Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Old Year's Resolution

Don't make a New year's resolution for 2012, instead, make a small change in the remaining days of 2011. The word resolve carries with it a lot of passion, definitiveness...and stress. A resolution is a failure waiting to happen. The zeal, the idea that THIS TIME I'm really gonna follow through is flawed logic. Less than a quarter of the people who resolve to change a behavior or reach a goal actually achieve results. But I'd bet that a good portion of those failed resolvers achieved some level of satisfaction. They  didn't manage their expectations, and rather than applauding the small steps, castigate themselves for not reaching the finish line.

If you're in the habit of eating a bag of barbecue potato chips after dinner each evening, or enjoy digging into a chocolate cheese muffin with your coffee at two every afternoon (me), is it realistic to expect to lose twenty pounds because you made up your mind that you would? But, it is likely that first week you adopted your resolution, you did lay off the chips, and that is a goal achievement. It's called baby steps. When I wrote my first novel, the question I was asked most was, when did you find the time to write a whole book? My answer was always the same, "I didn't." I sat down and wrote one sentence...then I kept at it.

And that's why your resolution this year should not wait for the grand gesture of January first, an awful and unimaginative date with built-in pitfalls of restlessness. Start tomorrow, or better yet, right now. No trumpets, no fanfare, no announcement--keep it to yourself. Don't think long range, don't wonder if you'll be an improved version of yourself come 2013. Put one foot in front of the other and remember to reward yourself if a week has gone by and you're still at it. Habits are called habits for a reason, and we all love to fall back on the familiar, nestling deeply into our comfort zone, waiting for inspiration or a life altering moment to shake us up.  

We're conditioned to respond to BIG moments, piggybacking important decisions or changes onto those moments. Wouldn't most women love a blowout marriage propsal, thirty foot high words, Will You MARRY ME--on the Jumbotron at Times Square? I'm pretty sure, four years into a marriage, most women would happily exchange that one grand moment for a steady stream of thoughtful, gentle gestures from her spouse. The large moment is a show off, an attention getter, think the wizard in the Wizard of Oz.. The BIG birthday, the significant holiday, the graduation, the yearly achievements, they all mark time while great stuff is happening in between and they're being ignored because they're, well, ordinary. Embrace the ordinary, take a tiny step toward the kind of person you want to be. Walk past the chocolate danish (I'm speaking to my weakness, here) and take the steps at the mall or office, rather than the escalator. Baby steps.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't Judge Me

It starts early. From the moment a baby looks up and decides if you're worthy of the smile, the judging begins. It continues in first grade with a glance askance at the girl sitting next you as you decide her new shoes aren't up to snuff.  The disdain on your face is witnessed by someone nearby who nods approvingly at you. And from that point you are off, floating by on your superior cloud, casting petty aspersions on those who fall short. It may be a raised eyebrow, an eyeroll...if you're still in high school. The gestures and barbs become more sophisticated in a perversely underhanded way that leaves the victim unsure if your laughter is genuine or if she was just made fun of to her face. The weak wither under the onslaught, skulking back in their ill-fitting clothing to their undesirable zip code. The strong fire back, perhaps launching the opening salvo at the next encounter, fully prepared to judge first. And the most confident ones are smart enough to never even enter the game. It's exhausting.

When I was newly married, I taught sixth grade at an exclusive girls school. I would take great pains with my wardrobe, trying not to repeat my outfits, and always making sure my shoes matched perfectly. "Why do you care so much?" my husband would ask, "They're only eleven."
"You don't understand, they're professional students. They can sniff weakness...any kind of weakness."
Even years later, my husband still quotes that line, fascinated by the fact that eleven year olds can be professionals at anything.

We're taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway. It's certainly easier to look at someone else and find them lacking than it is to turn the microscope on ourselves. And it's certainly easier to decide we know everything about someone before they've even opened their mouths. And now we've become a nation of judges with the ability to cast our vote on any talent show of our choice. It's a demeaning cycle and an incredible waste of energy. And pretty much we've all played judge and have felt the sting of judgment. Obviously I have something on my mind and I'm skirting the issue because well...I don't want to judge. I simply want to remind everyone to act kindly and give one another the benefit of the doubt. I know I surely would appreciate it.