Wish list

by Jennifer on January 5, 2009

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore.

I do admire people who make and even keep their resolutions (or I would if I met them – raise your hand if you’re one of them), especially when I seem to fail so utterly at keeping my own.

When I accepted that all that failing just made me feel bad, I stopped.

Who knows, maybe we need this yearly ritual, a shared relief softened with Ahh, we made it. A collective synchronization of our watches, a way to give ourselves a clean slate. To point our feet in the direction we want to go. To that end, we sing Auld Lang Syne and shout Happy New Year! We kiss at midnight and buy gym memberships and make lists of how to make the next year better. How to make ourselves better, thinner, healthier, kinder, more patient, more organized.

And it always sounds like a hell of a lot of work. I’ve never read a list of resolutions that made me think, Wow, I am so jealous. I mean, I’ve been in awe of some lists – I’ve seen some that would make Martha Stewart a little nervous. And, of course, I’m aware that there are payoffs, and value in setting a goal and reaching it. (An example: in spite of my inherent messiness, I function better when my house is neat). But this idea that we need to fix ourselves is one that I struggle with. What if we just decided to take more pleasure in the things we enjoy, when we can? What if we let ourselves take big greedy handfuls of the things that keep us hanging on, that keep us sane, as long as we’re not hurting anyone else?

When you’re hanging on to a lifeline, can you really call it a resolution?

I’m not suggesting that we abandon responsibility, but what’s the worst that can happen if you bump Clean hall closet off the list and replace it with See James Taylor in concert? When you look back on the year, which one will you remember?

If I were going to make a list of resolutions, the whole point would be to make the year happier, more bearable, sweeter. A wish list, of sorts. Something like this…

  • Spend more time outside. Where the fresh air is.
  • Sit out and look at the stars (got a great start on this Saturday morning – I was up at 4:30 to watch the meteor shower and saw 109 of them in two hours). Or pay attention to when the moon will rise, and go look.
  • Keep my ice skates where I can find them next winter at the lake. Laugh loud and long when I fall on my ass. Repeat.
  • Eat quarts and quarts of strawberries this spring, and peaches in summer. Make cobbler.
  • Play a lot of games of Sorry with the kids. It’s always more fun than I think it will be.
  • Read more books, and don’t feel even a little guilty when I get the chance to spend a whole day in pajamas, curled up with a book. Encourage same behavior in my children, because there’s nothing wrong with it.
  • Save up to buy a kayak, and then use it – early in the morning when the water is calm and the day is quiet.
  • Wrap myself in the knowledge (and try hard to know it, really know it) that I am loved by people who mean everything to me, and let myself believe that I’m worthy of it.
  • Wish on stars with abandon (I do this already). What does it hurt? Call it prayer, call it throwing a wish out into the universe. Call it hope.

Yes, I hope, still. And that surprises me, when the weight of  the years rests heavy and stubborn on my shoulders, when I’m tempted to look back and wade through the stream of what might have been, when what is feels like too much and not enough, at once.

At last, all of that hope came to something. Knowing that we’re moving, and where and when, has calmed me. I feel like a part of me that has felt like an endless storm of stress has settled into a calm, deep pool.

And I resolve to enjoy it. Or I would. You know, if I did that sort of thing.

P.S. Go ahead, try to convince me that one or two of those wishes didn’t come true.
P.P.S. One more for the list:
  • See James Taylor or the Eagles or Ray LaMontagne or Marc Cohn in concert.
There.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 January 5, 2009 at 5:53 am

You have a great list! I will need to try as many of these as possible!

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Daryl January 5, 2009 at 6:35 am

Great list … me, I never make resolutions, occasionally I threaten to do something and most of the time I stubbornly accomplish it. But its never about change per se … I learned long ago that its useless trying to get a man to anything he doesnt feel like doing. 😉

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Mrs. Chili January 5, 2009 at 6:46 am

I’m not making resolutions anymore, either; actually, I only made my huge list last year because some of my friends were doing it. I am a pathetic sheep, I know.

