More love, less accountability for your New Year’s Resolutions

I have plenty of fodder for New Year’s Resolutions, considering all the things I signed up for in the last few months of 2021: a peer networking group. A passion collective. Cooking for Lasagna Love. A LinkedIn “pod” where members promote each other’s content. Wearing the same dress for 100 days. I started a spirituality writing group. A 12-week wellness course that starts next week. I kicked off a new fractional CMO engagement (basically a new part-time job). I started working with a spiritual director. I signed up for a 7-day self-care jump start so I could go into the holidays healthy.

All of these groups and engagements come with structures and commitments and deliverables. They come with a payoff – and a lot of pressure. If you read to the end, you’ll see none of them make it into the things I’m holding myself to in 2022.

I’m excited about the things I’m tackling, but in my frenzy to sign up and jump in, the chatter in my brain became loud and shaming: I should do this. I haven’t read the book for the group yet. I must get XX hours of work done before Dec. 18 so I can fully enjoy the holidays. I need to get ready for my writing group hotseat. I need to figure out my book! WHAT in the world are we going to get these kids for Christmas? Walk the dog! Cook healthy food! Don’t spread COVID! Don’t live in fear!

On the first night of my 7-day self-care challenge I introduced myself by rattling off all the reasons I hadn’t checked any of the heart tick boxes in the self-love worksheet I had in front of me for the day – but it was only 7 o’clock! I could still do something good for my mind, body and spirit from each section of the list! I had committed to this challenge and I WOULD follow through for myself.

The facilitator kindly suggested that I take a deep breath and… noted that there wasn’t an ounce of self-love or compassion in my spinning, rambling introduction of myself. She suggested I think of my own definitions for self-loving behaviors and activities and give myself credit for claiming them and following through on them. Life hack: notice when I’m saying I should do something, and examine the assumptions and pressures that got me there.

This homily from Father Clay addresses the contradictions in our motives when it comes to exercising love and power in relationships with other people. I could write a whole other post about the external conflicts and contradictions I have and what this homily teaches me. It’s hitting home for me right now, though, in the conversations I was having with myself. Internally, a logical, goal-oriented persona was making plans and signing up for things with an eye on outcomes and results, while another part of me was suffering, trying to do everything. Yes, I was cracking under the pressure of self-care.

We had a lovely Christmas. My family is, however, coming out of winter break with a 50% COVID positivity rate (The girls are sick. The boys are fine.) I had goals for this week, but in the end, I napped a lot, read a lot, watched TV with my daughter, and drank lots of water. The first day of 2022 feels a lot like the last days of 2021 – reading, some writing, some TV, and all the loving attention we can give each other. My mind is less busy right now. Fuzzy from the congestion, but much less busy.

New Year’s Resolutions: One Day at a Time. Do the best I can. Breathe love in. Breathe love out. Let that be enough.

Love Is Patient; Love Does Not Insist on Its Own Way

Now, this reading today says love is patient and love doesn’t insist on its own way. We may look at that and say, “Well, that’s nice, but how do I do that? How do I put it into practice, in the concrete?”

Love does not insist on its own way. Boy, this is a big problem for me! Without knowing all of you individually, I’d say it’s a problem for ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent of you, and maybe one hundred percent. Insisting on our own way—that’s underneath so much of the stuff and quarrels and impatience that happens between us. There’s something inside of us that says, My way is the right way and you ought to do it my way.

Ever get mad in the car? Ever give anybody the finger? If you didn’t do it, did you do it in
your mind? Facing that is really hard. I was very old before I realized how insightful it was to look at what was going on inside myself. Those thoughts are in there. This is the way it’s supposed to be done. If you don’t do it that way there’s something wrong with you. But love doesn’t insist on its own way.

Here’s another example. Do you like to put the toilet paper on the roll coming out from the top or the bottom? I wonder how many marriages have broken up because of that. “Well, you know it should come from the top.” “Don’t be stupid—the bottom’s the right way!”

This happens our whole life. We insist on our way, although Paul says love does not insist on its own way. No wonder we have trouble. Is it any wonder our relationships are so difficult? We’re filled with anger, rage, resentment. If we could only be aware of that little voice inside that says, You’re supposed to do it my way. Like I’m the Creator of the Universe and I make the stars go the way the stars go! So this is part of our problem.

We talk about leaders. There’s usually a leader in a family. Leaders, of course, want everything done their way. Sometimes this is done sneaky; sometimes it’s done very
overtly and powerfully. And of course I want all those things done my way for the “good of the family.” My motives are noble. I’m really a very gracious and wonderful human being. And I insist on you doing it my way—it’s for the good of the family! And if you believe that, I’ve got some land in Florida for you.

This happens at all levels. Business leaders: I’m doing it for the good of the business. Most
anything goes as long as it’s for the good of the business, even though it’s dishonest.
Politicians: I’m making you do what I want, for the good of the party. I have no selfish
motives. Civil officials: It’s for the good of the country; that’s why I’m doing it. See how noble I am? And then we have church leaders—we do the same thing. My way. But what I say to myself is, It’s for the good of the Church. I remember a cardinal saying one time, “I
would never lie, unless it’s for the good of the Church.”

We all do it. We want things done our way. And so when people say it’s for the good of the
family, or church, or whatever—stop and take a look. And I’ll bet you in ninety-five percent of the cases it is, I want it done my way—because obviously my way is God’s way. We need to look hard at that and hear all of those voices underneath.

God bless you.

From the homily “Love Is Patient; Love Does Not Insist on Its Own Way” in Dear People Whom God Loves by Father John Clay (c) 1999

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