend to attempt something only if I am reasonably sure it plays to my strengths.
“Get some exercise outside and you’ll feel better.”
But only if the temperature is between 40 and 75.
“Be a friend and you will have friends.”
How many times do we sense that a friend needs companionship – which they often don’t ask for – and we are too busy or preoccupied to offer it?
“Believe in yourself.”
Sometimes following your inner voice is the most challenging task of all. Technology makes it easier to be confused by a growing barrage of updates, tweets and alerts from people who spend a lot of time making themselves look brilliant, witty and successful, even when they are not. You DO measure up.
One more resolution: be willing to make a big mess in order to do something creative! I tend to be anal in the kitchen, preparing everything in advance so that I can look effortlessly in control when my guests arrive. But on New Years Day our friend Linda brought the fixings for some deliciously messy “lumpia” (Indonesian egg rolls) to our home. We rolled them, laughing heartily at how bad my lumpia looked compared to others. Then we deep fried them and enjoyed them with Indonesian dressing. Worth every grease spatter!