This year, I’m making a list of intentions. I like the idea of goals and wishes better than resolutions – I think they more closely approximate the way I want to be…

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Reluctantfarmchik January 5, 2009 at 7:55 am

Yes – I resolve to NOT make resolutions. And it works. Every time! I think there’s something to be said for personal growth, but I don’t think that growth should begin on New Year’s Day. I think it should happen at any point during the year when the pain of being where I’m at is greater than the pain of changing. THAT is the new year. For that particular issue. As for goals? I say go for it. And your list of goals is awesome. We should ALL take time to think about the things that will make us feel fulfilled, and happy, and content, and chock-full of memories. THESE make us feel a sense of accomplishment. Cleaning out the closet is a good and noble thing. But really . . . Let’s go to the concert.

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suburbancorrespondent January 5, 2009 at 8:08 am

Good list – eminently doable and enjoyable!

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Hatchet January 5, 2009 at 8:42 am

I never make resolutions, either. It always feels like I’m setting myself up for both failure AND disappointment! Instead, I make things like gardening goals and try to stick to 10 of them for the year. I’m always amazed by the end of summer that I’ve usually made all of them!

I do like your idea, though. Canoeing would be fun!

Sorry I haven’t dropped by in awhile and thanks for your note! I think I can say I’ve survived the holidays now. Oh and I’ve put up some pics for your viewing pleasure back at my place!

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apathy lounge January 5, 2009 at 9:43 am

This year I’m sort of tiptoeing around the resolutions. I mean that I’m striving to change some things about myself without trying to call them resolutions. Maybe that will work better for me.

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Madge January 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

you lost me at “kiss at midnight”

p.s. other readers of thursday drive — jenn knows i heart everything she writes and am not just blowing off this wonderful, beautiful, insightful, well-written post…

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Eric Daniel Self January 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

My only resolution is to improve and continually develop the God given and individual skills/characteristics that make me unique. It’s way too late to dream of changing any major habits or personality defects now. I’ve decided to stay with the flow that my life is swimming in now and not to try to jump out of the ruts into another kind of life. Whose to say it would be any better anyway?

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Jennifer Harvey January 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

Madge – Yeah, that was a collective, or royal, We. But Boy did give me a kiss on the cheek at 10 New York time, which totally counts.

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Jenn @ Juggling Life January 5, 2009 at 11:10 am

I love kayaking and would love to get a kayak. One of my goals is to get outside more also–it’s just ridiculous not too when you live in a beautiful place.

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Chris January 5, 2009 at 11:24 am

What a great list! Reminds me of the “legacy” piece Erma Bombeck wrote after finding out she was dying from cancer. Your words are encouraging and inspiring. 2009’s going to be a great year. I believe it.

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Ree January 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

I love the kayak idea. Sounds like a peaceful way to start the day…or end it for that matter.

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San Diego Momma January 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I live a block away from Sunset Cliffs beach here in San Diego and have jealously watched the kayakers all fall. It looks like the most peaceful thing.

I’m with you on the resolutions. None for me over here. Just more conscious living, which sounds like what you’re saying.

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Heather January 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I like the wish list approach much better than resolutions.

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fancy feet January 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm

This is lovely…really lovely.

I am prone to pajama days myself and we did a lot of that over the holidays. I absolutely think everyone can benefit from more pajama days.

I believe in hope too.

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melissa January 5, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I prefer this approach too. It doesn’t repel me, but reminds me of how I ought to spend my time here.

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anymommy January 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Hope is a beautiful thing! I love your list.

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jenrantsraves January 5, 2009 at 6:09 pm

You’re a funny one. You say you don’t make resolutions, and then you make a list. You can call it whatever you want. I get what you are saying, though. Why do we always feel the need to improve ourselves? (That is precisely why I stopped buying those damn women’s magazines years ago.) I love your list. I did make one resolution, but I really think I’ll do this one.

