Happy New Year!
I love the start of a new year. It’s a chance to imagine for just a moment that all our sins and troubles are behind us, and all that lies before is fresh and simple.
Ours started gloriously, with six friends and food and delight and games and good talks past midnight – but the next morning I ran out of molasses for the New Year’s gingerbread, and after the emergency dash for that (Ryan not me, bless him), I put the batter in too small a pan and ran it over in my oven. And I mean OVER. It kept oozing and oozing, large shlumps of it falling onto the heating element. I scooped a soup bowl full of batter off my oven floor. Also my body was having aches I can’t explain here and so before leaving for my parents’ house for our traditional scrumptious dinner of pork and sauerkraut, I was wailing and leaking tears onto my husband’s shoulder.
I’m always amazed to realize I bring my humanity into the New Year.
Every year this gets me. Every year I am surprised.
But it’s a good year so far, the four days I’ve lived through, and I am filled with hope for at least half an hour each day. This is good.
I’ve spent extensive time planning personal challenges for 2021. I realize I am probably overreacting to my sense of powerlessness in 2020, but ironically, I am also trying to rest in and accept that feeling of powerlessness, which is what they teach in 12-Step Groups and Celebrate Recovery. It’s the first step toward genuine change, because it makes you reach out for the people and resources that can help.
Still, I needed some focus points for the coming year, to hang my hat and hopes on, and give me something to keep getting out of bed for. Lots of change and motivation.
I chose three focus points for each month of the new year. One book of the Bible to immerse myself in, one area of goodness/growth/delight to focus on, and one item of abstinence, something to fast from.
I’m SUPER excited about this. It makes me feel purposeful.
Here’s what my goal system looks like.
Okay, that’s a little blurry. You can open the document here: 2021 Goals.
What I mean by focusing on one book of the Bible is first and simply – to read it a lot. Psalms I might not be able to get through, but the others I would like to read multiple times, in multiple ways. Yesterday I read Hebrews in one sitting as planned (sore tailbone for sure) and really loved that. I made notes about themes and thoughts. Next, I plan to go through one chapter per day, digging deeper into the text. Then I might read it in a different translation, memorize parts of it, study favorite passages, etc. I need this kind of study worked back into my life. I’ve been missing it.
I know this won’t happen automatically. At the start of each month, I’ll make a plan for how and when I’ll incorporate my activity of choice. If it’s old friends, I might make a phone call to a different one each week, then add an in-person breakfast and a few long-distance letters. If it’s photography, I might watch some YouTube tutorials for getting better at technique, and then spend time playing and practicing.
Every area of abstinence includes a specific “replacement activity.” The fast might be for my mind or my body (giving up worry and replacing it with rest and laughter, or giving up lunch and enjoying a small healthy snack mid-afternoon instead). You notice I am not making you privy to all my replacement activities. That is to preserve a modicum of privacy. But I assure you they are there, and the only tool by which giving up “obsessive people pleasing,” for example, might work.
Only for one month – surely I can do that? I fluctuated between fasts that are a professed “relief” for me (social media) and ones that are “straight up hard” (giving up eating after 8 pm, because that’s my favorite time of day to do it).
I’m giving up these things because I’ve found that chosen abstinence focuses the heart, and because I want to grow in the way I manage myself, and what I rely on, and what I can go without. I’m going for resilience, not divine favor. With a few exceptions, I chose to sacrifice items in my life that are I feel are mostly-positive-but-can-be-overdone. In fact, I thought hard about giving up something excellent that I do every day, like reading. It almost feels wrong to give up reading – but I wonder what would happen to me if I did, and what would happen to that time of day. I imagine I would end up writing a lot more. Hm. Maybe I will still sneak that one in, just out of curiosity.
So that’s my plan.
One of the reasons I am sharing all this with you is because I want to hear your New Year’s goals, so now it’s your turn! … And the other is so I don’t ditch the plan by January 13. I think it will be fun to keep you posted on how things are going and which months are hardest and which goals I REALLY REGRET. I look forward to this likelihood with genuine anticipation.
I am sure you will let me off the hook if I’m dying.
Just kidding. You’re not the boss of me.
I’m perfectly capable of letting myself off the hook, but I do love a good challenge. You?