When the New Year Becomes Old

2019 January 4

Maybe this is premature as we’ve only just begun the New Year, but I don’t think so. As most people’s resolutions have come and gone—as easily discarded and forgotten as they were created—there is something to be learned about the fascination with New Year’s resolutions. Instead of just focusing on the specifics of people’s resolutions—losing weight, exercising, saving money, quitting some unhealthy habit, beginning a healthier habit, or spending more time with family and friends—it’s important to consider why listening to other people’s goals may have left you feeling even more alone and disconnected from those around you.

(1) Other people’s resolutions reflect desires and intentions, not necessities. If only 8 percent of people maintain their resolutions, it tells us more about what people want to do than what they must. Sharing common desires is important because it can bring people together. Yet caregivers do not have the luxury of not fulfilling their goals when their days are defined by daily acts of care that merit little, if any, notice. These promises aren’t necessarily optional and they can’t be neglected or ignored. Their invisible and unheralded tenacity occurs whether others notice or not.

Caregivers care, day in and day out, engaging in acts of care that highlight what resolve really looks like, up close and in person, day in and day out.

Let’s raise a glass to all who do that which is deemed necessary, not because it will mean more attention or acclaim, but because you care. And because you care, your resolve is played out by how you engage your loved ones.

(2) Other people’s resolutions feature change as the ultimate state of perfection. The act of making a public resolution, late at night at a party, surrounded by others, is an alluring act of identification by which sharing is achieved by pointing out what is incomplete. Resolutions hold out the promise that change, and change alone, is the means to a better life. At first glance, this type of goal setting is admirable because it highlights a desire to work toward our better selves.

Unfortunately, however, other people’s resolutions almost always reinforce the belief that the only resolutions worthy of notice are those that are seemingly within our control. Characterized by action verbs, these resolutions celebrate the fact that we can—and should—be able to change our lives.

Once again, this is a wonderful gesture—except when life inconveniently reminds us that our health, or the health of someone you love, may not conform to any amount of desire or resolve. Caregivers know that gratitude, not simply perfection, is also worthy of celebrating because gratitude doesn’t depend on change as much as it asks us to see anew what is happening in our lives.

(3) Other people’s resolutions are so individualistic that they leave little room for connection. “I resolve to . . .” is as much about the “I” as what follows any proclaimed resolution. Such individualistic goals ring hollow to those who recognize that the “I” is always integrated into countless relationships and expectations constantly reminding us we are deeply embedded with and amongst others.

Though others’ resolutions too often emphasize their distinctive individuality, caregivers are always keenly aware of their dependence on others.

Caregivers think and understand the language of the “we” and are more likely to speak of relational-based resolutions that both acknowledge their interdependence and celebrate what can be resolved together.

(4) Other people’s resolutions place too much value on new beginnings rather than on continuing something you’re already engaged in. Learning a new skill, picking up a hobby, or finding another job are worthy resolutions, but they overplay the value of the new and leave little space for recognizing the value of endurance. Caregivers’ experiences remind them that caregiving doesn’t provide clean and impressive before and after stories nor do they allow you to be able to resolve to wipe away your past.

Instead, caregiving requires you to constantly integrate your past into an unfolding present.

Instead of raising a glass to the possibilities of a completely new you and new life, isn’t it time we begin raising our glasses to the resilience and ingenuity of those of us who must constantly reconcile our past with our present to make a meaningful now that has little, if anything, to do with newness?

After New Year’s resolutions dissolve into the dawn of the never-ending tomorrow, the values caregivers cultivate daily are the values that matter most: appreciation, constancy, gratitude, the ability to create opportunities for wonder and appreciation, finding and enhancing connections with those around us, and deep resolve to endure and create value within constraints. These are the values that bind us together and ground us in what matters most, and they are the very values that can remind us that we are not alone. Although these values will almost always be omitted from other people’s New Year’s resolutions, they live with us and between us all year.

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