A Few Thoughts on New Year's Eve
New Year’s Eve and January 1 (insert year here) – The two days of the year that purport to hold the most promise, change, anticipation, and new beginnings than any other day of the year. New Year’s Resolutions, or lists of all the things you should or should not do this year (starting tomorrow, of course), according to whatever the hip new trend is, or perhaps what your yogi, therapist or Mom has told you, have about as much staying power as a freak snowfall in May. I find it curious that we wait until the very last day of the year to assess our weaknesses, admit our failings and decide – THIS year, it’s going to be different.
Society calls it a resolution. I think a more appropriate word would be absolution….as defined, “a release from guilt, obligation or punishment.” Really, aren’t those what our so-called resolutions really are? A way to make us feel better about what we didn’t accomplish, didn’t follow through on, or didn’t improve upon in the last 364 days? You know what I’m talking about – and let’s just name a few of the most common resolution-absolutions we experience every year (by the way, this is a very ME TOO sort of posting…. 🙂 so I’m pointing the finger right at myself here as well.)
- Lose weight – this one shows up in many forms but the heart of it is, I am not happy with how I look and something needs to change. So we join a gym, start shopping at Whole Foods and buy a shiny new machine that we swear we’re going to use Every. Single. Morning. Then, a week in (Nope, I’m not even giving the vast majority the 6 weeks that most average), the gym is too daunting, or we just can’t find the time, Whole Foods is too overwhelming and eating clean sounds boring, expensive and like a lot of work, and that fancy elliptical is a drying rack for your jeans (because God forbid they shrink in the wash!!!) In other words: forgotten, abandoned, deserted.
- Save Money – ahem…this one hits home. Every year. And my savings account is still about as full as the gym on March 1. 🙂
- Be a better (fill in the blank here … parent, friend, employee….). You know – be more present, practice time management, follow through on commitments, or stop over-committing…). While a noble exercise – truly!, once the kids are back to school, the magic of Christmas is nothing more than a pile of needles on your floor, and life kicks back in full-force, well, old habits die hard.
And these are just a few right? But they sound familiar! These resolutions, however well meaning and sincere on January 1, turn into absolutions on December 31, 364 days later. The conversation goes something like this…”Well crap. I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t save money. I’m still in the same dead-end job…” But THIS year it’s going to be different. Last year, well last year this happened, and that happened, and the kids’ schedule, or that awful thing that happened to me – I meant to do all this and I really tried. And it’s ok – we absolve ourselves. We release ourselves from the guilt, commitment, punishment of all the things we didn’t do with a fresh new (albeit recycled) promise of all the things we are actually going to do – for reals this time, I mean it! – this year!!
Enter stage right, the bright and shiny New Year’s Resolution. You’ve heard, seen and likely posted some of the quotes…. sound familiar? “New Year – New You” or “It’s never too late to become who you should have been yesterday.” Oh and this choice one I found today…. “The book is called ‘Opportunity’ and its first Chapter is New Year’s Day.”
Nope. I say no more…I call BS on this. New Year – New YOU? Does the clock swinging to midnight actually change you? Make you different? No…you’re still you…the you that you were yesterday, you know…last year? Only now you’re a day older and one day into the year of forgotten promises, more guilt and the inevitable absolution that awaits you next December. Good intentions are one thing, and frankly that’s what these so-called resolutions really are, right? Not that there’s anything wrong with good intentions but just the very nature of them allows for excuses. “I had the best of intentions but I forgot your birthday!” “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings but I really had the best of intentions!” We use the same excuse for our abandoned resolutions.
resolution[ ˌrezəˈlo͞oSHən ] NOUN: a firm decision to do or not to do something. Synonyms: intention · resolve · decision · intent · aim · plan · commitment ·
Aim. Plan. Commitment.
These words all have something in common – they require effort.
Aim: This inspires visions of keeping your eye on the target and never wavering…pointing the wheel in a different direction and following the path that you are aiming yourself on. The best tip I ever got in snowboarding was “Point in the direction you want to go.” Sounds silly, but it works! Aiming is the same idea – point yourself in the direction you want to go – and line up the things in your life to help you go that way. Everything should be aimed in that direction, or you end up literally falling flat on your face (or catching the dreaded downhill edge, whichever comes first).
