January 3, 2015

Here's your clean slate, folks. What are you going to write on it this year?

Happy New Year, friends! Welcome 2015!

I love the New Year. (New Year's Eve...not so much. But New Year's Day? The month of January? The month of fresh starts, of clean slates, of new beginnings? Love!) At the beginning of every year I give a lot of thought to what worked and what didn't in the last year...what I liked and what I didn't like...what I want to change, as well as what goals I want to accomplish. There's a lot of trying to kick old habits and start new ones, but I also try to set some real, measurable goals for myself.

I tried not to wait until the New Year to start my resolutions. I thought that this was a good plan. Because I think, when you've allowed yourself to get so far off track that you can't even see the track anymore, you need to start hiking toward the track sooner rather than later. Why wait for an arbitrary date to get that ball rolling, I thought.

As it turns out, old habits die hard. Which means that the really quite terrible habits that I had gotten into over the last month or so did not want to go gently into that good night. And, as it turns out, my mental conditioning toward New Year's Day as a refresh button was a little stronger than I had anticipated. So, instead of actually starting my resolutions around December 21st when I first had the urge or the 27th when all of our holiday guests had left, I am following more of a rolling introduction of new habits and beginning of work toward new goals over the course of the month of January.

Which is okay too.

I feel like I'm going into a tough battle this year. It's January 2nd and I'm staring at my brainstormed list of changes and goals, knowing that they are all things I want in my life. Knowing that they are all things that will make me feel good physically and mentally and emotionally, and will bring greater joy into my daily life. Knowing that I feel like crap right now because of the bad habits that have taken hold. And yet...and yet...sigh. The way I feel at the thought of actually implementing these new habits begs the question: Why are bad habits so much harder to break than good habits?

In November I had the awesome habit of writing every day. In the month of December, I did not write a word. All summer long I walked our dog every night after the kids went to bed. Once the weather turned and the temps dropped and sunset came earlier, well, let's just say that both the dog and I are worse off for the loss of our nightly walks. At one point last year I was getting up early three mornings a week to run before my husband left for work. Um, yeah, not doing that anymore. All of these awesome habits so easily fallen by the wayside.

But the habits of snacking at night and randomly grabbing candy or a cookie during the day? The habit of sleeping until the kids wake me up and pull me out of bed? The habit of staying up too late? The habits of not walking the dog and not working out and not writing? So. Hard. To. Break.

But I will. Some of them I broke yesterday. Some of them I will break today. Some of them I will break tomorrow and next week and the week after and so on and so on throughout the month of January until I have a whole new set of wonderful habits, and all of those nasty ones have fallen away.

And this time I'm getting the kids and my husband involved in some of these. Yesterday afternoon we all took the dog for a walk. Now, this walk was a shorter, slower walk than I was doing with him all summer. But it was still a walk. And after the walk the kids and I did sun salutations. My daughter has declared that everyday after lunch we will all walk the dog and do yoga. Awesome new habit, sweetheart! I love it!

I have ideas for what some of the other new habits will be...like starting a new morning routine that gets me up before the kids...and getting to bed earlier so I can get more sleep; like reestablishing a daily writing routine, getting back to my 10,000 steps a day, and adding in a new workout regiment; like making sure to take a probiotic every day, getting more fruit in my diet and getting back into the habit of afternoon quiet-time for me and the kids.

All of these things are habits I believe will make me feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. And they are things that I believe will help me get back on the track from which I have wandered oh so far. Back to feeling good and calm and contented. What is it about the holidays that gets me so off track? It's like there's some unwritten rule that says that at holiday time I will throw my strong routine and good habits and all common sense out the window. I will stop taking good care of myself and instead I will become a crazed, stressed, overwhelmed, overindulging mass of holiday "cheer."

Well, I fell for it yet again this year, my friends...hook, line and sinker. So here I sit on January 2nd feeling not so great. But I walked the dog yesterday and I'll do it again today. And my daughter is next to me as I type this telling me it's time to go change out of our pjs so we can workout together. And, well, the fact that I am hitting the keys on my laptop and putting these words on the screen means I'm writing again.

Step one. Step two. Step three. It's baby steps, people. Baby steps. But as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other I'll get back to my happy place in no time.

And next year, I'm going to try to actually, truly enjoy the holidays...I'm talking real enjoyment, not the picture of enjoyment that somebody sold me once upon a time. Not the overindulging, hyped up, crazed, crazy, picture perfect on the surface but chaos behind the scenes, stressed out, over spent media hype. So I guess one of my resolutions should be to come up with a better approach to the holidays!

In addition to all my new habit resolutions, I also have set some new, measurable goals for 2015. I have goals in lots of different areas that are important to me, like reading, writing, parenting, health, and creativity. And they include things like trying at least one new thing every month, running another family 5k this year, and reading at least 15 books off of my to-read bookshelf (as opposed to constantly impulse grabbing books from the library that catch my fancy that day), as well as reading 12 middle grade and young adult books. And, the biggest goal, to finish, edit and self-publish for my daughter the three middle grade chapter books I wrote during 2014 NaNoWriMo (I also have the goal to participate in and win again 2015 NaNoWriMo).

Now, one final thought for this New Year's post. I've mentioned that I have new habit resolutions and goal around health and fitness. And I do...big ones! But, for the first time in my life, these goals mean something different to me. As many of you may know, I struggled a bit with turning 40 last year. I have struggled with the physical changes that have come with aging, and I have struggled with some weight gain in the last year and a half. This stuff has weighed on my psyche more than ever before in my adult life and I really haven't liked it.

Well, something happened recently for me. I don't know how or why. I am not sure what prompted the change exactly (though it could be linked to binge watching episodes of Oprah's Super Soul Sunday), but I know it has happened and I hope the change is permanent. For the first time, none of my resolutions are focused on losing weight or inches or dropping pant sizes. None of them are focused at all on how I look. They are focused on how I feel. I resolve to do the things that will help me feel great in 2015. I want to feel good, be healthy, have energy, be calm and contented, and be a good role model for my kids. That is what I'm focused on. Let the other crap fall where it may.

I have checked and rechecked in with myself to see if this is really, truly my new attitude or if it's just a projection of the attitude I want to have (as it has been in the past). And I'll tell you something, it really feels real. So maybe there's something good to this whole 40 thing.

Until next time, my friends, enjoy the fresh start. Find some good new habits, set some goals for 2015, and go get 'em!

Peace and joy be with you in this glorious new year.

(Update: My daughter and I did do that workout. And it felt great. And it was fun. And I am a teeny bit sore today. But guess what? We picked out yet another workout dvd today and it all again. :-) Oh, and we made it out for our family dog walk again too.)

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