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The Redheaded Lefty January 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Good call on not making resolutions—or better yet, on recognizing that New Year’s resolutions are NOT something to be envious of. I agree—2009 needs to be a year of more joy and peace. I refuse to make any more demands of me.

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cce January 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I’m also one who eschews resolutions. I believe that when people set hard, fast rules for themselves then they’re only inviting failure and disappointment. I like to make promises that allow for the occasional misstep and can be valued for the good intention rather than the actual quality of the follow through. I like caveats and disclaimers. There’s a lot of gray area in my life.

I love your list. I love fresh strawberries and peaches. Man does that season seem far, far away!

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andi January 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I never make resolutions any more either. I think they generally set people up for failure – why can’t we try to be happier and live a better live all year round? I love your wish list.

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flutter January 6, 2009 at 12:04 am

Oh jenn, this is so lovely

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Louise January 6, 2009 at 9:50 am

I don’t make resolutions. I think they are silly. I DO set goals (somewhat Martha Stewart-like goals, I will admit) with the purpose of having more time for the things that are fun.

You are right, at the end of the year, what are we going to remember about cleaning out a closet or the garage? Days wasted is all.

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we_be_toys January 6, 2009 at 10:01 am

Great list and even better philosophy. I’ve gotten to that point in my life where I’m like Popeye – “I yam what I yam” and life is something you grab with both hands and eat messily, allowing the sweetness to drip down your chin.
I love a good “Bed Day”, where no one gets dressed!

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Dharmamama January 6, 2009 at 10:20 am

Oh! How lovely and hopeful and exciting!

I choose a word each year – I’m still working on this year’s! And when I remember, I use that word to guide me all year. I found the idea on Christine Kane’s blog, and I’ve done it several years now. It can lead me to cleaning the closet , or seeing more concerts! Two years ago, my word was “wealth”, and I loved finding the wealth of things around me.

OK, I’ve never cleaned my closets.

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the mama bird diaries January 6, 2009 at 10:32 am

this is absolutely what new year’s resolutions should be all about.

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Ed Browning January 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Reading through everyone’s comments so far, it sounds like an overwhelming majority agree that traditional New Years resolutions are evil, or at best just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. So just to play devils advocate, I’m going to argue the other side:
Resolutions are a natural result of taking a look at yourself, your life, your surroundings, noticing something that needs improvement, and deciding you can and want to do something to change it. The turn of a new year is a natural time to clean the slate – get rid of the detritus and old habits, and start fresh. If it bothers you to have a closet that is disorganized or bursting at the seams with trash, then by all means make a resolution to clean it out and throw away the trash. You will feel an immense pleasure after getting it done, and while that feeling won’t be with you for years to come, the temporary lightness of spirit and sense of accomplishment that came with it can give you a sense of empowerment and purpose and drive away depression.
Of course, the thing that you really need to set your life back on track is sometimes a James Taylor concert… ;> (Not every resolution has to be something you dread)
Oh, and I have not made any resolutions this year…

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Kimberly January 7, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Great list! I wrote something with a similar theme on NY Day (being sure to recognize and enjoy small, simple pleasures). I think that’s much more attainable (and enjoyable) than some of the typical resolutions.

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Suzanne January 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I love the images of summer that you have created here…and if I was actually in a winter place (geographically speaking) it would be even more satisfying to read this…I really enjoy the imagery you’ve conjured.

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JCK January 8, 2009 at 12:57 am

I really think that THESE ARE resolutions, Jennifer. And great ones! 🙂

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Bruce January 8, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I am coming to all these same conclusions but in a much more direct way. I am teaching myself not to let the stress get to me. The world is going to hell in a hand basket….don’t care, nothing I can do about it……time to go pet the dog.

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W January 9, 2009 at 7:36 pm

“Wrap myself in the knowledge (and try hard to know it, really know it) that I am loved by people who mean everything to me, and let myself believe that I’m worthy of it. “……..Wow. This is definitely a resolution I would love to be able to keep..even for part of a year, or for longer than a few days.

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