Advent is over; Christmas has come and gone. Christmastide is nearly through (I thought it ended tomorrow, but no. Tomorrow does happen to be my Bird’s 28th birthday! Happy bday, sister.) I guess Epiphany is the last day of Christmastide. I’m trying to learn (and slowly start to celebrate) more of the events of the Christian year. This is, after all, my heritage.
Speaking of the Christian year, I’ve already had a conversation with Daniel about Lent (weird only because Lent doesn’t start until February 17). This will be my 10th year of participating in the season, and each year it means something a bit different. I’ve written about it before, and I’ll probably write about it again. For those who may not know, Lent is so many layers and layers of meaning and tradition and can’t adequately be summed up or explained quickly. What most people know about Lent is that it involves giving something up, fasting from a luxury for the few weeks leading up to Easter. I think it’s the most beautiful time of the year.
I like the idea of giving up something; we so rarely do that, opt to go without. For some reason, even if I’ve given up something pretty hard (like that year I gave up buying books–practically impossible!), “fasting” during Lent has always been a complete joy. Maybe it’s because there’s the constant mindfulness of higher purpose, maybe it’s because it’s for such a short period of time, maybe it’s because of the hope of Easter.
So, the other day, Ashley and I were discussing New Year’s resolutions. I told her I don’t make resolutions because I don’t like to fail at them. As I kid I would pick resolutions like “I will stop biting my nails” or “I will stop cracking my back.” Dumb stuff that never stuck. My personal definition of “resolve” might look like an angry-eyed, frowning, fist-shaking “RESOLVE!!” I had this vision of drastic change that had to last all year or else it was crap and I was a failure. In one text Ashley changed my opinion of New Year’s Resolutions by pointing out that I was never going to succeed by creating negative goals. Damn it. I should’ve been able to figure that out by myself!
I spent over a year writing Individual Support Plans that centered on creating positive, meaningful goals to effect change toward a better life for each person on my caseload. Now I’m QAing those plans, checking to make sure the goals match up to a particular standard. If I apply the same standard to my own life, here’s sort of how my New Year’s resolutions are taking shape.
Step 1. Assess what is important to me. List things that I consider important, valuable, or meaningful in my life. These are the things that I want each day, the things that I cannot live without, or the things I feel help define me.
Step 2. List hopes or dreams for my life in the future: What do I want my home life to be like/Where and how do I want to live? What sort of work do I want to do/How would I like to spend my time? (Besides nibbling on my children or squishing their wonderfully soft bums.) How would I like to be involved with other people/What relationships or community would I like to build and be surrounded by?
Step 3. List changes I want to make in my current situation.
Step 4. Write goals based on the above 3 steps. Goals need to be SMART (oh, yes, an acronym). Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, Time-bound.
Step 5. List obstacles for each goal and shoot it with a water gun. No, really though, listing obstacles seems to help me.
So, basically, here’s how this might look:
1. It is important to me to stay healthy. Part of that means increasing my activity as I age to remain strong.
2. One of my dreams is to run a marathon.
(Number 3 doesn’t really apply in this case.)
4. Run a marathon. (Specifically, the Scenic City Trail Marathon. Time-bound: to be completed on May 22, 2010. This goal is measurable by my completion. I feel it is relevant/realistic and also attainable.)
5. The only obstacle I see is staring back at me in the mirror. Now it’s just a matter of mapping out my training.
If I come up with a few goals for myself following these steps, whether they’re one-shot deals or something I work toward over time, I think I can be more successful than in the past. All my nasty bad habits may be here to stay, or maybe I’ll grow out of chewing on my nails one day in the future.
I think I will leave the giving up of things to Lent, when I seem to find joy in it. And I think I will sit down and write out some goals for myself for the year.