Ah, the end of the year and the beginning of a new one!
It’s the perfect time to sit back, not relax at all, bemoan all the things you didn’t accomplish in 2010 and craft a completely unreasonable list of resolutions for 2011.
I will be a better person! I will eat perfectly and work out every day! I will never get angry or impatient! I will never have negative thoughts, nor speak harshly to another person. I will never be annoyed by my husband’s graham cracker crumbs on the kitchen floor. I will be perfect!
Uh, yeah. Or not.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I think some of us are just wired that way, with an unflagging sense that our lives are a to-do list over which we have no control. We have families and jobs and houses and yards, and we need to look a certain way, act a certain way, be viewed by others a certain way.
I, for one, am my own biggest obstacle. In 2010, I changed jobs, ran three half-marathons and my first full marathon, met new friends, traveled and generally had a pretty solid life. Yet my mind dwells on all I did not accomplish, and on the fact that jeans I wore in May no longer concede to button.
I think of the times I took out work frustrations on my husband at home. I recall the moments when I grew impatient with my grandfather. Too numerous are the times I judged other people, spoke ill of perceived enemies, failed to recognize someone’s needs and didn’t pay close enough attention at Mass.
The more shortcomings I list, the more discouraging it feels to even try to be a Christian. There are moments when I honestly wonder why I bother, considering how obviously lacking I am.
As a matter of fact, as I write this blog, I’m procrastinating. I should be finishing my April magazine story, but my busy, fretful brain lacks focus and inspiration on this day. Because of that, I picked up some printouts a colleague left for me, and I began reading an article from the November/December issue of “Catechetical Update.”
The author, Maureen Shaughnessy, SC, seems to have had me in mind when she wrote the piece, “Sharpening Our Spiritual Senses.”
Among her observations that hit me head-on: “… We must care for our whole self. Do a little self examination: How do you care for your body? What are your practices regarding diet, exercise, and rest? All have spiritual implications. How do you nourish your soul? What feeds your spirit? What opportunities do you give yourself to enjoy art, music, relationships, and quiet time spent contemplating the beauty and mystery of life?”
Note the lack of reference to any sort of to-do list in Sister Maureen’s questions.
A life without a perpetual checklist? Who knew?
That truly is something to aspire to in 2011.
In my heart of hearts, though, I know I won’t be list-free in the coming year — probably not ever. But Sister Maureen’s article also reminds us that spiritual formation is a journey, one we travel every day and, indeed, every moment.
All of our choices provide chances to get closer to God and to the complete human being each of us strives to be. And when you think about it, each of our perceived failings is also a chance to take a step forward — if we allow ourselves the grace of forgiveness and the freedom to grow.
So for now, set aside the list. Resolve only to continue trying and to keep your heart open to what God wants for you.
Be good to yourself in 2011. Nourish your soul, feed your spirit and enjoy the mystery of being alive.