It’s that time of year, folks! Specifically, the end of the year… when we take stock of the past 365 days and look ahead to the next 366 (leap year!). This is also the time when we make New Year’s Resolutions. Awesome resolutions (“I’m going to devote every second of free time volunteering for worthy causes!” “I’m going to lose 23.7 pounds and run a marathon!”) that you’re lucky to still be committed to in February.
Maybe you’re looking ahead to this annual tradition with a gleam in your eye and a spring in your step. Maybe like me, you’ve had too many of these things go bad so fast that you’re squinty-eyed, looking ahead with mistrust and concern. Maybe you’re too exhausted to remember that 2011 is almost over. It is. You’re welcome.
This year I’m making it simple. I started to make a list, earnestly and honestly examining myself for what I could sincerely attempt to improve upon. It was long and unattainable, as it always is. Upon further analyzation, I realized it really could be summed up into one, neat little resolution. So, my New Year’s Resolution looks something like this:
I don’t want to screw it up with specifics, so I’m leaving it at that. There’s something like 5,000 things I could be better at or about, and I figure if I leave my resolution open-ended, my odds of success increase exponentially.
Maybe I’ll be better at being patient. Or, maybe I’ll be better about eating healthy. Perhaps I’ll be better organized in my prayer life. Maybe a year from now, at the end of 2012, I’ll be so much better at everything that my 2013 New Year’s Resolution will simply be to maintain the awesomeness I achieved in 2012.
I like the idea of resolutions in theory. A new year, a new slate, a new chance for self-improvement. It’s just that… I really can’t think of a year I was successful… ever. Honestly. I’m really wracking my brain and coming up with nothing. There’s no “I resolved to wake up early every day and read my Bible and now that it’s December and I am still doing this, I can say I met my goal.” going on over here. I have a hard enough time during Lent, let’s just put it that way.
And you can’t help but wonder, “Why?”. If Resolutions worked out as they were supposed to, every year you would be a new and improved you. The good habits you made the year before would stay with you into infinity. Now, this isn’t a perfect world, so I don’t expect the ideal to be reached per se, but not even one year? Just one? Is it just me? Is this a scam?
It was this frustration that drove me to commit myself to a resolution that’s realistic. Someone with a lot of free time and a very poor grasp of science once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Oh yeah? I don’t think so, friend. I grant you that it sounds nicer than “Shoot for the moon. Although you should know that if you miss you’ll either die in space, smash into an asteroid, or incinerate in our atmosphere.” The stars? Stars aren’t the nicest places, anyway. Short on water I hear. And oxygen. But sure, sounds like a great time.
Anyway, back to resolutions that don’t pan out. All that failure? That was before. Now I’ve figured out the system… solved the puzzle, if you will. I have found a way to all but guarantee myself a good 2012. Wait a minute… Did I just make a better resolution than I ever have before? Am I already better at something?!
Bingo. My resolution is already off to a fantastic start, and it’s not even 2012 yet. I can’t wait to see all the other stuff I’m going to be better at! If life were golf, I’m walking up to the first hole 3 sub-par. If life were football, I just sacked life’s quarterback in his own endzone and got myself a safety. You get the idea.
I know what you’re thinking right now. “Wait a minute… I thought this was a blog for mothers whose three-year-olds are discerning the priesthood, and they’re paying you to write this crap? What does this have to do with Catholicism?”
I understand your concern, pious reader, and it will not shock you to learn that they’re not paying me. They can’t afford me. I demand Bailey’s and coffee as compensation, and that starts to add up.
Additionally, I’m not really sure why they let me write here, either. I think they either feel sorry for me, or there’s some obscure indulgence attached to putting up with convert shenanigans. For what it’s worth, there’s always the hope that my writing will also “be better” in 2012. Pray for me.
Finally, it has nothing to do with Catholicism. I mean… I could make something up about how resolutions and the new year are symbolic of sacramental grace and firmly resolving to go and sin no more… but I think we both know that’s reaching.
Still, if you’ve made it this far, I wish you all a very happy Christmas season with your family, and for all of us- I wish that 2012 will be a year that we may all truly be better.
What’s your resolution this year?
3 Replies to “Be Better”
It’s all in the details.
Mine is to find Balance (I’ll be reading up on the Rule of St. Benedict – a favorite of mine) and to be better. Life got SO FAR OUT OF BALANCE in 2011 that any improvement will be a major improvement. It’s going to take baby steps and tenacity, but I have faith that I can do it.
I think! 😉
The trick to really making changes and growing in the spiritaul life, according to St. Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual exercises, is to choose something small and work at it — continuously monitoring yourself twice a day.
Suppose you have a problem with detraction. You make a resolution not to commit detraction against anyone from the time you get up until lunch. Then at lunch you examine yourself and see how you did. If you committed detraction three times you write it down and then make the resolution again not to commit any sins of detraction for the rest of the day. At bedtime you again check how you did keeping a little notebook and marking down every time you commit detraction. Every day you work on the same sin or fault keeping track of your progress. You may work on it for a month, or two, or three months. But gradually if you are sincerely struggling to overcome that sin, you will see improvement. Then you can move on to another sin or fault.
I think St. Ignatius would say that “Be better” and “Be more balanced” are too general and almost impossible to measure. Real spiritual growth requires baby steps taken to overcome one thing at a time. A priest I know rexommended wearing a loose rubber band around the wrist. Whenever you committed the sin or fault you were trying to overcome you snapped yourself with the band. That is one certain way to remind yourself that what you did was wrong and hurts your soul a lot more than the rubber band hurts your wrist.
We certainly all need to be better, but a more specific resolution aimed at our chief fault — whether it’s gossip, lying, gluttony, etc. — will get us to the goal quicker than something general. I think that’s why most people don’t keep their resolutions.
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