In 2002, I started the year by making a resolution to tell the truth and only the truth. This resolution prompted some people to ask, "Were you lying your way through 2001?"
Not exactly. But I think that I, like many young people, was feeling a little untethered in January 2002. So, I decided I could not steer myself wrong as long as I told the truth. Lofty, lofty goal. Especially for a twenty-two year old.
In 2008, I resolved to be less judgmental. Another lofty resolution. The inspiration for it came to me one day while I was trying to get to the C train at the Fulton stop in lower Manhattan. I was walking on the platform for the 4,5 train, and I was frustrated by (angry with?) the people in front of me for moving "too slowly." Not an uncommon reaction. I realized that all of that anger was not good for me, and it was not fair to anyone else. And so, a resolution was born.
In 2009, I resolved to practice a breathing exercise every morning for four weeks. I would breathe in for four counts, hold my breath for four counts, and exhale for four counts. Eleven times. For twenty-eight days. My yoga teacher said this practice would change my life. I am an easy sell on life-altering breathing exercises, so I decided to give it a whirl. Two weeks into the resolution, I found out I was pregnant with a certain Fraggle Bug.
For 2013, I have resolved to be present (more). This one is a challenge for me, but I reached a point at the end of last year when I realized something needed to change. I felt overwhelmed by stress, much of which arose from things beyond my control.
I spent a lot of 2012 thinking about how to change my future.
How to get the right job.
Whether I have found the right job.
Whether I will change careers (again).
When to change careers (again).
Whether I will start my own business.
How to spend more time with my boys.
Whether I will have another baby.
Whether I should blog every night, treat it like a budding small business on the side, publish more, and try to set up a freelance career.
Whether we have the right apartment.
Whether we will ever be able to afford the inevitable loss if we sell our New York apartment. Whether we will ever buy a house in Massachusetts.
How to find the right daycare/preschool after the move.
Whether we should find a different daycare now that we are settling in.
Which town we should live in.
Whether I should quit the blog.
Whether we can afford to hire someone to clean our apartment.
How to cook more for my family.
How to make sure the kids get enough sleep.
How to make sure I get enough sleep.
And on and on and on.
I reacted to all of that uncertainty by spending a lot of time coming up with plans. Multi-year plans. I would go online and search real estate. Apartments to rent next fall. Houses to buy. Different houses depending on the scenario I was exploring - multi-family, single-family, using our hypothetical future savings, using lottery winnings. I would go online and search daycares, preschools, and public school systems. I would make weird little charts on post-it notes, mapping out the years, the hypothetical income from the job (whatever job or no job), and the kids.
It was like an anxiety feedback loop. The more I thought about the various futures in front of me, the more anxiety I felt prompting me to plan for each of them. The more I researched and mapped out paths (to fulfillment?), the more anxious I felt about the inescapable fact that I was not actually on any one of them. Which restarted the whole cycle. The anxiety of uncertainty made me feel that I needed to search my soul for just the right answer. And the more I searched my soul (and the internet), the more uncertainty I felt about the future.
So, I had to call it a day (a year). I knew I had to do things that keep me present - not roaming. Less screen time (declared the blogger). More exercise.
I realized if I wanted more time with my kids, I could just open myself up to the time I actually have with them. Listen to them. Feel them in my arms. Smell their hair after the bath. Watch them learning to play with each other. See their smiles, their concentrating faces, their sad faces, their eyebrows raised. Hear Bug's stories about deep sea divers, dinosaurs, and dragons. Hear Squish's daily recognition of the ball in the backyard ("Baaa!?! Baaa?!?").
So much of our future will be determined by things beyond my control that I have decided to wait until some of the variables sort themselves out. I am taking a break from planning for twenty different futures. And while I am on break, I plan to be as attentive as possible to what is happening around me - even if that is a Squish passing me his pacifier at 5:48 am during the part of the day I like to call, "Squish, Are You Sure You Want To Get Up Now Or Could We Have All This Fun In An Hour?"