A friend posted on Facebook that her only resolution was to write “2016” instead of “2015” this year. I had to laugh at that. Personally, I am a ball of contradictions when it comes to the new year. I write about picking just one word for my entire year, while secretly scribbling pages of things I want to change about myself, my family, my home and my life. I join the masses and sign up for a new gym membership – but ignore my friend’s text message about meeting her to work out.
This post-holiday season can be complicated. We’re coming down off the high of celebrations and acts of kindness and year-end donations and, sometimes, more family time than is good for our sanity. And we’re walking smack into the days of new! and better! faster! more! and I’m going to do it right and make it work this year!
It’s all a little exhausting.
And, if I let it, it’s a little discouraging, too, because after the lights go out and the leftovers are eaten and the tinsel gets packed away for next year, the remaining mix of gratitude and generosity, expectations and obligations, ambition and determination can create a heart full of discontent.
January can be rough. But it doesn’t have to be.
This year, before I start getting up early and contributing to a 401K and making freezer meals and DOING ALL THE THINGS that will make 2016 better than 2015, I’m hitting pause and asking one question:
What will I do if nothing changes?
Because sometimes our best intentions aren’t as strong as our worst habits.
And sometimes our hardest work goes unrewarded or unnoticed.
Our list of resolutions can’t prevent cancer or rejection letters or accidents or layoffs.
And even when we check all the boxes and do all the things, we might find those goals and dreams don’t make us as happy as we anticipated.
Life is unpredictable and it’s impossible to know what the next twelve months will bring. But the one thing I can control, the one thing I can count on, is how I respond no matter how many dreams come true – or not; how many goals I meet – or don’t; how many resolutions I keep – or break.
My friend and co-author Sara wrote about the tension between hoping for the best and being thankful for the reality. Though she suffered from an autoimmune disease that caused incredible pain and left her housebound, Sara continued to face each day with positivity and gratitude. She didn’t give up on life. She made plans but held them loosely, and she made a commitment to choose joy. She didn’t wait for it to come to her – or tell herself that she’d be happy when X,Y, or Z happened. She determined to be thankful and joyful, no matter what life brought her.
It’s not an easy outlook for me to maintain – and I’m not dealing with chronic pain or disease! But as I’ve read Sara’s words over and over, I’ve learned that choosing joy makes all the difference when the unexpected happens, when disappointments come, when dreams are deferred or even broken. I’ve learned that it helps me keep perspective when I compare my everyday to New Year’s Day, when the reality of this year doesn’t exactly line up with the resolutions I made.
So, as I face another January, another post-holiday season, I’m trying to choose joy the way my friend has taught me. I’m trying to love what I have more than I yearn for what I lack, and be grateful for the good things right in front of me, on both the good days and the bad.
I think our expectations of what we want life to be often overshadow the good things that are already in front of us – and that’s when we miss the silver lining … When my focus is on living the best life I can with what I have in that moment, I always find my silver lining. I’m not expecting the gold I used to have. I’m not looking for the gold that I think I should have. I’m looking at the silver right in front of me and saying thank you every day.
Now, let me just say that sometimes disappointment weighs heavy on me. But in my disappointment, the same rules still apply: I do the best I can with what I have. Is it usually all I want to do? No. But in the end, focusing on the silver lining is what gets me through the day.
I have to remind myself sometimes, but the more I acknowledge that silver lining, the less I notice the gold that’s out of reach.
I’ve stopped trying to adapt between what I want and what I have – and I’ve learned instead to want what I’m given. It doesn’t make the journey easy. But it does make it worthwhile.
(Excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts)
As you make plans and set goals for this year, will you commit to choosing joy no matter what 2016 brings?