I’ve always been one of those people who makes new year’s resolutions. I know, I know, you don’t, and most people stop making them after a lifetime of failing at keeping the ones they’ve made. But for me, there’s something about a fresh new year that fills me with hope and energy and the motivation to change things in my life that aren’t working for me.
From the word “resolutions” is the root word “to resolve”. Dictionary.com defines resolve as “1. to find a solution to a problem and 2. to decide firmly on a course of action.” Since resolutions tend to be little more than empty promises we make to ourselves, I take the definition to heart. But before a solution can be found and before a course of action can take place, the first thing that has to happen is a long hard look at oneself.
One year, I made a resolution to answer my phone every single time it rang. It’s crazy to think that the girl who had to have her own pink Princess phone at age 16 and got yelled at by her mother to “get off the phone!” more times than I can count hates to talk on the phone now. I had a really bad habit of looking at my phone and thinking, “UGH I’ll call them back later” and of course, never call them back. Unless it was a family member or my BFF, I would always let it go to voicemail. Or, in the olden days, the answering machine. And I would say now, years later, it’s still a challenge to me to just answer and deal with the person I don’t want to talk to. It gets it over with instead of churning inside me all day that “I need to call X back.” Procrastination is a whole other subject.
I’m also a chronically late person. I absolutely abhor this about myself, and for many years, felt completely unable to change until I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD last year. Suddenly, my whole life made sense to me. I realized that my concept of time really WAS different from most people’s. I joke that if I say I’ll be ready to go somewhere in 10 minutes, I’ll add, “ten minutes in football time” which gives me an out. Being on time is one of the hardest things for me to do, and it’s something I struggle with daily. I can get so wrapped up in an activity and forget completely anything else going on around me. I never once forgot to pick up my kids from school, but just ask them, and they’ll tell you how more than once they were the last kid still standing waiting for their parent to pick them up. Humbling.
There’s a misconception that resolutions are like watering your houseplants–tend to them once or twice a week and you’re golden. Au contrare my friend, resolutions are more like walking around with a paper cut that never heals. It’s constantly there to annoy you and remind you you’re a bit of a wanker.
I think through my resolution thoroughly, and I don’t always start exactly on January 1st. I get myself mentally prepared before I make any physical changes.
In trying to be on time, I walked myself mentally through how that may feel. Last year I let everyone know my resolution was to stop being late. I apologized to those who were affected most by it, and let them know I was going to take responsibility and accountability for my lateness. I was shocked to see how much it affected my loved ones. And here I thought it was a victim-less crime to show up 5-10 minutes late all the time.
I asked myself tough questions. “How does being late affect the people around me? Do they even notice??” (Um, yep). “How would being on time be an improvement for ME?” And “how does being late affect my life negatively?” And then further, “WHY am I always late?” and “What steps do I need to take to be on time?” And lastly, “What does being on time feel like?” vs. being late? These are hard questions that all had to get answered in my head before I could even embark on making any physical changes.
I didn’t realize when I vowed to “stop being late” that I honestly did not know when I was really supposed to show up!!I went too far at first and was chronically early. That was a mistake! Because it gave credence to my lateness. If I showed up to tennis early, the courts were still being played on, and I just sat there and waited for them to finish. To me, this was a colossal waste of time. I hated feeling self-conscious getting to a restaurant 15 minutes early and sitting alone. I couldn’t see any benefit to being early.
But I learned that there are degrees of “on-time-ness.” I watched the people around me for clues. It seemed that a five-minute window of earliness is most acceptable. Any earlier than that, well, you’re just a goody-two-shoes. Same with the five-minute late window. Any later than that, you’re just an inconsiderate louse.
I wish I could say I’m “fixed” and I’m now never late. Far from the truth, I’m disappointed to admit. It’s an on-going challenge. I would say that at least I’m more aware of why I behave the way I do, even if I have difficulty changing. I understand how my ADHD affects my thinking and actions and overcoming those mental challenges are difficult but I won’t allow myself to make excuses. If you are one of those people whose been irritated with me for showing up late, please know I’ve already beaten myself up over it.
The thing is, people do what works. Most of the time I’m only a few minutes late, and nobody really notices(I tell myself). There’s a payoff with everything that we do. So, how does being late benefit me?? THAT’S a hard one to answer. Since I honestly can’t find a single reason that being late is a good thing, why do I keep doing it??? Dr. Phil says people that are late are rude and attention-seeking, as in, “the party don’t start til I get there.” Could that really be ME?? That’s a hard truth to face. Am I acting out subconsciously?? ME???!! RUDE??!!! BRING ME A KNIFE WITH WHICH TO STAB MYSELF IN THE EYE!!!!
And that’s what keeping resolutions feels like. It’s facing the darkest parts of ourselves, the unlovable parts of ourselves. It’s seeing ourselves from a distance, and not liking what we see, and having the courage to admit our less-than attractive qualities out loud, and not just saying, “Love me or leave me, it’s just who I am” but saying, “Yikes, you love me despite this annoying thing about me?? Thank you! I will work to change it!!!!”
I’ve seen people laugh at hearing someone say they’ve made resolutions. I beg you to have compassion, and instead offer your encouragement. We all know how it feels to fail at something, which is why most of you scoff at making resolutions. It’s a fact that gyms fill up in January and empty out sooner than June. We’ve all been there, so don’t kick a friend when he’s down. Applaud him when he’s successful and hold his hand when he falls. It takes courage and hard work to change. Keeping resolutions is two-steps forward, three-steps back much of the time until the new habits settle in.
I know you’re dying to know what my resolution for 2017 is, but I haven’t nailed it down yet. I’m trying to distinguish goals from resolutions, because to me they’re very different. I have a goal to write more often and actually finish a book, but to me, that’s not a resolution. Also, I have a continuous goal to “get more organized” but to call it a resolution is inaccurate. I delve into my character, who I am vs. who I want to be, and that’s where I find it.
I’ll get back to you on that.