Here we are again. Another year has come to an end, one that more than any thus far has flown by far too quickly. It’s the time of year when people resolve to do better than they did the last go-round, setting goals and resolutions that, if they’re anywhere as human as I, will fizzle before Valentine’s Day. It’s also the time of year when I tell myself just slightly more than halfheartedly that I’ll stay the course and keep those resolutions THIS year. 2016 WILL be different.
Since I’m more often than not a brutal realist, about three years ago I limited myself to just one resolution per year. I figured that was the best way to have an honest shot at following through. I had one simple goal – to be a better correspondent. This meant I’d not only make an effort to communicate more with my loved ones throughout the year, but I’d also actually send birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards and gifts in a timely, stress-free manner. All events would be planned and executed in a seemingly professional fashion and all recipients would be tricked into believing I really have my stuff together.
What really happened was no one was fooled, and it was the first of three years I didn’t even mail a Christmas card.
My resolve to win this battle continued: multiple calendars and planners were purchased, electronic reminders on phones and computers were set, but sadly, 2015 was no better.
For instance, my son’s post-New Year’s birthday party went unplanned. You’d think having a birthday at the beginning of the first month of resolution-keeping would increase the likelihood of successful planning, but in actuality, the holidays temporarily strip my brain of any knowledge of what day of the week it is from about mid-December to mid-January.
I missed my brother-in-law’s January birthday completely.
My sweet nephew’s first birthday, also in January, was observed all over again when his present arrived in April with my niece’s birthday gift. Hers was also a week late, but at least it was in the same month.
The tardiness and panic with which I stood in that post office line praying by some miracle they’d added a time machine travel shipping feature increased with each passing and less successful month.
I caved and cringed as I ordered Christmas gifts online for my Alaska family to be delivered to the store for THEM TO PICK UP. Ugh. How flipping impersonal. I figured it was better for gifts to arrive on time than to actually be wrapped and mailed with a handwritten card, which subsequently got stuck in a pile of papers and didn’t get mailed until Christmas Eve. They probably don’t even have it yet.
So when my husband asked me in the middle of November if I’d begun our Christmas cards yet, my response was a frantic but sincere, “I’m on it this year!” At some point over the years, I’d guzzled the Kool-Aid that led me to believe holiday greetings should ONLY be sent with photographs proving our family’s success and unbridled happiness during that year. My plan was to take a family photo while our college girl was home over Thanksgiving break and select the perfect picture of a poised family to send out and redeem all of the other delays throughout the year. Maybe I could even trick our mailing list into thinking, “Man, she’s really on her game this year, and what a beautifully normal family they have!” Ha! The only picture we got was a sweaty selfie after our annual Thanksgiving family football game. The emphatic protests from the young ladies in my house began immediately when I suggested we mail it out to everyone we know. I believe the words were, “Um, Mom, no.” How could I have been so foolish? The college girl went back to school and we still had no photo.
When the hubs asked me again on December 1st, my response was a tad less enthusiastic, “I’m working on it,” as I mentally scrolled through not only the litany of items on my holiday to-do list, but also the pictures of all six of us we’d taken throughout the year. I was certain I’d have to Photoshop at least one family member into an existing photo to make this work. Yes, we’ve done that before.
When he asked me again on December 15th as we were packing to go out of town, my first thought was to stuff him in my suitcase and roll it down the driveway. Instead, I gently let him know there was a SLIGHT possibility we didn’t have a good photo and we wouldn’t have the chance to take another one in time.
He didn’t let it go. He insisted we hadn’t received as many cards this year because we haven’t sent them out for three years. What he didn’t know was several holiday greetings were trapped in one of my many mail/paper piles I’d yet to open, but I wasn’t about to admit that to him. My kids got in on the action and created (and shared to social media) their own version of a holiday photo, titled “Is it Too Late to Say Merry Christmas?” Most people my age didn’t get the reference to the dance/music video produced by Parris Goebel set to Justin Bieber asking if it’s “too late now to say sorry?” I got it, and thought it wildly hilarious and creative on their part. I even considered mailing it out, but figured many of our friends and families would be confused by the Bieber reference, and question exactly what the young man has to do with the birth of Christ.
When my unrelenting husband asked me AGAIN on the 23rd, in true stressed-out-during-the-holiday-season form, I told him he could do the card his own d@#$&% self! He smugly responded, “Fine. It will only take five minutes anyway.” Okay, Boss.
It didn’t take five minutes, and it was certainly not the best photo of me, but he got them printed and almost all of them mailed by Christmas Eve. I even helped him address the envelopes, and we successfully updated our address list. We did NOT successfully order enough cards, but that gives us something to do better this year.
There’s a LOT I’d like to do better this year: exercise more, budget better, go to bed earlier. I’d like to write more and worry less. I should probably be impatient less and affirm more. I’m not giving up on my correspondence goal, but maybe I should just say “Merry Christmas” now for the upcoming year? The list of things to improve can get a little overwhelming.
I recently came across a quote by John C. Maxwell that says, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” My daily routine is anything but routine, but this kind of change sounds like it’s more my speed.
I truly believe in trying to better myself a little every day, even in the tiniest of ways and with the smallest of victories. If that means I count to ten before responding about Christmas card completion or I do a new workout I’ve never done before, which at this point is many, then I’m going to count that as improvement. After all, I’m the only one who can improve myself and I’m the only person I can improve.
If I can do one thing better each day than the day before, I call that success. Daily personal change is inevitable, but it’s up to us to determine the direction of that change. And if we really ARE our routine, then my routine is constant resolution.