Plan: This requires forethought, time and desire. To make a plan you will likely have thought something through from inception to completion, know the tools, people and effort it will take to make the plan come to life. Your goals will succeed or fail based on the thoroughness of your plan and so when we plan we take everything into consideration. Like planning a family vacation – you very likely don’t just “wing it”. No….you plan. You’ve saved, you’ve reserved, you’ve ordered out each day and packed and prepared. A plan takes work and often teamwork – so ask for help! The best plans come to fruition with a whole lot of checkpoints and accountability. (spoken like a true Project Manager)
Commitment: Funny that as I’m writing this, the song playing on the shuffle in my headphones is Eye of the Tiger. Coincidence? I think not. Rocky…now THAT’S commitment. It’s all in the attitude – whatever it takes, blood, sweat, tears, picking yourself up and coming back stronger than ever. Commitment is vows at a marriage ceremony, taken so seriously that we say them in front of God and all our family. Commitment is hard and rocky and painful. It requires effort, staying power and again, accountability. Commitment is the wheels under the plan when we take the wheel and aim in a new direction.
This is a true resolution. It’s not a list to check off, or a really good intention. A resolution is painful and difficult but reserved for the very best people – those that are willing to struggle, to sacrifice and to actually really truly make changes that stick. Those are the resolutions that deserve not to be hung on the fridge, but tattooed on your arm. They last. They work.
This year, if you’ve waited till December 31st to absolve yourself of the past year’s failings and promise that today is a new beginning, well so be it. But do yourself a favor, give yourself the best gift. Don’t make it a good intention or your best effort. Make it real. Make it last. Make a resolution – a firm decision. One that is anchored in a plan and sincere commitment. Ask for help, get an army to do it with you. But please, whatever you do, don’t be happy with another year of absolution. Not this time.
Happy New Year – and p.s. you don’t need to be a new YOU – you are a beautiful and wonderful child of God. Now walk in that knowledge and instead be the BEST you.
I was sitting at the bar at my hotel this week, sipping a glass of wine and getting a little work done, when a man approached the bar and, as we often do, began to ask about the various beer that were on tap. There were only a few – six or seven at most, both well-known domestics, as well as a couple local flavor brews. The one in question was a local IPA and the man just wasn’t sure, so the bartender offered him a taste of it. I quipped to the man, “Good idea – a pint is a big commitment.” It was a meaningless exchange, but it got me to thinking over the next few days about how the man and his taster of the beer (which he did indeed enjoy, and committed to the pint) are an interesting reflection of society today.
We live in a world that is afraid to commit – so afraid to make a mistake, or look back with regrets, that we go through life just sampling. Not fully committing, but sampling, trying, window-shopping our way through nearly everything life has to offer. Our “try it before you buy it” culture is everywhere…and granted, sometimes there are times it’s important. Buying a car, or even a couch – of course you’re going to sit on that couch before you buy it, drive that car before making such a big financial commitment. The biggest purchases require planning, saving, sampling and trying several options before deciding on that right one. (And even then, we’re often allowed a cooling off-period for when buyers’ remorse sets in!) I don’t deny that that’s a prudent way to live at times.
But how much do we allow that to spill over into our everyday lives? Think about it – the silly example of the beer taster is only the beginning. We are allowed the opportunity to taste the bottle of wine we have just ordered and send it back if we are not happy with it, even though the bottle has already been compromised. We watch countless previews of movies and decide in that three minute sampling if we’re willing to commit two hours of our time to watch the whole thing at a later date. Heck, you can feed a family of four in about an hour on a Saturday at Costco and never spend a dime! We love free samples! Who’s going to turn one down when offered? But take the coupon and buy the entire package? No thanks. Too big of a commitment.
My gym offers one week free to potential members…come try the gym, come try fitness, take a few days and make a lifestyle change! I wonder though how many of those people actually use the full week to begin with, and then come back and say, “I’m all in! Sign me up!” Very few, I would be willing to bet. There’s no risk and no need to actually make a life change. Nope…commitment is looking in the mirror and saying,“Something needs to change. No excuses.” You buy the membership, hire a trainer, stock your pantry with healthy foods and dive in fully committed to this healthy new lifestyle. All In. But let’s be honest…how often does that actually happen?
