1. Throw Less Parties. Pity parties, that is. I am the queen of pity parties. I can throw a mother of a pity party, complete with decorations, fine china and a bottle of “Poor Me” champagne. My pity parties usually take place while washing dishes, sitting in the dentist chair or shopping at Ross. My latest pity party occurred roughly two weeks ago, when I visited the local Ross in search of a few last minute Christmas gifts. Ross is a place I loathe, yet find myself at quite frequently. To quote my friend Amy, “It smells like poop.” And if you sniff hard, you’ll note that it does. There’s always a screaming child nearby, the music is not even suitable for elevators, and the carts suck. Each cart comes complete with a long metal pole, just in case one should get a crazy notion and decide to run with it down the street. On this particular day, there was only one cart left when I entered the store. And I soon discovered why it had not been snatched up: it squeaked. It was the suckiest cart in the store. Within five minutes of my shopping experience, I was in full blown pity party mode. The progression went a little something like this: I always get the squeaky cart. I hate being broke. I hate shopping at Ross. I have no decent underwear. My hair is too frizzy. I hate Pinterest. No one likes me. My life sucks. Yeah, lame, I know. But there I went, on and on and on as I weaved my way through the crowded aisles. By the time I ditched my squeaky cart and got to my car, I was in such a low mood I had to go home and eat four giant chunks of dark chocolate. Yes, I DO know there are far worse things in the world than getting the squeaky cart at Ross. But sometimes, we just can’t snap out of the funk, ya know? So this coming year, I’m going to try harder. I’m going to try to stop the pity party before it starts. I’m going to slam the door in its face, hide the “Poor Me” champagne and focus on the good in my life.
2. Raise My Voice More Often. No, I’m not talking about yelling at my kids, though, admittedly, I did a bit of that when they were younger. I’m going to start speaking up about the things that matter to me, even if it scares me a bit. I’ve spent most of my life playing peace maker, trying to please everyone, pasting a smile on my face and nodding my head politely. When certain topics arise, I simply change the subject or shove some chocolate in my mouth. But I don’t want to do that anymore. Being silent is not always honest, and I want to be honest – with myself and with others. Several months ago, a friend emailed me regarding something I did not agree with. For the first time in my life, I spoke up. With shaking fingers, I typed back a polite but candid email, explaining why I did not agree with her. I took a deep breath as I hit the “send” button, wondering if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. But guess what? We are! We choose to disagree, and that’s okay! And so, in 2014, I will attempt to raise my voice, even if I have to clear my throat a few times before I get the words out. Though it feels scary, I believe that, like learning to ski, it will get easier the more times I practice. And I will be okay.
3. Get More Wrinkles. As I inch toward my 40’s, I’ve noticed a few lines I’m not too happy with. Though I did not think it was possible, I am now a walking testimony that one can simultaneously have both wrinkles and zits. And it sucks. For the first time in my life, I invested in some (very expensive!) anti-aging cream this past year. So far, I’m not sure it’s working. But one thing I’m not too worried about? My laugh lines. You know, the creases on your face that prove you know how to have a good time now and then. I’m hoping to get a few more of those this coming year. And I’m hoping they come with the gut-wrenching, side-splitting, tears-streaming-down-your-face laughter, preferably in the company of good friends, with a glass of wine or a raspberry martini. If I must laugh at myself, so be it. And if I end up more wrinkly by December 31, 2014, I’ll just smile and wear them with pride.
