It’s a new year, and with that comes the promise of living differently, as a better version of ourselves. Are you making some this year? What are they about? Instead of listing mine here, I started thinking about the ghosts of New Year’s resolutions past and wondering if I was able to attain/maintain them. I think we can all relate to putting out lofty and ambitious goals for the coming year, which are quickly forgotten or taper off somewhere in the middle of February (ever noticed how many people are in the gym the first week of January vs. the first week of March?). Hey, it happens. Life gets in the way of the changes we want to make, the people we want to be. I’ve shared about some of the most difficult years of my life, when the whole thing was taking a nosedive, and how I realized the need for some major, lasting changes. I remember how important a few of those new years were, because they symbolized a fresh start, a reset button that was so desperately needed (though I’ll admit in times of cynicism I do agree with Bono: nothing changes on New Year’s Day; and certainly not, if you don’t take any action).
On New Year’s Day 2009 I ran out of a brunch party at the apartment of so-called friends, terribly hungover, tears streaming down my cheeks (I don’t cry often, so the fact this was happening in public was testament to how badly I was doing), in a state of total humiliation.The streets were empty, the sky low and grey, the air a biting, damp cold. I had just been abruptly confronted about my drinking, creating a terribly awkward situation in front of a group of peers, many of whom were strangers. I cut and ran.
It wasn’t until the end of January that I came to the first of that year’s resolutions: to stop drinking. I was in the middle of a crushing, multi-day hangover which included nausea, pounding headaches, muscle weakness, the shakes, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue and mental confusion. Two days after the last time I got drunk I was at the gym working out when I saw stars and thought I was passing out on the treadmill. I had the sense that I was losing control of my mind and it scared the shit out of me. I was struck with the sudden, undeniable clarity that if I didn’t stop drinking I was going to make myself insane, if I didn’t die first. I resolved to stop drinking January 31st that year, and each year since, continuing to not drink is the first item on the list.
Since 2009 was a year of self-destruction and devastation, I came out of it with some important notes for the future. My top resolution of 2010 was “no pandering, no pretending, no putting up and shutting up”. Part of what had led me into the hot mess my life had become was my inability to be separate from the people around me. In other words, I was terribly codependent, lacking a sense of self, and entirely unable to think, react, feel or speak from a place of personal authenticity. I was a reflection of the people around me, taking my cues from what I perceived to be their needs and expectations. As a result, I had drawn selfish, uncaring, insensitive people to me and had been knocking myself out to please them and gain their acceptance. I wasn’t myself, I was whoever I perceived they wanted me to be, from moment to moment. I put myself last, striving to be a get-along girl, someone fun and easy to be with (thinking that would win me close friends). I accepted peoples’ bad behaviors and poor treatment unconditionally, without standing up for myself in the least.
To illustrate, the previous winter we had had a major snowstorm that shut down the city for close to five days, meaning my friends and I were all unable to get to our jobs. Adult snow day! The group we were spending a lot of our time with all lived in the same neighborhood, and we got together to sled down a hill and tramp through the snow to happy hour. At one point I slipped on a patch of ice, falling on my hip on the curb so hard it took my breath away and gave me an instant stabbing headache. My friends, seeing my fall, walked on, or stood staring at me, wordless, clearly irritated I was holding things up. No kind words, no hands reached down to help me up. I felt like an asshole for falling, and for being hurt. Later that night, the same group went out for drinks, not bothering to invite me, though the bar was closer to my apartment than any of theirs. I was a non-entity to them, someone they didn’t bother to think about or include. Instead of calling them out for their unfeeling behavior I made excuses, saying that they could hang out with whoever they want, it’s fine, I would never want to be a burden like they have to invite me. Mind you, half of this group had stood up with me at my wedding. So yeah, no obligations or sense of importance there. I was pandering to their needs and interests, twisting myself into a pretzel to be as unobtrusive as possible. I was pretending to be anyone and anything I thought would garner social acceptance in the group. And I was putting up with being treated like garbage or with indifference, without standing up for myself. No wonder I was drinking myself into oblivion.
I was going to have to make some major changes in the way I approached my friends and colleagues, starting with becoming more comfortable with myself and the idea of not being liked by everyone. My desperate need for acceptance and to fit in had led me to these unsatisfying, shallow relationships, and it was my responsibility to shift the course of my social life. No pandering, no pretending, no putting up and shutting up became my mantra, my platform for approaching relationships. Soon it became normal, fully absorbed into my personality, the one I was able to explore and own as a result of taking on this resolution.
At the end of 2012, though my life was populated with good friends who cared about me and I was firmly on the wagon, my attitude had become a toxic waste barrel, seeping into everything, poisonous. I was living in a city I didn’t like, in a climate that didn’t agree with me, within a society whose values I largely didn’t share. I had come up with the idea of moving away three years prior but due to bad financial circumstances and my partner’s reluctance to leave, I was stuck. I reacted to feeling trapped by taking a cynical, ironic view, speaking in heavy sarcasm and negativity. I was becoming a stark realist with a pessimistic bent, a layer of ice where my heart belonged. My negativity infected everything, creating a vicious cycle–my fuck it attitude creating a fuck it reality. I was gross. In November I had finally put the out-of-state move I’d been longing for together, and my mental skies cleared. I realized if I didn’t resolve to leave my toxic attitude behind, it would follow me to my new life. Then I really would have pulled a “geographic”, expecting my life to improve simply because I was in a different city. It doesn’t work that way. I was going to have to shift my worldview in order to have the life I wanted.
Here we are at the end of 2014, and I’m happy to report I didn’t pack my pessimistic attitude when I moved. It didn’t follow me, and my life is no longer rife with negative energy. Initially I did attract a few of the people I’ve learned I need to avoid–mean girls, shit-talkers, the two-faced and the sad-sacks. I tend to find all those types of people seductive, and when I’m in the wrong headspace they flock to me. When they populate my life it’s only a matter of time before life feels like an endless, miserable grind, my words and actions creating a toxic tar pit from which I may not be so fortunate to escape next time. It took me over a year since moving to stop feeling numb and dead inside, and for the inner ice to melt. I mostly feel revived, healthy, back to my innate sunny optimism. I am responsible for keeping this going, which is why you’ll find me wearing sequins to work on Monday morning (because why not be fabulous on the most challenging day of the week?), with a friendly word for all I encounter, ready to start the week (and year!) off right.
What have you resolved for 2015? Are there any resolutions you’ve kept from years past? Any you want to try again? I’m wishing you a happy, healthy, wondrous 2015!