There is nothing quite like the allure of a fresh start. Isn’t that why many of us make New Year’s resolutions? We toss away 2018. The smoke from the fireworks clear and our calendars literally offer a clean slate.
When we get down to it though, New Year’s resolutions are arbitrary. They set us up for failure because they are usually proclamations of perfection. And perfection is impossible.
Besides, every week, month, day, hour, minute, and moment offers us a fresh start. January may feel like the perfect time because of the excess of the holidays. There are no big parties until Valentine’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday. It’s relatively calm again after the flurry of Hallo-Thanks-Han-Chris-NewYear – essentially 3 months of a preparation-celebration-clean up cycle if you are a parent.
Carving out time for ourselves is critical, but setting unrealistic expectations is maddening. Resolving to work out every day when you have a child that doesn’t sleep isn’t being fair to you. There will be days when a nap is far better for your wellbeing than going for a run. Trying to fulfill your eating clean resolution while staying at the hospital with your child is nearly impossible. Declaring 2019 the year you get organized only to find your calendar filled with IEP meetings and doctors’ appointments is defeating from the get-go.
Life is messy; a beautiful disaster if we’re lucky.
A dear friend messaged me an iconic Joan Rivers quote this morning, “I wish I could tell you it gets better. It doesn’t get better. YOU get better.”
The first step in us getting better is being kind to ourselves. Forget that be kind to others nonsense. Be kind to YOU. When you are kind and forgiving to yourself, you have the energy to be kind and forgiving to others.
Just this morning I was in a foul mood. Awful. Grumpy to my husband. I snapped at my 6-year-old. I was angry because it feels like the world is on my shoulders and I’m not handling anything well. After a long drive to my 8-year-old’s monthly treatment I realized I was angry because I can’t do it all. Literally, there is too much. It is suffocating. And instead of recognizing it’s hard and letting the things go that I can, I’m unleashing my anger on the ones I love. Being angry and nasty to others because I’m mad at me.
The solution is to be kind to myself. Recognize that nothing is going to get better. Acknowledge that I am doing my best. Realize my child’s teacher will understand if his monthly snack is missing. It’s OK if I forget to answer some emails. I don’t have to return every phone call. It’s OK if we run out of milk. Some days just getting by has to be good enough.
We are all doing our best. Many of us have children with complex medial needs. Some of us have to come to terms that we’ll outlive them. We see dozens of medical specialists. We are fighting for healthcare coverage. We are preparing for circumstances many parents never have to consider. We are handling extreme behavioral challenges. Then there is the regular life stuff: financial woes, job troubles, car troubles, marriage troubles, our own health issues. Some of us have sick, aging parents. It is a lot. Much of it will never get better.
But we get better. We learn to handle it better. And the best way to do that is to be kind to ourselves. Forgive ourselves. Forget perfection. Embrace the ones we love. But also love ourselves. We deserve it.
If we make being kind to ourselves our central focus, the other stuff will fall into place.