I wasn’t going to make a resolution this year. In the past I’d arrived at New Year’s Eve parties locked and loaded with a few areas of self-improvement to recite when asked.
“Swear less, drink more water, be less terrible…”
You know, the usual.
This year I hadn’t given the topic any consideration until I found myself sitting cross-legged in a fort hours before the NYE party — the fort being my husband’s insulated fish house. After a long day of spearing, he likes to set it up in the middle of the living room to dry.
That’s the reason he claims, anyway.
It’s not uncommon to find him noshing licorice in there or to hear him chatting on the phone. Once I caught him just standing in there smiling at me through the plastic windows.
He tries to lure me in with candy. Occasionally it works.
NYE I decided to serve him lunch in the fish house. These are the things you do if you want a happy marriage. You hang out in your hubby’s fort and eat snacks.
As I sat on the floor with the fried chicken and gravy sandwich I concocted from leftovers, I gazed around the fabric walls thinking, “So I guess this is the bar for 2019 to beat? Huh.”
I took a bite and decided there would be no resolution this year. The last thing a recovering perfectionist needs is another pie in the sky goal to obsess over.
Just ask anyone who’s shown up at my house unannounced. They’ll tell you about the freakish type A side that comes barreling out when I don’t have everything arranged just so.
I rush around fluffing couch pillows, lighting candles and arranging cheese trays. I might also disappear to run a comb through my hair so I look more the part of gracious hostess and less like the troll that wants to keep you off my bridge.
I like surprises. Surprise guests, no so much.
For 2018, my family did New Year’s right. Rather than make resolutions, we adopted a group mantra: “Treat yo’self.”
New shoes? Treat yo’self.
Second slice of cake? Treat yo’self.
Lunch in a fort? Treat. Yo. Self.
You get the idea.
At this year’s NYE shindig, we all recounted the ways we’d lived that mantra throughout 2018, avoiding details of the collateral damage on our bank accounts. We focused on the fun.
That’s the American way.
Then something clicked as we went around the table asking about resolutions for 2019. As my turn arrived I blurted “I’m going to learn to love myself.”
Before you reach for the barf bag know that I, too, roll my eyes at inspirational quotes and fluffy rhetoric. That’s not what this was.
All NYE day I’d been feeling off and didn’t know why. In the fort I recalled an experiment from over the summer when I started writing out the random thoughts that occured when I wasn’t paying attention. I’d been feeling down and wanted to know how I was talking to myself.
Turns out I was engaging in some pretty hideous self-talk.
While getting ready or cooking supper, there was a broken record playing about how meaningless the days felt, how awful I looked or how I’d never measure up to this standard or that.
It got worse from there.
That surprise was less savory than undeclared house guests or leftover sandwiches.
The whisperings didn’t line up with my worldview at all — so where were they coming from?
I realized before the NYE party that somehow that old soundtrack had started playing again. It suddenly made sense why I was off my game.
You know, that and the fact the sun goes on vacation for the entire winter.
In his book “The Way to Love,” writer, psychotherapist and Indian Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello wrote: “I leave you free to be yourself: to think your thoughts, indulge your tastes, follow your inclinations, behave in ways that you decide are to your liking.”
It’s a beautiful guideline offering one of the most profound approaches to loving another human I’ve ever come across. Every time I read it, I’m reminded to cut the mental leashes I have on others and to appreciate their wild, unreforming nature.
Even when they’re erecting a fort that takes up most of my living room and eating licorice in it.
To embrace anyone fully requires a hands-off approach. It’s allowing them the freedom to act out the truth of who they are at their core without punishing them for it when it doesn’t conform to our agenda.
And maybe we have to start by allowing ourselves that same freedom.
So that’s what I’m trying to put into practice in 2019. I’m leaving me free to be myself, think my thoughts, indulge my tastes, follow my inclinations and behave in ways I decide are to my liking.
In other words: Treat yo’self, version 2.0: infinity.