New Year, Old Story
Today is the fourth day of a new year. Not a new life, career, relationship, house…just a new year. One day turned into the next with little fanfare outside of the obligatory ten minutes of overpriced fireworks. It wasn’t accompanied by a release of pent-up stress and anger, or a life-altering epiphany, or even the typical prophetic “great change is coming your way” tarot reading. No, it was an endlessly enduring moment of abdominal pain as the second hand ticked past the twelve on a dusty wall clock, changing the year, month, day, hour, and minute on every calendar across the central time zone.
The pain couldn’t be helped. It was fate (and womanhood) that left me carrying tears from one year to the next. I know in my heart and mind that just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean everything will magically change. But people want to believe it will anyway. When so much sadness and loss occur in a 365-day period, the thought of a fresh start is enticing to say the least. And so, a lot of people make a new year’s resolution during that final week of December, vowing to make one small step in the new year in a leap toward becoming a better person.
Most resolutions are predictable.
Quit smoking, lose weight, join a gym, etc. It’s usually a huge commitment that requires more self-discipline than motivation, and it’s usually broken within the first week. I’m guilty of more than a few of such resolutions myself. As a matter of fact, for the past few years, I’ve given myself not one, not two, but THREE resolutions a year. One focusing on my physical health, one mental, and one emotional. It was a noble plan, but ultimately an overwhelming one fed by my bipolar disorder’s manic highs.
Even now, in a bipolar low with zero manic motivation and a depressing outlook enhanced by the ever-present physical pain, there are a lot of things I’d like to do in 2017. Most of them are nothing new. I still want to lose weight, to feel healthier, to learn Italian, to gain a better sense of time management, and I still want to delve into my chosen career path. It’s all too much for any one resolution, though.
The problem, I think, with most resolutions is that they’re too specific with too large of a goal. We should be taking everything one day at a time, not one year at a time. Instead of setting a goal to lose 30 lbs, I should focus on developing my routine to include healthier eating and good exercise habits. Instead of setting a goal to write a book, I should focus on developing my routine to include time set aside specifically for writing.
Basically, I’m going to spend 2017 working on time management and setting myself a schedule. It won’t happen overnight, but I won’t have instantly failed the first day that I let myself get distracted. So I’m excited for it.
But I’m not going to call it a resolution. I know better. I know myself. That’s the key to really achieving something. Knowing yourself and adapting your plans to fit YOU. I’m a stay-at-home mother and housewife with three children (two in school) who is chasing a dream down a career path toward becoming an author and editor. Trying to tackle everything at once is overwhelming and it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for free time and sanity.
It’s the same old story. I want to be better, I set myself goals, I fail, I let people down, I hate myself, I make bad choices, I suffer, and when I hit rock bottom, I pick up the pieces and decide I want to be better again. Rinse and repeat; story of my life. And I think that’s the problem. I wouldn’t want to read the same sad story of a girl caught in a self-destructive loop. I want to read a new exciting adventure story of a woman who overcomes her flaws and rises above it all. Sadness and loss in stories are getting so overrated. Sometimes I think we all just need a cheesy love story with a happily-ever-after. I want to be the princess who saves herself without the prince but falls in love anyway as a bonus. (I already have my prince, but I don’t want my kingdom and riches to depend on him for a lifetime; I want to bring some gold and jewels to the table, too.)
I would be remiss not to mention the good that did come out of 2016. Each year has something positive to offer, and if I let myself believe that 2016 was entirely bad—with the way 2017 has begun—it wouldn’t give me much hope for a better year. So here are some great things that happened for me in 2016:
- I had an unfinished manuscript signed by a small publisher.
- I was trained in novel editing and learned that I have a real talent for it.
- I had short stories published in multiple anthologies.
- I was hired by my publisher and promoted to Editing Director.
- I was invited to become an admin for my favorite writing group.
- I visited family members I hadn’t seen in years.
- I visited old friends I hadn’t seen in years.
- I visited new acquaintances I’d never met in a social gathering that went against my introverted personality (it was a small but meaningful win against my social anxiety).
- I gained perspective on my goals for a lifelong career.
- I learned how to format and self-publish novels.
- I began building a positive reputation in the writing community.
- I organized some of my favorite novel ideas and began worldbuilding.
- I coordinated an amazing novel for the CWC.
- I had multiple chapters accepted in collaborative novels with the CWC.
- I accepted my physical, mental, and emotional limitations and quit my job, even when I knew it would potentially slow my career (which it didn’t).
- I published a children’s book with proceeds going to a great charity.
- I gained a handful of new, real friendships that I see lasting quite a while.
- I gained confidence in my abilities as an author.
- I formed better eating habits.
- I lost 13 lbs and dropped from a size 14 to a size 12 with 2 inches off my waist.
- I found new, fun ways to enjoy exercise.
- I got some long-awaited answers to medical issues I’ve been suffering from.
- I grew closer to my husband and children.
- I learned how to be slightly more independent.
- I learned how to offer constructive criticism without feeling guilty.
- I discovered that you really can’t judge a book by its cover, or even by the back blurb or the first page. You have to read a bit and get to know the characters before you can truly decide, because it just may end up becoming one of your favorite books. And yes, that’s a metaphor.
2017 has begun with a devastatingly depressive bipolar low. I have no motivation to do much more than sit on the couch, and physical pain saps my strength more frequently than it ever has. I have a strong desire to quit everything related to stress and spend my days curled up in bed, binge-watching Netflix. The only thing keeping me from doing that is the first-hand knowledge that my lows don’t last forever. One day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe in March, my mania will start to climb, my smile will return, and my motivation will launch me into all of the activities that I’m currently trying to cling to.
2016 began with so much hope and positivity and ended with my dreams crashing and burning on the fiery rocks of my hellish illness. I can only imagine that 2017 will result in me climbing out of the pit and singing my joys to the heavens of a manic high.
Not making much sense? Well, long story short…the same old long story of my life…everything always gets better if you give it time. One day at a time, but still time. Today is just one day. Tomorrow is one more. It’s the fourth day of a new year, and it might not be much of a “new” life, but it’s a life. And it will get better. So I’m going to work on that time management thing, starting tomorrow. Motivated or not. One day at a time.