And let’s get even more real – there are not many places that our fear of commitment carries over more than it does in our relationships. In matters of the heart, very few are willing to go all in without a large degree of self-protection and skepticism. We enter into relationships with our parachutes already strapped on, the escape hatch in full view so when it’s time to bail, it’s easy to do so. Love at first sight? Heck no. Too much risk. Fall in love? I’ll say the words, but actually carry out unconditional, no-exceptions, crazy in love, love? No way. We hold big parts, important parts of ourselves back, just in case…just in case the sample is distasteful and the pint is too much of a commitment. We swipe left, lose the number, change our status, and move along.
And you know what…me too! You get hurt, disappointed, make the same mistake one too many times, and FEAR sets in. Doubt rules and risks are carefully measured. Why do I do this? Why do I let fear rule my relationships, my day-to-day decisions?
My maternal grandparents met on a train in Germany during WWII. My grandfather got off the train that day, looked at my pretty little Army nurse grandmother and told her he was going to find her when the war was over and marry her. He did. My dad came home from his first date with my mom, took his Bible and opened it to the middle, where the family genealogy pages are found, and wrote her name right next to his: “Robert Gene Williams married to Nancy Jane Turner”…
Generations of All In. Jumping in without sampling, without fear…I wouldn’t be here to write this if they had weighed the cost, made pros and cons lists and allowed fear to rule. This was love…young, foolish and headstrong. But it lasted…they never bailed. How many of us can say we’ve experienced that kind of love in our past? Not too many I would bet. Not me. Don’t you want that kind of life? The kind where you say, “Yes!” and go! Where you fight back the bile rising in your throat, the butterflies in your stomach and fly…. without fear.
I don’t want to dip my toe in the pond of life, I want to cannonball in, jump from a cliff into dark, deep waters and shout with joy and delight as I tumble toward the unknown. I’m tired of sampling. Pour me the pint and let my cup overflow.
Everyone has a story. Some of us never realize it. Some never get told. Some stay buried and hidden in shame. Some make it to the big screen in Hollywood lights. Some of us become the victim of our story and let it write itself, with us helpless to change the plot, much less the outcome. Some of us realize, right in the middle of it, that this is NOT going to be my story, and so we step out of the pages, take the pen in hand and start over. Fresh page, new chapter, crack the binding on the leather and smell the newness kind of rewrite.
This is my story.
I became a single mother at 26. Not by choice, but by necessity. I remember laying in a bed in the emergency room, 8 months pregnant, put there yet again by the father of my yet unborn child, wondering how much lower I could get, what could possibly be worse than that very moment of my life. So at 26, fully responsible for the life of my child who had yet to take her first breath, I ran. And boy, did I run. I ran for my life. I ran for hers. I ran nearly 2,000 miles away from the man who had vowed to honor and cherish and protect me, in fear that he would be the end of me, but more importantly, the precious life that grew inside of me, and was mere weeks from making her grand appearance into this awful, beautiful, horrible, breathtaking plane we call “life”.
I escaped a fire that threatened to consume me, and ran right into the furnace of single motherhood, which hits you hard with reality from the first sharp cries in the delivery room, to the day you pawn your wedding ring to buy diapers. But I was never a victim…no way. I was a fighter. I immediately realized, almost overnight, no one was going to make it happen for me, for us, other than yours truly. So I worked two jobs, for less than I had ever imagined I would earn; I huddled in a walk-in closet in a run-down apartment with my 9-month-old daughter while tornado sirens blared and she cried. And I cried. But we survived. And survive we did. We were strong – we were a team.
We have built that foundation as mother and daughter now for 18 years. We have run many times, and weathered many storms. But we have survived. And maybe even thrived. Fingers crossed – the pages are still being written. It was when my daughter was just a few months old, when I was living in that tiny apartment, praying that I would make enough money to keep the lights on and the formula coming, that I discovered the healing power of strength – physical strength and how it empowered me to find an inner strength I never knew I had.
