Usually I hit the new year hard. I get excited to put away Christmas, to face the empty calendar refreshed and doe-eyed. Anything is possible! I can be whoever I want! It is an automatic do-over.
But I have been more circumspect this year. Perhaps lazier? Maybe we can call it wiser. At the very least, let’s agree on more mellow.
In 2014, right after starting this blog, I jumped on that trendy bandwagon where we all picked a word. Remember that?! In the ultimate nod to the digital age, we couldn’t even be bothered with sentences. Words. Mine was “here.” That translated to trying to be fully present in my life, not living outside it, worried about the next hour.
In 2015, I confessed that my new year’s resolutions have nothing to do with my kids. I explained why that’s okay in reaction to the mom-blogging community which seemed (seems?) to have become snarky at times and obsessed with overwhelming mom-love at others. I was trying to bring new questions to a community which seemed to be on repeat. I can’t say it worked. And for the record: I adore the mom-blogging community. I think I was having an existential crisis then.
In 2016, I apparently decided I was perfect since I didn’t make a resolution. At least, not one publicly shared.
Today, January of 2017, I have been appropriately navel-gazing and gone round about what I should publicly declare as this year’s goal. After over two weeks of researching Pinterest and reading other blogs, I am prepared to announce my shocking resolution.
I am going to lower my expectations.
I am not going to have a word I strive for, career goals I want to “smash.” I am not going to shred or cleanse or paleo. I am not going to create a bullet journal habit-tracker to become more mindful or to read more or to exercise better self-care. None of it.
I told you, I am more mellow.
Truth be told, I am doing this because I am, in my heart, the OPPOSITE of mellow. I like to control and have a clear path not only for my life but for my kids’ (and my husband’s, too, which I assure you he just looooooves). I am motivated. If I set a goal I want to meet it. I know what I want my body to look like and I work hard to chase fitness all the time. If there is something in life making me unhappy, I change it, without waiting for the first of the year.
But I have been working hard over the past couple of years, as documented on this blog, to live life right, to be engaging in a life of joy and fullness. In my quest, something else has happened. I have started to stress myself out over whether I am getting it right.
I read a book called The Grain Brain and, immediately, I must engage in all the dietary changes to save my life. I read a book called Born to Run and, immediately, I must start running because science proves humans are happier when they do. I must cut out my one glass of red wine at night because people are doing Dry January and what if my malbec means I am less than the ideal human!?
I am worrying so much about living the perfect life that I have stopped living.
Don’t misunderstand, there is a lot of joy in my life. I seize opportunities and have come to a place of peace with my career, balance, and my family.
But I have been caught up in all the should’s. I see them as action items. And let’s be real: in this digital age it is so easy to be bludgeoned with all the should’s. It is why Facebook is dangerous, why blogs and magazines can be hidden evils. We want to see how the elite are doing it. I dream that I will be thin, with perfect eyebrows, and an effortless style. Yet right now I just plucked a stray chin hair, my mom-belly isn’t taut, and I am wearing clothes I bought right out of college. Yet, if I don’t think about it too hard, I am happy. If I don’t pit myself up against my own expectations, then I am content.
So what if, I thought to myself the other day, I just lowered my expectations?
What if I did the best I could but guiltlessly enjoyed my evening 5 ounces of wine? What if once a day I had a piece of bread? What if I decided not to take fish oil pills? What if I decided that I really hate HIIT workouts and didn’t do them? What if I decided I love writing here and for my local publications and didn’t need the nationwide bylines and fame?
Would I cease to be happy?
The answer seems obvious when rationally discussed: NO, I would be HAPPIER if I followed my instincts and followed my joy. I just need to lower my expectations…on myself.
Clearly, there has to be a middle ground with this. If I quit striving to do things better and pushing myself outside my comfort zone, when complacency sets in, when I have all the wine and all the bread, life becomes decidedly unhealthy. I can’t let myself fall into unhealthy habits or addictions or laziness. But can’t I decide I have one life to live and, as long as I am generally headed in the right direction, I can take some allowances and enjoy it?
So this year, in 2017, I am lowering my expectations. I am walking that line between challenging myself to live life right but allowing my head to simmer down and just enjoy it.