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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Arbitrary Dates and Inappropriate Goals

Firstly, I find it humorous that even typing the word "inappropriate" made me cringe a little. "Oh no!" my inner monologue screams, "what will they think you're talking about? Are they going to judge you? Maybe you should change it." Have I mentioned at any point previous that my inner monologue seriously needs to chill out and calm down?

Today is January 9th, which means that 9 days ago it was New Years Eve, the traditional time for making resolutions to improve myself and promises that I would do better throughout this new revolution around the sun. Did I make goals? Yep. Did I write them down? Sure did. Was it on New Years Eve, or even New Years day? Nope. Not remotely. It wasn't even in December OR January. And have I followed them? Not so far. Not even a little. There has not been one day since I wrote them down that I have even tried to meet them all.

Most calendars are based on astronomical events. From our perspective on Earth, the two most important astronomical objects are the Sun and the Moon, which is why their cycles are very important in the construction and understanding of calendars. The new calendar year, this 2013, is based on the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar (or Christian calendar) is centered around the sun, so even though the length of a month is roughly determined by the cycle of the moon, the placement of the months has nothing to do with the moon.

In fact, the placement of most things on the calendar seem arbitrary. Why is January 1st the beginning of the year? There's no reason for it. Some people will argue and say that it marks the length of one rotation of our planet around the sun. Sure, yeah, that's true, but WHY did we decide that Jan. 1 was the beginning point and ending point of the trip? It isn't when we're closest to the sun, or furthest away. My brief internet research shows lots of countries moving to Jan. 1 as the beginning of the year, but not why. The Julian calendar, predecessor of the Gregorian, was ratified by Julius Caesar and that had January as the first month seemingly just because they all started with the same letter. 

As a side note, the names for September, October, November, and December mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th respectively, NOT 9-12. 

My point being, January first being the date of all new resolutions and new years is entirely arbitrary. No reason or abiding logic, no rule. Just centuries of conformity. And you all know how well something like that would sit with me. But I agree that there should be A beginning, some point in time designated as things being new and old burdens dropped and outdated chains sloughed off. That idea I am completely in favor of honoring and upholding. 

And I do celebrate New Years, I participate in social conventions. I like any excuse for a party.

I made my goals, my resolutions for a new me, back in October. That makes sense to me because it's when I have my birthday, a very definite start-and-end point for each of my revolutions around the sun. Goals are a personal thing and should not be subject to the censure or even opinions of others. Not that you can't share them- quite the opposite. Do share them. Telling people about them makes them more concrete for you, and also provides you with a sense of accountability for them. These are my goals world, and telling the world the world may respond with, "So, how's it going?" 

My goals that are currently 3 months old are as follows:

1. Exercise 4x per week- running, yoga, 30 Day Shred
2. Write 2 more books before my 33rd birthday
3. Go to the temple once a month
4. Read scriptures every day

There is a second set of goals, but those are family goals and are therefore not mine only and not mine to share. And about these goals I can say unequivocally that I have completed none and been consistent with none. 

Each goal varies in the limit of time. Daily, weekly, monthly, and in one year. In the past three months I have not read my scriptures daily, I have not gone to the temple once I month (I think I've been once), I have barely written anything on my next book let alone the next two, and I think I've worked out 6 times. Total. In 3 months. Clearly I'm failing in meeting my goals. Either I lack will power, or my goals were inappropriate for my life and/or lifestyle. Right? No other way to explain such epic failure.

Except that I don't think I'm failing. Not at all. Have I met my goals? Nope. Do I feel bad about it? Not really, which is surprising considering I have a guilt complex about most things that could put 7 psychologist's worth of children through graduate school. And this is because in my head there is a fundamental difference between the way my goal is as written and the way that I meant it in my head. 

For me, a goal is not something I do and check off a list. It's something I want to become, a habit I want to form to shape my personality. It is a verbal representation of the way I want to grow as a person. I don't want to have exercised 4 times a week. I want to be a person who exercises frequently, and as a result of that habit is a healthy, active person. If I exercised once in October after making these goals then no, I didn't exercise four times per week. But if I exercised once in October because of these goals and hadn't exercised in September because I had no goal to do so, then I'm making progress and even if my goal isn't "met," neither have I "failed."

The same is true for the rest of them. I have not yet read my scriptures "every day" but I am up to several days in a row now before I miss one, and that's going in the right direction. I'm writing more because hey look, blog post, and this gets my mind in the right frame for writing in my books. And even though that writing goal is fairly concrete, "Write 2 more books before my 33rd birthday," even that is more because I want to be a prolific writer than because I feel that those books would be best served by that time table. And in my head, writing 2 books means having "The Sound at the Edge" written, edited, and published and having the rough draft of the 3rd book done, not having both out for public consumption. Just so you know. 

It's January 9th, which means you've had approximately 9 days with your goals, your new years resolutions, staring you in the face. You've had at least 8 chances to work on them. But you have not, friend, had the chance to "fail" at any of them yet, unless they were things like "learn to make a chocolate souffle before my cousin Danielle's birthday on January 6th" (Happy birthday, Danielle, you're beautiful and awesome and I did not make a chocolate souffle, I had a book sale). And even if you failed to meet that specific date goal, you didn't fail unless you've decided you failed. If you're goal was to make my cousin a chocolate souffle, there's still time. There's even still time to give it to her for her birthday (but again, Danielle, you rock and you're beautiful and yours is one of the only cousin birthdays I can ever remember but there's no souffle I could get to you from Texas). The only thing you can't do now is do it on January 6, 2013, but if that's what you've decided then you're trying to disappoint yourself and seeking out failure, in which case you need to start helping a psychologist put his kids through graduate school.

Which reminds me of a scene I've been working on for my book, because although I haven't completed my goal having it sitting in front of me is keeping my book on my mind. There have been many other awful things going on adjacent to my life, meaning they haven't been happening to me but they have been happening to people I care about deeply and therefore matter to me as if they were mine. Therapy has been brought up and some friends are resistant to it because of social stigma. To them, and for them, I submit this bit of dialogue between Iselle and Remi in "The Sound at the Edge."

Iselle continued with her work, not looking up or making eye contact. Thane could almost feel her refusing to be offended by Remi's cold remark. "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't need therapy," Iselle still spoke carefully, trying to minimize the French influence on the English words. "We all need therapy. We all need someone to talk to who we feel is an unbiased listener, and who we don't see at school or at home to judge us." She finished the careful placement of each tool before looking up into Remi's face. "Your honestly can never be brutal to someone who won't be hurt by it."

Remi gets a little snarky after that, but given the stress of their circumstances at the time, it's forgivable. And wow are they in trouble here. But the reason I put this here is to shout at you all, stop being ashamed. Stop worrying about "failure" or "success," just keep trying.

I have a Pinterest board called "Quotes I Love," and even though most of them are from C. S. Lewis, there is one by Walt Disney that always makes my throat feel a little tight and my tear ducts prick.

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

Don't be held captive by the concept failure. I've always HATED the saying, "Failure is not an option." Of course it's an option, it has to be an option, because if failure isn't an option than neither is trying. I much prefer this: