We’re finishing another Christmas season, headed into the final week of 2021 and a time of looking back and evaluating what’s been accomplished over the past year. If you had resolutions– did you keep them? If you called them goals– did you achieve them? How are you better or worse off than you were on the last January 1st?
When I was a girl, I remember both of my parents were perfectionists when it came to how we completed a job. Mama would say, “Don’t just give it a lick and a promise.” One night in the summer, she judged my dishwashing to be less than acceptable. She made me get out of bed and insisted that I return to the kitchen and rewash some of the dishes. Daddy didn’t allow anything left undone with the outside work; better not miss mowing any section of the lawn or picking up a piece of trash or forget to return a tool to it’s proper place. Somehow between how they raised me and my personality, I developed my own perfectionism. Now, I wonder how much of completing a goal, how much of keeping your resolutions, it takes to consider yourself successful.
Sometimes those high standards of perfectionism make it hard to see your progress when you’re moving forward toward your goal.
Big goals take time to realize; they require doing a new behavior repeatedly while integrating fresh insights from an unfamiliar field of information. One of my dance partners, gets very frustrated with himself when he doesn’t catch on quickly to a new dance pattern. I see that he’s made real progress with leading West Coast Swing– which is one of the hardest dances to learn. But he compares himself to dancers who’ve been at it much longer– their steps smooth, with lots of styling and musicality– all signs of a more advanced dancer.
One skill I can say that I’ve practiced for a long time is writing blog posts. I started blogging consistently in May of 2017. The first year I wrote two posts/week and after that dropped to one post/week; this is my 287th post.
While I still haven’t perfected my writing on this blog, I recognize my growth over time. Now, I see patterns of how to put posts together and what types of subjects to cover. I trust my instincts without worrying so much that I’ll be ‘called out’ for some mistake. I couldn’t have achieved all that in the short span of one year. I’ve found that I tend to underestimate how long things take– in most areas of my life. It seems that whether it’s how much time it takes to clean my apartment, or run errands, or write a blog post, it generally takes about three times longer than I expected. Could that also be the case with yearly resolutions and goals?
Thinking back on 2021, it also occurs to me that whatever goal you had has to be looked at in the context of what was happening at that time in history. This year was filled with many new challenges because of the Covid pandemic. It’s taken longer to do many things because of interference in services, lack of assistance whether it was making a purchase, meeting with people who became ill, or longer wait times everywhere due to lack of staffing. These things have impacted our energy and patience and that impacts all areas of our lives.
I once had a coworker who told me her father was in his first year of medical school when WWII started. He had to leave and enlist in the Army. Four years later, when the war ended, he wanted to return to med school, but in the intervening time, his wife had delivered their first child. The little girl had a developmental disability and the father needed to get a job instead of pursue his dream of becoming a physician. If it had been another time in history, without the interruption of war, her father could have completed medical school and their lives would have been very different; he would have been able to realize his goal.
Thinking back over the atmosphere and the challenges of 2021, I believe we need to allow ourselves some grace for what we didn’t accomplish. Maybe instead we see what we learned, how we accommodated this unique period of history and consider how those skills may serve us in the future.
In this week as we approach a new year, my hope is that we’ll look back with gentleness over 2021. May we count all the blessings, forgive all we regret, and feel a surge of hope for 2022.