That Time You Were Blah--Your way out of the January slump
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
So it’s about two weeks into the new year and already I’m waning. Already I’m not attacking the day as I had so vigorously pepped myself up for. Already I’m eating refined sugars like I’ve given up on that plant-based pledge that seemed so easy. Already I’m exhausted by 2:30 in the afternoon, blowing off daily goals, wearing yesterday’s yoga pants, and resigning myself to just surviving the day. I’m not the clean-slated, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed go-getter I was when I sang “Auld Lang Syne” that chilly New Year's morning at midnight.
I’m...well, I'm just sort of...blah, and even the prospect of Mardi Gras can’t get this southern girl to rally through a new year slump to which I seem to have surrendered.
When I spent New Year’s Day preparing a mouthwatering meal of corned beef, cabbage, and black-eyed peas, I had a pep in my step and a mental list of everything I’d accomplish in the next year. It was the first day of not just a new year, but a new decade. What would my ten-year challenge look like in 2030?...pretty damn impressive if I had anything to do with it. For starters, I’d be healthier--not just fit, but good to my body. I’d chomp down on superfoods, filling my plates with beans, nuts, whole grains, and greens like those folks who live to be 100 do. I’d jump back on the elliptical that somehow seemed unapproachable during the hustle and bustle of December. I’d read like I used to. Cozying up to a good book would be more than a sometime thing. And finally, the projects resting without peace in my Google drive would meet their maker and find eternal glory at a bookstore near you. Those four innocent ambitions were all I added to my New Year plate.
Of course, by now you know I’ve made no progress. And if you’re anything like me, your new year fire fizzled out quickly too.
A resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or to not do something. Did you hear that right? A firm decision. So by definition, a wishy-washy attitude isn’t resolute to anything. We can’t expect ourselves to knock ‘em dead in 2020 if we’re not resilient. So as I stretch out on my bed, beside my dog, who is taking her fifth nap of the day, seemingly mocking me with her normalized laziness, unsupportive of the stimulation I so clearly need, and as the sky sets another grey January filter through my bedroom window, I have to probe my New Year fail with this question:
Why am I so blah?
For starters, I suppose it’s important to ask why I chose the resolutions I did. The long answer is 13 months ago, my father died of a cancer with little research compared to others, so therefore (for now) diet is my best defense against my fear of getting the same disease that got him. Hitting my 40s has slowed my metabolism to such a crawl that I have to exercise to stay trim. I’m disappointed that I let a whole year of super juicy books go by without my enjoyment of them. Reading was my escape and a cathartic refuge. When did I become not firm on that? And lastly, as much as I advocate for a strong side hustle, I want one hustle to be the sole contributor to my monthly paycheck.
Here’s the short answer, blanketed, but far more telling: I chose those resolutions because most of them I didn’t make happen in 2019 with any lasting success. Therein lies the answer to my blahness. If I haven’t stuck with it before, what makes me think I will this year? Am I asking for too much?
What an energy sucker!
Obstacles are a fact of life. With every task, there is a challenge waiting to block us. Maybe you’ve wanted to cut back on spending and become financially stable, yet each year you look at your savings account with a heavy sigh. Or maybe you’ve resolved to mend a cracked relationship only to admit at year’s end that you never picked up the phone. But the tasks didn’t just not happen on their own. Something or someone disrupted our paths. We can go on a spree, bludgeoning and blaming others, and while some of our retaliation may be justified, there’s another guilty party to interrogate.
My willpower to put down the fried okra and pick up the spinach smoothie begins and ends with me--if I'm resolute. I can make exercise enjoyable--if I’m resolute. I can walk in the park, dance while I clean, swim at the rec center, and just plug in a movie and walk at a pleasant pace on the elliptical until the credits roll--if I’m resolute. I can tackle a reading list--if I’m resolute. And, I can be resolute that my professional goals be at least attempted before I toss them out as never gonna happen.
And so can you. We can either be resolute that our resolutions are firm enough to withstand our worst obstacle (us) or we can be resolute that they’ll just be another resolution next year. The choice is ours.
We can say it’s too overwhelming to start something new. We can be the victim and claim that we’re at a disadvantage over others. We can blame the distractions around us--obligations, people, and circumstances--but until we stop distracting ourselves from standing firm to others and ourselves, we’ll be blah this time next year too. But the thing about distractions is that sometimes we don’t even know they’re happening. So before we can be resolute in one thing, we need to be resolute in figuring out which obstacles knock us down each time.
For me, time management is my Achilles' heel. I’m pretty sure I wake up thinking that the 17 hours I will be awake are really 34 hours. I don’t move with the urgency of someone who is resolute. But time actually is fleeting, and lost time can be the difference between making a salad and going through a drive thru, taking a walk or driving, reading a book or checking Instagram, and sending a life-changing email or waiting until tomorrow. The new year doesn’t magically make me capable or guarantee anything other than a change in date. I have to be capable of and I have to guarantee that I will change the habits that eat at my time. If I have the time to take a Facebook quiz about which “Golden Girls” character I am, then I have time to stir fry some damn vegetables. I can charge my phone on another floor and pick up a book. I can schedule exercise to when I’ll actually do it. I can plan accordingly so that my most favored hustle elbows the other hustles out of the way. I can accomplish a great deal if I am resolute that my biggest distraction is the one thing that I have the most control over: me.
My son decided in 2019 that he would begin training for the 2024 Olympics. This means he’s in the pool until 7 p.m. on school nights and three to four hours on the weekends. Meanwhile, he attends an academically aggressive magnet school where up until last year, he got by as a lucky procrastinator. Often, his lack of time management bit him on the ass and he resigned himself to being a mostly average student. But now he’s so busy with his swimming resolution that he doesn’t have time to procrastinate or explain to me the myriad reasons his schoolwork can wait. He’s little talk and all do. He regards his resolution as if it was a necessity--as important as sleep. And when I opened up his report card this week, shocked at my average kid earning more A’s than ever before, I realized that it’s because his resolution has nothing to do with a single year. It’s a life resolution--one that has become part of him to such a degree that it’s benefiting other facets of his life. So firm on his asking so much of himself, he’s getting even more than he asked for and is as far from blah as one can get.
I know enough to know that a slump always has a way out. This isn’t someone else’s new year. This is ours. Another year is another gift. That alone should motivate us to realize that whatever prevented us from reaching goals last year can be prevented this year if we get out of our own damn way. Instead of surviving the day, we can survive the brief period of uncomfortability it takes to stop being too comfortable in bad habits. A new year doesn’t give us a clean slate. It just gives us an excuse to be firm that our past--unchangeable and disappointing--needn’t be our present and certainly shouldn’t be our future.
That I can be resolute on--as resolute as my dog is that her fifth nap will slide into a sixth.