Every new year people make a list of resolutions. “This is the year I will lose 20 pounds!” or “This is the year I am going to give up smoking.” Those are goals worthy of pursuing, but I have decided that this year, I am not going to make a list of all my usuals. This is going to be my year for introspection. I am not going to overcome. Instead, I am going to surrender. I have some character flaws that could use improvement. After some time and consideration, I have decided to borrow a page from my Catholic friends and their approach to Lent.
Lent, of course, is the 40 days before Easter. Catechetical minister, Neela Kale says there are three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting, and almsgiving. These pillars are to remind us that we are distracted from God. “Giving up something for Lent is ultimately a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might “give up” a bad habit such as smoking as a way of positively turning our life back toward what God wants for us.”
That is what I am doing; I am giving up seven things in pursuit of a happier me. 2018 is my year to surrender rather than conquer. It’s not easy, I have built a lifetime of nurturing these habits. If I can be faithful to this I am certain after twelve months of surrender, I will see a significant impact on my life, and as a result, I will be happier.
After months of meticulous planning, last October, I decided to leave my job and move out to the Washington coast from Montana. I hooked up my tiny house on wheels, and away I went. When I landed in Washington, everything fell apart, including the land I was supposed to rent. It set in motion a crisis, and the control freak in me had a meltdown. For the first time in my life, I was not in control. I am always in control…or so I thought. I was an event planner for Pete’s sake; we always have contingency plans. But back up after back up plan fell apart. The lesson I am learning here is I am not in control, I never was. God is. I constantly have to give up control. One of my things is, I always ask my daughter what she wants for dinner. My daughter, strange as that might be to me, doesn’t care. I think I am polite in asking; she thinks otherwise. Repeating a behavior I know bothers her, isn’t polite, it’s rude.
This reminds me of another weakness. Moving has made me recognize how resistant I have become to change. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with the familiar. Right now I am in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people and it makes me uncomfortable. I used to consider myself to be an adventuresome person. I loved to travel and experience new things. However, over the years I have found myself doing less of what I love and more of the same ole, same ole. I have become less flexible as a result. I am not okay with that. I am giving up resistance to change and learning to be more open to the opportunities presented. For fifteen years I have resisted going to church because of my social anxiety. I dreaded the customary neighbor greeting at the beginning of the service. So much so, I stopped going to church altogether. Even though I still struggle with anxiety, I am showing up early and shaking the hands next to me. Sometimes change is good for me.
While I usually consider myself to be an active practitioner of gratitude, I do sometimes drop off into a rut of complaining, especially since my move. Lately, I have become a complainer. It’s hard to not complain in a time of chaos. After spending hours pouring over ads on Craigslist, the Classifieds, and local resources to find somewhere else to land, I have often thrown up my hands and spewed a litany of complaints. I don’t want to be that person. For years I have made it a habit of reminding myself of the things I am grateful for throughout the day. At the suggestion of a friend, I am going to write it down. I am going to write a gratitude list and post it near the bathroom mirror.
In the spirit of surrender, I am also giving up the need to always be right. I chalk this trait up the controller in me. I just want to be right, who doesn’t? The need to be right impairs my ability to listen. Instead of listening, internally I am shoring up my position. It also prevents me from considering another perspective. My need to be right is ego-driven, and my ego probably needs to take a back seat. I took a writing project to a friend for input. I am listening to his suggestions. Instead of arguing my case I am taking the corrections. Laying down my desire to always be right is painful.
Fifth on my list of things to surrender this year is judging others. I have always considered myself to be reasonably judgeless. I rarely comment on what someone else is wearing or doing. But on introspection, my judgment is not always external. I may not say it, but I have certainly thought it. In my head, I have judged people on the choices they have made. I have smiled and nodded while the internal me is squinting with my arms folded disapprovingly. I have started to remind myself that what someone else is doing or wearing is none of my business and mentally move along.
Sometimes I struggle with envy. I don’t want their things, I want their time and I want their money. I want the time to spend with my family and explore new places. I want the money to do it. Even though those things may be esteemable, to want them is still envy. It forces me to circle back to gratitude. I am grateful for a close relationship with my family. I am grateful for backyard BBQs and trips to each other’s houses during vacations. I will list those among the things I am grateful for on my gratitude list, the one I am keeping next to my bathroom mirror.
The last thing on my list is probably the hardest. I am surrendering my fear. Since moving there has been a lot more fear in my life. Fear of not having a place to park my tiny house. Fear of not being able to find work. Fear of not being able to connect with other people. Fear does not usually cause me paralysis, it causes me to become frantic. I become obsessed with action. So much so that I lose sleep. I’ll wake up 3 am. Instead of going back to sleep I’ll search the Classifieds. Instead of going to see my grandson 60 miles away, I pour over Craigslist looking for a spot to live (which I have already done that day). Seeing my grandson is one of the reasons I moved out to the Seattle area. This is not action, it is reaction. Knowing reaction intensifies my fear, I am taking constructive action instead. Now, I am setting aside an hour to look for a place to live each day, limiting my time to look for work and joining a Bible study to connect with some other ladies in the community. I believe God’s got this and I need to get out of the way.
One definition of insanity is knowingly repeating a self-destructive behavior. It’s time to break the cycle of these habits in my life. I expect minimizing these seven bad habits will have a profound effect on my life. Instead of charging into battle to conquer my resolutions, I am going to lay them down. Especially since what I have been doing, hasn’t been working.
What bad habits are you going to lay down this year? Let me know in the comments. Let’s support each other!