New Years represents a fresh start. A chance to build your life on a clean slate. Resolutions…commitments to change…new hope and beginnings.
Except what really happened to reset the clock?
After you read this paragraph, I want you to close your eyes for a brief moment. I want you to imagine you’re watching the last 2 months of your life in slow rewind. I want you to see the spikes in emotion, the surges in activity, that defined the last 2 months. The highs AND the lows stand out and come together to create a period of chaos. Some of it beautiful and memorable, the rest sprinkled with the kind of chaos we’d rather shove under a rug and wash away with New Year’s resolutions.
Highest Highs and Lowest Lows
But after this brief moment of reflection, we’re going to talk about an experiment. And this experiment requires close examination of the highest highs and the lowest lows. So close your eyes, and take a moment to reflect on both…
I don’t know about you, but I had to very forcefully dredge up some of the moments that didn’t fall into the “happy family memory” category.
I would rather focus on the highs, because frankly, this year was full of them, and they were really, really great. The low moments were impactful as they happened, but the brain has a way of compartmentalizing the painful memories to insulate our reflection of the past from negativity. That compartmentalization is a coping mechanism I’ve relied on for MANY years.
But to complete today’s experiment, I need you to dig back into the corners you’d rather not face. As I forced myself to dig deeper, looking at all of the defining moments of the past few months, a few stood out as less than inspiring.
The Poor Rubber Ducky
There was the moment I was sitting in a bathroom after putting my son to bed about to drain the tub and somehow found myself shouting (at a pretty high volume) at a yellow rubber ducky. The poor duck hadn’t done anything wrong, but he was the lucky recipient of the full force of my frustration in that moment. He also may have a concussion from when he hit the wall…
There was the day at work that I dropped everything and walked straight down to the courtyard despite less than comfortable temperatures to sit in a chair staring a tree for 20 minutes because if I didn’t take a moment to reset, I felt like my head might explode.
Some who know me well might chalk all of that up to the fact that I’m pregnant with an 18-month-old toddler, and hormones in that particular condition cannot be underestimated. I will say that shouting at inanimate objects isn’t a frequent occurrence in my life, and even with enough Italian-Irish blood to get me fired up at times, I’m generally a pretty chill person. So the hormones get credit for taking it up an extra notch this winter. But that doesn’t change the series of events that led to those low moments.
Today, I want you to do a little experiment.
I will hypothesize that for “most” people, the last 2 months over the holiday season represent the period of greatest stress throughout the year. Whether it’s financial stress, family stress, social pressure, the stress of traveling, kids in and out of school, or just the cumulative effect of being pulled in a thousand different directions at once…everyone’s dial gets turned up a notch between Thanksgiving and New Years.
I am also a firm believer that you learn the most about yourself near or beyond your breaking point.
This year, before you set those resolutions in stone, I want you to look closely at the highest highs, and lowest lows of this most recent season of chaos and ask yourself a few questions:
- What led to the most impactful moments? Don’t just reflect, actually write a list.
- What was the real root cause of the greatest moments of difficulty?
For my rubber ducky scenario, I wasn’t angry at my son for being a moody toddler, or for my husband for being TDY, or for myself for being tired and pregnant. I was frustrated that the only moment I got with my son that day was the worst moment for both of us. And frustrated at myself for being so tired I couldn’t cope. And frustrated that I felt so physically exhausted that I couldn’t play with him like I wanted to, or like his dad would have if he were here.
And now, the big question…with 10 months to go until the season of chaos returns in full force, what can you CHANGE to make the highs outweigh the lows?
Some things are what they are, you can never avoid the chaos and frustration of life. But when I look at the frustrations that led to my encounter with that poor duck, I realize that there ARE things I can do to put myself in a better position to cope 10 months from now.
The biggest example from my personal experiment is that I neglected myself physically before this pregnancy, which means I’m now struggling both mentally and physically because of it. I resolve to dedicate myself to improving my physical well being above all else so that I am equipped to handle the chaos of life. (on pause for now…but once the doctor gives the green light…it’s on like donkey kong)
My own experiment yielded MANY resolutions, but they’re not just “things I want to do better this year.”
This time, they’re a means to a very specific end, with very specific memories motivating my commitment over the next 10 months. There’s something very powerful about knowing WHY you’re committing yourself to something. Whether it’s bettering yourself physically, mentally, financially…taking the time to reflect on the MOST chaotic period of your life can give you the fuel you need to create a better life.
Next time, when things get chaotic, your energy will be driven toward those resolutions, not vented in frustration at a poor, unsuspecting yellow rubber duck. That drive will give you the strength to enjoy the highs, and to see the beauty in every moment, making each year even brighter than the last.