4. . Use More Paper. I know, the environmentalists are freaking out at this one. To be honest, I’ve never been too good at recycling. In fact, I’m downright lousy. Or should I say, lazy. I know it wouldn’t take much to march my cardboard boxes and bottles to the recycling bin outside, but sometimes I just don’t feel like putting my shoes on. And so I don’t do it. I don’t use the reusable bags at the grocery store either. While we’re at it, I sometimes leave the lights on when I go out, I take long baths and use up too much hot water, and I don’t support Green Peace. So shoot me. But this coming year, I’m vowing to use more paper. I’m talking about trading in the convenient “e-card” , email, text or Facebook message for a nice, old fashioned, hand written letter. Granted, my handwriting is illegible, and even I have a hard time reading it sometimes. But I really believe our generation has lost something in the technology boom. We’ve lost that personal touch, that little thrill when we open the mailbox and find a sweet letter, carefully addressed to us, scrawled on pretty stationery. Admit it –even the biggest Apple buffs love getting Christmas cards in the mail. This year, I plan to send more cards, more letters, more love. Even if it costs us a tree in some forest somewhere in Oregon. So if you find a little something in your mailbox in the coming days, know that it came straight from my heart, even if it’s too illegible to decipher.
5. Stop Running. Okay, well, those of you who know me well know I never started in the first place. I tried a few times. I attempted to train for a half marathon for three hours on a Saturday morning once, but I got side cramps and blisters and had to throw in the towel. I’ve tried running on the treadmill, but that’s not much fun either. The minutes crawl by, I sweat profusely, and instead of experiencing this so-called “runner’s high” I so often hear about, I simply feel angry. Like I could kick someone in the shins with my New Balance tennis shoes and leave a nice bruise. So, much as I’d like to plaster a 26.2 sticker on the back of my SUV, running just isn’t my thing. But I’m not talking about that anyway. I’m talking about running from one place to another, constantly scrambling, over-scheduling, squeezing every last nanosecond out of my 24 hour day. To be honest, I’m tired. The pace is exhausting, and I’m not sure us humans were ever meant to live life on the fast track. When I got sick a few years back, my life was forced to come to a screeching halt. I stopped everything, gave it all up. And in the process, something kind of cool happened. I began to realize that slowing down wasn’t so scary after all. I took naps without guilt, read magazines at 3 p.m., lit fancy candles I’d never used, and took long bubble baths. I overheard my peers gush about how “busy” they were, as though it was some sort of prize to attain. And instead of envying them, I felt a bit sorry for them instead. But several years later, I’m back on that same fast track, wondering how I worked my way into this constant tailspin. Soccer practice, laundry, dishes, homework –it never seems to end. This year, despite the inevitable madness, I vow (and by vow, I mean try really, really hard) to stop running. I vow to slow down, make time for those I love, to get off the fast train once and for all. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll start living again. Maybe I’ll actually make eye contact with the grocery store checker instead of stuffing my wallet in my purse and bolting for the door. Maybe I’ll actually HEAR my daughter when she shares her dreams with me instead of muttering an absent minded “Mmm hmm.” Maybe I’ll actually take in the sunset and snap a photo instead of honking at the too-slow car in front of me. And maybe, in catching my breath, I’ll discover that sometimes all we need to do is just breathe.
6. Gain a Little. The scale is perhaps the most dreaded fixture in our lives. We stare at it as though it were a live serpent, deciding whether or not to step on and face the music. Did the pumpkin pie and Fireball and garlic mashed potatoes really catch up with us this year? And if only we could take back that calorie-ridden fruit cake we ate JUST so we could say we’d tasted fruit cake! Did we do enough lunges and crunches and burpees to work off the junk? I didn’t own a scale for years. Then I finally bought one at Target this summer, and it promptly broke two months later. It cost $20 and didn’t have a warranty. And no, I didn’t break it…it broke on its own. A wasted $20, my husband said sadly. But I feel much better now that it’s gone. I don’t have to stare at its ugly face on my way to brush my teeth in the morning. My freedom to eat dark chocolate at night is regained. But I wasn’t talking about gaining pounds anyway. I was talking about gaining LIFE. You know, really living. Gaining experiences, new friends, new tastes, a new skill. Hiking that mountain I’ve only looked at from a distance. Finally signing up for that cooking class. Making the effort to walk a few yards across the street and finally meet my new neighbor. Visiting a new state. Trying that new lipstick. Gaining the courage to finally write the book I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Pounds will come and go, but life is priceless. So are you with me? Let’s gain a little this year! And if we wind up a bit plumper by next New Years Eve, we’ll call it a good year.