Feeble Knees

Friday, January 07, 2005


These aren't your father's New Year's Resolutions.

Who doesn't hate resolutions? What are they but yardsticks with which to gauge our failure at self-improvement? Many years ago I swore I'd never make a New Year's weight loss resolution again when I was giving myself ample opportunity throughout the year to step on the scale and panic.

The best resolution I ever made was a birthday gift to myself. I resolved to not worry about my weight, step on a scale, or diet for one whole year. For the first time in my life, I gave myself a break from the weight-loss hamster wheel. It was so wonderful, I kept it going the following year. The freedom from guilt and self-loathing was worth my weight in gold. (Interestingly enough, my weight didn't change all that much during the course of my diet sabbatical).

So with the same idea in mind, several days into 2005, here are the things I'm NOT going to do this year.

Set Unrealistic Expectations for Myself

Rather than feeling satisfied after some superhuman feat of accomplishment, I worry what might be expected of me next, and it's my own fault for always trying to outdo the last thing I did. For a perfectionist, this leads to many unhealthy behaviors. Workaholism and sleeplessness lead to a brittleness of personality and major mood swings. I may finally pull it off, but by that point I'm a complete emotional mess.

No more! Moderation must come into play in my thinking and in the expectations I set for myself.

Conform to Others' Unrealistic Expectations of Me

One of the problems of constantly setting unrealistically high standards for yourself is that everyone else, whether they admit it or not, comes to expect it of you. I would jump through hoops not to let you down. I've gone to great lengths, above and beyond the call of duty and overextended myself to reach some high water mark of public approval.

I'm giving myself the year off from trying to be the best friend, daughter, sibling, cook, Christian (actually, I gave up on that one a while ago), best blogger, best writer, etc. I'm already feeling better!

Not Read

Growing up reading was my favorite thing to do, next to watching TV and eating. (Sad but true). In college, I was frequently overwhelmed and nearly unable to keep up with the required reading for my various literature and drama classes. A week's worth of assignments frequently included a novel, a Shakespearean play, a Chinese play, a Eugene O'Neill and an Ibsen. This did not include the required textbook reading for other classes, nor the required memorization of verse for voice & speaking classes.

In short: I got totally burnt out. The first year after college I only read the scripts of the shows that I happened to be working on - that was enough. It took a while to actually want to read for pleasure again.

When I started going to my old Pentecostal church, my reading interests became restricted to the Bible (King James Version only, of course) and various pop-Christianity books. I stopped reading novels altogether, for fear that I would read something "evil" that would stick in my mind that I'd have to continually repent for reading. Ditto poetry, which seemed too sensuous and extravagant to my new-found puritanical sensibilities. I would allow myself non-fiction works of history now and then, if the subject particularly interested me. At the time, I was also likely to throw a book out if I got part-way into it and discovered that it challenged or conflicted with my Pentecostal worldview. (This is the girl who threw out every deck of playing cards she owned, fearing there might be something to the notion that they were evil.)

It took a long while before I'd dare pick up a novel again, even after I'd left the church. It was a peculiar irony that the girl who'd dreamed of being a writer as a child so quickly consigned my love of books to the fire. It's deeply embarrassing to admit, in fact. I have Anne Lamott to thank for shaking me out of my prison of ignorance: I picked up Traveling Mercies once in Border's and found myself instantly absorbed, despite myself. She'd probably be horrified by the comparison, but her writings gave voice to a little Ronald Reagan in my head: "Tear down this wall!" It opened the floodgates, just a little at first, but now I'm back to being able to enjoy a good non-Biblical read without fear or condemnation hovering over my shoulder.

My resolution to not not read in 2005 is already a rousing success. I've finished The Namesake and I'm about halfway through The Secret Life of Bees while also re-reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

Fight Losing Battles

It would be very nice if this was the year that I stopped trying to change my mother. This is the one resolution that I expect will give me the most trouble. But in the spirit of not setting unrealistic expectations for myself, I'm prepared to be satisfied even if I don't master this one. It may take a few years, if ever, for me to manage this one.


Ever know someone who perpetually does stupid things to mess up his or her life? I know a few of them. Too much of my time last year was spent agonizing far more than they over the hurtful things they were doing to themselves and others. Mr. F and I have spent countless hours examining and analyzing a particular situation involving friends of ours. It always leaves us sad, frustrated and angry at them and ourselves for getting roped into it again.

This year I'm hoping to gradually remove myself from the fray, because in truth the only wise and loving thing I could probably do for these friends is pray for them, at a safe distance. Someone wiser than I once told me that if someone's drowning, make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground and then throw them a lifeline. Don't jump into flood and get dragged down yourself. With the help of God, I hope to plant my feet firmly on solid ground and see to it that I don't get swept back up into things I can do nothing to fix or resolve. To aid in this, I'm attempting to commit this to memory:

whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:8

Easier said than done!

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