Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Way the Whole Thing Ends: 2011’s Resolutions

A Whispering Sunset

If there’s any music that will remind me of 2011, it’s Gillian Welch’s, so I have stolen a song title for my post.  Good thing I didn’t resolve to stop stealing things from other artists in 2011!

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about 2011, now bundled into a neat package of past tense.  A year is, in some ways, a long time.  A lot can happen in a year.  A baby can go from fragile newborn to sturdy walker in a year’s time.  A person can move away, fall in love, get married, get divorced, run a marathon—all in a year’s time.  I did none of these things in 2011, though I did run a half-marathon, and that’s exciting, right?  In a sense, 2011 was an uneventful year for me.  Nothing really BIG happened.  And yet, it was a year filled with drama, mostly work-related.  It was a year in which I witnessed the unfairness of mortality when cancer snatched an 8-year-old’s life.  It was a year of uncomfortable feelings: selfishness, frustration, shame.  And yet it was also a year of striving and achieving, of turning 30 and feeling very optimistic about everything.

I feel happy that I survived 2011.  Not all of us did.

2011 was also the year that I started to think more deeply about my ambitions.  I actually made resolutions!  I never make resolutions!  I was really inspired by some of the exemplary women I found on the interwebs, Chrissy and Raquelita in particular.  (They’ve already posted their 2012 goals, while I’m still putzing around with mine.  Check out Chrissy’s here and Raquelita’s over here.)  I started to wonder if, in spite of the fact that I am already a happy person, I could be even happier if I declared myself in pursuit of some ambitious goals.  It’s hard to gauge something like happiness in any sort of quantifiable way, but I’d say I was definitely rewarded by my goal-setting.  Maybe that’s the point: we get out of life what we put into it.

Let’s discuss 2011’s three goals, shall we?

* My first resolution was to cook from more diverse sources: my cookbooks and recipes from friends.  I definitely did this, though I didn’t always share the results on the old blog here.  I wish I had cooked more recipes from friends, though I did make Amanda’s peanut butter bars, which are crazy good.  A few of my favorite recipes from cookbooks include this rice pudding, this black bean soup, and this roasted eggplant recipe.  (That’s another thing I learned this year: I do like eggplant!  Really, I do!  Especially with cheese and tomatoes!)

Verdict: Resolution achieved! 

* My second resolution was to cultivate a more intellectual reading practice.  I even made a 2011 Reading List, which inspired me whenever I didn’t know what to read next.  I read three books from my list, started and quit a fourth, and read a basketful of books that crossed my path serendipitously.  I’ll be taking my reading list with me into 2012 since I only read about a third of the books on my list.  But I am very satisfied that I read a lot of interesting books in 2011, and at the end of the year, I got totally hooked on going to bed early so I could read.

Verdict: Resolution achieved!

* My third and final resolution, I must admit, was a failure.  But this year did teach me a thing or two about it, so I think there is some redeeming value here after all.  I had resolved to begin letting go of my chronic anxiety, which is primarily related to money and career.  This year was a hard one for me at work, which naturally made me even more anxious.  But I also found that when I was too busy to feel anxious, the anxiety disappeared.  I can’t always create the conditions whereby my anxiety lessens, but I do think that having a solid game plan helps.  I like meeting my deadlines, even if they are self-imposed.

According to my resolution, I was supposed to seek out external solutions for my anxiety, such as self-help books and yoga.  While I did plenty of yoga, I did no research on solutions for chronic anxiety, probably because I was too busy working.  That’s a lame excuse, I know, but it’s the truth.  What I realize now is that I want my anxiety to just go away.  I don’t want to have to work with it, or deal with it, or pander to it.  I just want it gone.  And that, I am afraid, is asking for a magical solution.  I’ll probably always have some anxiety—it’s just the way I’m hardwired.  But I do believe that healthy habits help to minimize it, and I’m going to do my best not to let it make decisions about my life for me.

Verdict: Resolution failed but not in vain.

And now, it’s time to consider what 2012 could be…did you make resolutions for 2012, dear reader?  If you did, feel free to share them or a link in the comments!

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