You see, I had been abused and misused and, for years, made to feel like I wasn’t enough, but suddenly, face to face with myself in the mirror of a run-down Gold’s Gym in Kansas City, I found me. Me. Not the single mom. Not the victim of domestic abuse. Me in the mirror that I had never seen. The weights didn’t mock me – they joined me in my quest. They cheered me on as I grew stronger. And I soon discovered that in my journey to fitness, lay my ability to heal from the inside out. Here…this was something I could control. This was something no one – NO one – could take away from me. Fitness, exercise, commitment, dedication and the community around me became the therapy I couldn’t find laying on a couch somewhere rehashing my history. Here it made sense, in the grey dingy basement of an old building in North Kansas City. Here, I belonged and inspired and could grow and heal and learn and turn and do the same for others.
My life has been a roller coaster, as have all our lives, of ups and downs, moments of great joy and triumph and moments we want to end it all. Ask my sister about that – she knows the desperation in her little sister’s voice fingering a bottle of pills, wondering why she shouldn’t just swallow them all. And this, in the very recent past. In a much nicer house, several hundred miles and many years away from those first days of desperation. We’ve all been there. Highs….lows. Oh, such painful lows. But through it all, there was a strength inside that kept me right, made me see the light of the next sunrise and the light in the eyes of my daughter, and the satisfaction the next day that I got when the iron surrendered to my strength in the familiar confines of my local gym.
I have great faith, and know personally the God who loves me. I have a beautiful daughter who is fiercely loyal to me – we have saved each other’s lives time and time again. I have an amazing family, loving friends and a roof over my head. Man, I’m blessed. I also have fitness. Fitness is mine. My strength is mine – it is earned, hard-fought through sleepless nights, empty bank accounts, jobs lost – my strength, my health, my muscles, my form, my goals met and exceeded, setbacks and triumphs – they are mine. No one can take them from me. I’m not a pro. I don’t have a bunch of letters behind my name announcing my diplomas and degrees and certifications. I am barely an amateur – I know this. I don’t pretend to be what I’m not. But fitness saved my life. Many times over. Fitness has been the one mainstay that I can go back to, a shelter to which I can retreat that, at least for an hour or two, blocks out the raging sounds of the storms around me. It’s so much more than picking heavy things up and putting them back down, although that’s pretty cool too. It’s so much more than training your body for weeks and weeks, making it your slave, and then stepping on stage and asking perfect strangers to judge you, but that’s pretty damn amazing as well. It’s knowing that no matter what, this is mine. I control it. I am strong in myself, not because someone tells me I am or because I think I should be defined by what someone thinks about me. This is mine. And it’s saved my life and kept me sane and grounded and strong – empowered – motivated.
Seven years ago, I competed in my first fitness competition. When I say “first”, I mean this was the first time I spent an ungodly amount of money, whittled my body down to fit in 5” of fabric, stepped into 5” heels and was judged for how I look. It sounds insane when I put that down in words. But the truth of the matter is, I have been in a fitness competition for the last decade, and then some. Fitness, and health, has always been something I have battled for, and sometimes lost. Sometimes it lost to alcohol and partying and other times it lost to busyness and the needs of a young child or a job. It’s always been a competition; the difference is this time, someone handed me a trophy at the end and said, “Good job. Way to stick with it. Way to see it through to completion.” But it was still mine – win or lose, and as it turns out, I won – I won ME. I won in so many ways that can never be hung around my neck or placed on a shelf. I found me.
Fitness empowered me to find myself and grow in that newfound strength. So many of you have asked me for help, for advice, for tips and have brought me to tears and humbled me with your words of encouragement, thanking me and telling me how I’ve inspired you. So how could I be so selfish as to keep it all to myself? I can’t! That’s why I’m here. Not because I’m a “pro” or “elite” but because I know how to do this thing called fitness and health and it’s shameful to hide it away until I get the status that others think I should have. Fitness saved my life. Fitness empowered me and helped me to see myself in ways I could never have before. And it can do the same for you. Take control. Find out just how damn strong you are and start there. Let’s do it together. Let’s rewrite our stories.