New years give us the opportunity to change. We can look back and see what wasn’t working for us, and we can come up with a different way of doing things so that things will be different. But, do we?
Every year I say things are going to change. The kids are going to look at phones and video games less and go to museums more. I’m not going to yell, I’m just going to calmly explain. The dog is going to get long leisurely walks instead of short walks up the block. I’m going to be a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend. I will include those people in my community who are alone. I will bring my kids along when I work with kids in disadvantaged communities. I will find a way to give my boys spiritualism if not outright religion.
But just making the list of “How Good I’m Going to Be” is tiring. And I want a drink. Or a smoke. I am overwhelmed by my own sense of perfection and how impossible it is to live up to that. So it seems easier to not even to try.
I used to give out gold stars to people just for trying. And my friend gave me a cute little gold trophy for the holidays that says, “For Trying…” People used to shake their head at my “Gold Star for Trying” and say, “Don’t try. Just do,” like Yoda. But I guess because I have this rebel gene, I have to ease my way in. I have to give myself the reward for simply attempting to do the thing, even if the thing doesn’t get done to perfection. Perfection, of course, is a pipe dream. I see people angling for it all the time, and it makes me smile. I see the holiday cards where everything looks perfect. I see the Christmas trees perfectly decorated in the front window of the perfect brownstone, the perfect cat sleeping on the windowsill. The perfect fire is probably raging in the perfect fireplace as ham and eggnog get served in the perfect dining room. But…
The joys lie somewhere beyond those external perfections. They lie in the moments of true bonding that the holidays can remind us of and offer us. They lie in the difficult moments of listening to people who are suffering, of hugging and getting hugged over the hard times that we all work like hell to get past, and giving one another the strength to go forward.
Make no mistake: Perfection is an aesthetic I myself try to achieve. I bought a mini gas “fireplace” for the holidays, and the joys it has brought me have been immense, seeing the flame lick at the glass on the coffee table alongside the growing paper white bulbs in their vase. But, then, it is the real challenges of the real people in my house that have to trump that. We fall for perception versus reality so often, and being wary of that difference is, for me, a major 2017 resolution.
So I make the list. I resolve to try. But don’t beat yourself up in the trying, don’t make it just another opportunity to be angry at yourself and your kids and your family and your dog because you couldn’t achieve perfection. Some of my greatest lessons have come from my failures and those of the people around me. It’s like watching that punching-bag clown I got once for one of the boys’ birthdays. It slips back, falls flat, then it just bounces right back up again.
It is good to remember going into the brand spanking new year: There will be failures. There will be setbacks. But the bouncing back, the forgiveness and helping along of others to allow them to bounce back, that is where the true love and joy will come from.
Happy New Year!