I had one of the best Christmases ever. Maybe it was because the grandsons were older and less frenzied about what Santa left under the tree. Or maybe because Ernie and I said don’t give us “things” or “stuff,” just experiences, as presents. Or maybe because my son brought his significant other for the first time on Christmas and my son-in-law brought along his father, who had lost his wife this past October. Or maybe it was because the feeling of family with the inevitable losses and delightful gains confirmed a sense of belonging.
And, of course, there was Sparky, the dog, that didn’t beg at the table.
Ernie outdid himself with a pork roast and a made-from-scratch French apple tart. A table laid out for ten stretched our pared-down set of dinnerware and cutlery, so we had mismatched plates and told everyone to hang on to their forks for dessert.
But it was the presence of those sharing our meal and not the trappings of Christmas that made the day special.
When my husband and I married over 40 years ago (yikes) we didn’t bow to the common convention of other couples in selecting “our song.” In reality, we didn’t even think of it. Father Donald Cooney (where is he now?) married us. A handsome guy, not too much older than us and apparently more sentimental than Ernie and I, spoke from the altar of Saint Aloysius Catholic Church in Jersey City. He faced the congregation and weaved the story of Ernie and my meeting, falling in love and deciding to marry with the backdrop of Barbra Streisand’s song People.
When we walked down the aisle, as man and wife, besides each other we had “our song.” The song that we have played every year on our anniversary.
One of our New Year’s resolutions (long-time married couples share common resolutions that the wife usually makes) is to include more people in our lives. In 2014 we will attend a long delayed Crane reunion, visit old friends in Washington, DC and New York City that we haven’t seen in years. Maybe we’ll even find Donald Cooney.
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…
This year I hesitated to make any New Year resolutions. Why? Because for the last five years, at least, they remain the same:
Write the book.
Lose the weight.
The only thing that changed was the pounds I wanted to drop. They increased yearly. Now it’s 20 pounds! I felt defeated. Depressed.
But something has happened to make me feel positive in reaching my goals after all. When I took my walk yesterday, I put in my ear buds and tuned my I-Phone to The Peoples’ Pharmacy podcast. The show I heard had aired on December 31st and was entitled “Willpower Science.” For the next forty minutes or so I listened to Kelly McGonigal PhD, psychology instructor at Stanford University and a health educator for the School of Medicine Health Improvement Program, discuss reasons why we often fail in keeping our New Year’s resolutions. The take-home message that most attracted me was twofold.
First, think about what you really want. What you are willing to do to achieve it? And what will your life be like if it happens? Not just next year but in two years from now. How proud will you feel if you do achieve your goal? Or the regret you will feel not having made the change.
(I must add here Dr. McGonigal suggests small goals like exercising five minutes a day and increasing slowly. Success breeds success.)
Second, we need to feel self-compassion and self-forgiveness. When we slip up, we shouldn’t chastise ourselves and give up but realize we are human. Guilt and shame undermine our ability to get back on track.
Okay, none of this is really new. But the science behind these statements helped me better understand how willpower works or doesn’t work. Check out Dr. McGonigal’s web site and her book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do To Get More Of It.
It was serendipitous that I connected to this podcast. I’ll apply the lessons I learned so I don’t have to repeat 2012 resolutions in 2013.
I wish each of you a new year free of guilt and stress.
Be good to yourselves.