By Tiffany Monhollon
It’s been a whirlwind of a year, to say the least. Looking back, I am so thankful for the journey and all I’ve learned. About relationships. About letting go. About starting something. About blogging. About networking. About creativity. About priorities. About myself. About life.
I’ll be honest. I’m a sentimental gal. I love milestones, the bittersweet mix of all that was and all that could have been.
That’s probably why in my start-and-stop affair with pen-to-paper journaling, one thing you will see without fail is an entry on the last or first day of every year since I started writing. Or the night before – or after – a big event.
So this morning, I sat down and decided to make the most of my week off (I took the time off to finish my thesis proposal, but hey, a girl’s gotta reflect), and pulled out my most recent journal. I untied the blue leather strap and fingered the gold filigree on the cover, thinking. I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize that the last entry I’d made was the night before my wedding. I won’t tell you what it said, because some things a sentimental gal wants to treasure just to herself, but I will tell you what it meant to me now.
Part of it was realizing that every day, not just the milestone days, are worth treasuring.
To me this means a lot of things. I need to slow down more. To quit some things. To focus. I thought of all the moments of the first nine months of my marriage, days, revelations, memories, events, feelings I failed to record, and a part of me fell apart over it, thinking of how those things might now be lost.
And then I thought deeper. I realized that also, a lesson I need to learn is that to truly treasure each day, I need to stop being so hard on myself.
Here is what is hard about being a writer: sometimes, you depend upon it too much as a way to understand and evaluate and enjoy the world. Maybe this is the case with any person and their passion. I think of my husband, who is an artist, and the roller coaster ride his affair with art and creativity and creation is. And I think that probably I am not too far off base with this theory. But that is another post for another time.
What I am trying to say is this: In my pursuit of treasuring each day, when I don’t write, or journal, or blog, or create, or contribute, I am always, without fail, hard on myself about it. Which is ironic, if you think about it, because when I am not writing, I am usually busy doing things worth remembering, recording, and sharing.
The Problem with Resolutions
Which leads me to this day, and the calendar, and the long, long list of things that I’d hoped to accomplish this year and the long, hard journey I’m going through of letting the guilt of that all go.
This is why I hate resolutions. Because instead of action or change or commitment, what they breed is guilt. And procrastination. Why? Because people are inherently impulsive. Psycologists say it’s like this: we procrastinate on resolutions like losing weight because it’s easier on our brains to think about doing it (or starting it) tomorrow. The problem is, when tomorrow gets here, we still want to procrastinate, and the cycle continues until you’re looking back on a year and a resolution filled with guilt instead of satisfaction or progress.
What’s interesting is what experts say the root of the problem is: optimism.
That’s right. We’re too optimistic about what we will do in the future, so we avoid starting the work it will take to accomplish our goals right now.
Tell me about it. Every day this week I’ve been optimistic about getting up at my normal work time and sitting down to summarize my stack of thesis research. And every day, I end up having to go to my husband’s office mid-day so I can focus and get things done.
There’s a Solution
So here is what I want to say, on this last day of 2008.
This year, let’s forget resolutions. In fact, let’s not even worry about milestones. Instead, I’m going to focus on a theme.
Here’s why I love themes instead of resolutions: because themes provide focus. Focus provides drive. Drive provides action. And also themes are flexible. And there is freedom in that. Themes are not specifically tailored goals designed to move forward one part of my life, which is why I think I always fail at resolutions. They are too rigid, too unrealistic, too optimistic, and too boxed-in.
I am tired of thinking of my life in distinct, discrete segments, because that’s not the way life works. What I’ve realized is, chances are, if I’m dealing with something in one area of my life, chances are, it’s bleeding over into another one.
What I’m Doing
So here’s where I’m going to start, starting today. One theme. One simple yet profoundly complex and somewhat terrifying word: discipline.
And here’s what I believe about this theme. Even though it sounds contradictory, I think that discipline actually will bring more freedom into my world. I’ll be honest and say I’m completely terrified and at the same time excited to begin working out this theme in my life. Who knows how long I will chase this theme. Maybe a year. Maybe a month. Maybe a lifetime.
What About You?
If so, here’s the next step: have the courage to say it aloud. Tell a friend. Journal it. Or, better yet, since you’re here, commit it to bandwidth. Share it in the comments section here, and we’ll start this journey together.
Because although themes are wonderful as an idea, they’re even better in action.
By Tiffany Monhollon | December 31, 2008