“Gratitude makes sense of our past, makes peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow”
These days I plan WAY ahead. Some might say too far ahead. Its November, and I’m worried that because we have not purchased airline tickets for our summer plans, we will probably have to scrap those plans because we are already too late (I acknowledge that depending on the complexity of said plans, this might be a ridiculous thought). I confess that I was not always so future obsessed. Not too many years ago, I thought planning 2 weeks ahead was not only unnecessary it was also a sure sign that I was getting old; totally not spontaneous and uncool. In the past, most plans were conceived last minute and trying to arrange them too far in advance gave me a headache. Today, my anxiety can reach hospitalization levels when travel plans aren’t down in stone a minimum of 10 months ahead of time.
But back to planning ahead. As the holidays come roaring upon us, this November I am already finalizing my New Year resolutions. According however to my personal early-bird time table, I’m already falling behind. My mind is a lot like a Target store in this way: the Christmas decorations start going up before Halloween is even over with (side note- I mostly refrain from putting actual Christmas decorations up until after Dec. 1). In my scatterbrained type logic, the end of October makes me think of how its almost Thanksgiving, which triggers thoughts of things I am thankful for, which in turn prompts me to realize the ways in which I have also failed to express deep gratitude, which then naturally segues into thoughts on how I could be a better relative, colleague, friend, daughter, wife, mother and person all at once. Which next inspires me to begin contemplating how I need to focus on improving my attitude, behavior and actions in the coming year in order to become a better mother, wife, daughter, etc. Exhausting I know, but god forbid I don’t stay on top of or better yet, keep ahead of anything.
It is no accident that the musings listed above are focused on relationship based goals. I would like to think that throughout most of my life, I have consciously valued people and personal relationships over aspirations centered on career, finances or material acquisitions. Not that I didn’t ever strive to attain those things as well, but my energy was rarely focused on prioritizing that kind of lifestyle over one rich with time spent with those I loved to be around. These values have made me who I am today, for better or worse. I may have not reached the pinnacle of success in professional endeavors, but I was at home every morning to wake my daughter up for school as well as there every night at the table for dinner. While this may mostly have to do with my luck in partnering up with a wonderful husband who helps facilitate this opportunity, I’m very grateful for the experience as I know that sadly many parents, single or otherwise, are not afforded this luxury.
My resolutions in days gone by were not conceived one minute prior to December 31st, and were far less expansive: they were all about me. A list from 25 years ago might read:
1) Find a better job.
2) Lose 25 lbs.
3) Quit smoking.
I could just as well have saved myself the trouble and jotted down 1) Me 2) Me 3) ME. While not without some merit, I look back on these goals and feel appropriately silly about how short sighted and frivolous they now seem.
2017 has been such a devastating year for many, many people. The Category 5 hurricanes, the deadly fires, the unbelievable massacres, the rampant sexual abuse- with each passing year we seem to witness more and more overwhelming events we have no control over. The almost continuous progression of disasters and tragedies can seem almost inevitable, and makes us feel powerless and maybe even doomed. No amount of planning ahead could ever change the outcome of these tragic events. For those who were not directly affected by these unfortunate incidents, the list of things to be grateful for is easily accessed. But those who were in the middle of them may find themselves digging a little deeper to find gratitude. One friend who lost her home in the fires of Napa and Sonoma counties of this year said that while she was extremely grateful to family members and friends that provided immediate shelter, food, help and hugs, at the same time it was excruciatingly hard to maintain those feelings of gratitude and keep her focus on the things she could be thankful for, instead of fixating on the overwhelming volume of things lost.
So what do resolutions and gratitude have to do with each other? On the surface the relationship looks to be nothing more than tentative. But as I have tried to explain here, it is possible that thinking about the ways in which one may have neglected to show gratitude may lead one to consider ways in which they can strive to be a better person. During the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, not only will I try to express heartfelt gratitude for all the blessings in my life, I also hope to learn from my shortcomings. Learn from the times that I took people or things for granted, and didn’t express proper thankfulness. Learn how to be a better person by considering what I did not say or do to show the people in my life, who I have always valued above all else, how much they mean to me.
By way of planning for Summer 2018 during Thanksgiving’s month of November, my list of New Year resolutions will (to my delight) be completed far ahead of the last day of 2017. But as hard as I strive to improve while always staying ahead of the game, old habits do die hard. Somewhere near the bottom of my 2018 resolutions list, losing that 25 lbs will regrettably have to still make the cut.
©2017 Lisa Ihnken All Rights Reserved, except where noted.