It’s that time of year when people often make a New Year’s resolution in hopes of becoming a better version of themselves. Certainly, there’s no shortage of advice for how to do that, but I’ve never found the idea of setting resolutions to be inspiring. I say before you look forward, stop, take a moment to look back and appreciate what you accomplished this year.
Following my own advice, I sat down to put together a list of my 2023 achievements. Unfortunately for me, there were few obvious triumphs. I didn’t publish many articles, didn’t finish the outline of the book I’m planning, and had to cancel some travel plans. The contrast between what I accomplished and what I thought I should have accomplished discouraged me. I don’t like the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions specifically because it focuses more on fixing the person you are instead of finding kindness for the human you happen to be, yet here I was feeling dejected.
The most important thing my first meditation teacher ever taught me had nothing to do with breathing or focus or stillness. It was about noticing when I’m being hard on myself, inserting a beat and treating myself the same as I would treat my best friend.
That, I know how to do. My best friend is smart, accomplished and can achieve more in one day than most people get done in a month. To say she’s not easily overwhelmed is a huge understatement. She can juggle a 60-hour work week with a couple of family crises thrown in without ever breaking a sweat. Anytime you ask her to do anything, the answer is always—of course, it’s no big deal.
Having 15 people over for dinner tonight? No big deal. I have a lasagna in the freezer and I’ll use paper plates. Shuttle a friend to and from an appointment because the friend has a broken arm and can’t drive? No big deal. It should only take me 40 minutes, an hour tops. Stay late at work and help facilitate an event? No biggie, I’m just registering attendees at the door.
As soon as she pulls out the no-big-deal qualifier, I step in and insist on giving her the respect she is not giving to herself. Making something seem effortless is not the same thing as it being effortless. To diminish the accomplishment of having an impromptu dinner party for fifteen people by saying “but I’m using paper plates” is absurd and does not honor the energy and logistical skill required to pull off the feat of bringing a group of people together. Paper plates do not get your office work done or your doctor appointments scheduled. Even the simple task of stopping at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things takes away time from some other task on your prolific to-do list.
Break down any task into its component parts and it becomes more significant. All those invisible things you do, the tasks no one notices, are not nothing.
So, back to my list I go. This time I show myself some respect for arranging the family event unveiling my mother’s headstone where we all gathered and recounted stories about her. There were the two cross-country trips to accompany and support my husband as he shepherded his brother through a hospitalization for brain surgery and then again for the difficult week of his brother’s last days. Not resume-worthy material, but still accomplishments. A flurry of writing, explaining, and advocating in a post-October 7 world consumed much brain and heart energy, and I even managed to sway a few minds. 2023 was the year I launched a new program to promote mindfulness in organizations and this newsletter marks the beginning of my second year of publishing a monthly newsletter. These are the things my best friend would point out to me.
So perhaps 2024 will be the year I learn to pay myself more respect and to honor some of the less visible accomplishments in the same way I’d do for my best friend.
Oh- and I’m gonna drink more water.