Something about the new year – the turn of the calendar page, perhaps, or the numbering change on dates – promises both a closure and an opening. For most of us, January is the month of empowerment and commitment, decrees and determination. That's why I decided to follow in the long and hallowed tradition of resolution-making, and on the first day of the first month of 2018 I made a bold promise to myself.
This is the year of me. This is the year of me and my most passionate interests, which are my grandchildren and my writing, in that order.
Sound selfish? Sure, and proud of it. It's about time I start putting me, myself and I in the top spot. As with women everywhere, there's always something or someone getting in the way of what we should be doing for ourselves. Perhaps we've been socialized this way: to accept the back of the line, to defer to others' needs before our own, to perfect the role of Ms. Nice.
No more. This is the year of me.
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To make the resolution official I started informing my family about my 2018 intentions, adding three subheads to the Year of Me.
No. 1: I'm ejecting toxic people from my life. And when that proves impossible, I'm restricting my exposure to them. Negativity is too time-consuming and soul-scorching to spend time with those who add little to my life.
No. 2: I'm speaking my mind, regardless of stepped-on toes and the pretension of hurt feelings. Calling a spade a spade is liberating, but you must prepare for the consequences. Few people can face the truth without some initial denial, including blaming the messenger.
No. 3: My time is my own to use as I please, and not for everybody else to nibble at.
Of course making The Year of Me public is a lot easier than putting it into practice. All resolutions are. Just ask those who consistently try to lose weight, quit smoking, start exercising or return to school to finish a degree. Our challenge, and a very human one at that, is in the execution, in keeping our eye on the target day after day after day.
Changing entrenched habits tends to be a long and arduous process, a path pocked with potholes and detours. Just last week I read about a study that confirmed my worst suspicions: Up to 80 percent of New Year's resolutions are abandoned by February. Truly I didn't expect otherwise, yet I don't blame a lack of willpower for such failures. We tend to be unrealistic about our goals and too scatterbrained to break down our aspirations into manageable, easier-to-accomplish steps that eventually lead to transformation. Every pound shed on the way to a 20-pound loss is a victory.
So, I'm starting small. I'm practicing saying no and the sound of it – no, no, no – has become a lovely background melody. All those "should" commitments and all those must-do-because-what-will-people-say events have been eliminated from the calendar too. I'm working hard on recovering ownership of my time. Perhaps that's not a big deal for others, but it's a mental victory for me.
For Christmas my best friend, who knows I've been struggling with the delicate balance between obligation and self-preservation, gave me a sign she found in a North Carolina shop: Some people come into your life as blessings, and others come into your life as lessons. Substitute another noun for people (think events, responsibilities) and that maxim pretty much applies to most of life.
Forget the part about the lessons, though. I've had plenty of those. In 2018 I'm throwing open the door only to blessings.
(Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.)