Five New Year’s Resolutions That Resolve Nothing

Celebrating the new year is a way to acknowledge the promise of our own potential — to shake off any lingering failure and disappointment from the current year and get a fresh start. Sure, it may be 95% psychological. January is just a month, after all. Change can happen any time. But there’s something about fireworks, cheering crowds, sparkling Champagne and the collective determination of millions of people that make it feel real and important.

2020 will be the third new year since my daughter died and the first new decade without her. My ability (and interest) in looking ahead has diminished. The last few years of the current decade have been dominated by despair and grief and I think I’m ready for this year — and this decade — to end, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the next decade.

The end of a year offers the promise of a fresh start. I want to look forward again, to believe that the ache of missing my daughter will be a bit easier to bear. But, I’m ready to let more joy into my life. So, even though I’ve still got a long way to go, I’ll ast least participate in a tried and true New Year’s tradition — a list of resolutions for 2020. (Well, sort of.)

In 2020, I resolve to:

Leave the lights on. I’m not worried about saving money on my electricity. I’m worried about getting lost in the dark. My main resolution for the new year is let as much light in as possible, particularly during the long winter months. I will open the curtains, light candles, turn on all the lights and let the Christmas tree twinkle for an extra day or two. I will accept the comfort, companionship, and love of my family and friends as beacons of light that are here to guide me.

Breathe (deeply). I tend to stop breathing when things get really hard. Grief takes my breath away. In 2020, I’m going to try to remember to take deep, slow breaths and then release them, so that I can fill my body with oxygen and have strength enough to bolster myself and the people I love, especially when they’re holding their own breath.

Lie Down. Grief is exhausting. I use a lot of energy trying to mitigate it or suppress it. I keep thinking I should be as focused and efficient as I was before Ana died, but the truth is that I move through life much more slowly these days. When I ignore this truth and try to push forward, the grief rushes in and I stop functioning completely. So, in 2020, I plan to honor my limitations. I’m going to take more naps, get real sleep at night, and give myself more time off. I will give myself the space I need to grieve and recharge so that I can better meet my needs and the needs of my family.

Give in. Four years was a long time to walk the road of cancer with my child. Three years is an eternity without her. I am not the same person I was before this tragedy hit my family. I’m tired of worrying. I have no interest in controlling anything or anyone. In 2020, I’m going to give in to the many forces I can’t control. Life is random and it can be ruthless. I’ve been looking at what happened to Ana like it’s a puzzle to solve — Why her? Why us? I’ve been wasting precious energy on regret and longing. As the new year approaches, I resolve to give in to what I can’t change. At the very least, I resolve to try.

Stay present. I’ve spent a huge part of my life rushing forward, trying to accomplish goals, change flaws and become successful (whatever that means). I’ve also spent time obsessing over the past — when the kids were little, when my daughter was healthy, the few years I was in the best physical shape of my life. But if I’m always looking forward or back, then I’m not really existing here, in the present. I’ve missed so much, wasted time as though I had an endless supply of it. So, 2020 will start the decade of “now.”

A Tibetan sand mandala is a painting made from millions of grains of sand that can take carefully trained monks days or weeks to complete. Once done, the mandala is dismantled, a ritual meant to symbolize that life is transitory.

Like a mandala, my resolutions are characterized by their impermanence. They are meant to keep me focused on what’s important in the moment and empower me to ignore what’s not. If I break a resolution, then I can simply apply it at the very next opportunity — again and again — to infinity.

This is the only promise I can make to myself in the coming year — focus on the moment, forget everything else. My ultimate resolution is to try to live every day of 2020 as though it were New Year’s Day.

A version of this story was originally published in HuffPost.

Occasional poet. Writer of sad essays. Novelist. Birder and amateur photographer. I enjoy trees.

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