Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions and Personal Growth

Every year, I resolve to eat more vegetables and have less drama. And every year, I exist on a diet of cheeseburgers and drama.

Does this mean that I never change? Or that people in general never change? Yes and no. I think the basics are forever. On my good side, I’m brave, loyal, funny, creative, generous, and genuinely happy to be alive. I can cheer anyone up in five minutes or less. On the negative side, I’m hopelessly naïve, self-absorbed (I have a blog, ‘nuff said), I get stuck and worry too much about things I can’t fix, and I am neurotic enough to make a detailed pro/con list of my own personality traits. (An earlier draft of this posting included a personality trait pie chart.)

Growth isn’t about throwing out the old and replacing it with the new. You can’t control your basic nature. However, you can control what you do about it.

For example: the drama. Oh, boy, do I have drama. Divorce, international moves, demented kidneys, new careers, romantic mishaps, financial issues, and launching myself into a whole new life (which, on the surface, looks a whole lot like the old one, creating weirdness). And I’ll never completely figure it all out. A younger version of me would view all this chaos as a great calamity. Why can’t I ever get my life under control? If I work hard enough, why won’t everything fall into place? The old me usually sulked, blamed herself, or complained when things fell apart.

The New-and-Improved Me, however, accepts that I don’t control the universe. Damn shame that I don’t, I know. So, New Year’s Resolution #1: I am not responsible for the behavior of others. I cannot control every circumstance. I can’t control what other people do, but I can control my reactions to it.

Also, drama is funny. I've learned to have a sense of humor and deal with personal problems more graciously. The older you get, the more perspective you have, and the funnier it gets. When you’re 30 years old and watch “The O.C.” on DVD because you can relate to it, yeah, that’s hilarious. I think my life will always be a bit chaotic, because otherwise I’d be kind of bored. Also, judgement isn't one of my strengths. Accepting my drama is healthier than denying it, because it's a part of me that won't ever completely go away. (Though, here's hoping 2007 is a bit more quiet.)

More on the theme of control issues, I've also learned that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. I just had to learn to be specific about what I need. People do want to help, but sometimes they need to be told what to do. Over the course of 2006, I've flat-out asked for sympathy, a free place to stay, an apology, help finding a job, free meals, rides to Target and hugs. And I've gotten every last thing on the list. So, Resolution #2: Rather than pointlessly complain about my life, I will learn to be specific about what I need to do to make things better. Less talking, more doing.

Last year was the year from hell, and sometimes I considered giving away all my stuff, changing my name, and leaving the country. Except that, well, I already did that. So New Year's Resolution #3 is to know the difference between moving forward and running away. Also, I might eat a vegetable or two.

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