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Saturday January 8, 2005: Personal:The New Year

        I come home these days down darkened streets. No longer do Christmas lights welcome me home. Stepping inside, it's noticeable -- the greens and reds of Christmas are removed and packed away for another year. I remember thinking how gray the winter would seem without the bright color of holiday decorations. This year I even left them up longer than usual; the boys were all coming in on New Year's weekend to celebrate Christmas with me. Of course they had to come home to the tree and the nutcrackers and all the rest.

        These days it's a rare treat to get all three boys together. It made sense to keep decorations up until they had left. I can remember when they were little, the four of us would celebrate Christmas at this house; then the boys would leave the day after to spend the rest of winter break at their father's. By New Year's weekend, I had packed away Christmas decorations and was ready for the boys' return, ready to jump back into the school year.

         With the boys grown now and out of the house, I knew this year I could spend time simply unwinding from the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations. Why not relax and enjoy a winter respite? I was surprised to find myself impatient -- perhaps with the idea of still having boxes to drag out and outdoor lights to unravel off trees. For all the December moments when I thought I would miss the color, once I made the decision to begin packing I became almost manic wanting to get the job finished and over. This year, I did not even want to leave the bathroom decorated in snowmen and blue towels with snowflakes for the month. Let me get on with life!!

        I did spend some time savoring the quiet of the house once everyone left. I changed the CD's to Gregorian chants and bamboo flutes. Yet, life did not slow down. There was another turkey to de-bone and wrap for freezing, another batch of turkey soup to make in the crock pot. Monday I started preparations for the monthly Child Study group meeting (for some reason, I'd been left with sole responsibility for food and drink). I resolved to use up the remainder of Christmas/New Year cookies and quick breads, and add in alternative low-cal or low-fat nibblies. Had I thought more about the month itself and less about ridding my house of unwanted calories, I would have known that most members had already begun post-holiday diets. I could have simply thrown the calorie-laden morsels directly into the trash.

        We talked of New Year's resolutions at the meeting and we stumbled over the word. Most of us have been through enough winters and springs to replace resolutions with goals. Break a resolution once and it seems like you've abandoned any new beginning. A sense of failure dampers any motivation to escape old patterns. Setting goals gives leeway, takes into account the rough and stressed out periods, the absentminded backsliding, and simply begs a new beginning whenever the deviation comes into awareness. I'm sliding toward more goals, fewer resolutions.

        The few resolutions I did make seem already threatened -- they conflicted with other resolutions or goals. I'm determined to bring my finances back under control. I entered Christmas over-extended by six months of unexpected and costly expenditures (how I hate running up credit cards), found that giving Christmas presents early to two boys and then dividing Christmas into multiple gift openings, meant I lost the budget system for gifts.

        Nor could I make up for it by giving less to my favorite charities. Christmas is a time of helping one's fellow man. I support a handful of carefully chosen charities, and I could not in good conscience give less, even if my finances were drained. Added to my usual charities, I had made the 'resolution' to give monthly to one of the groups that 'support the troops,' especially the soldiers returning home wounded. I wrote checks that dipped deep into my buffer zone (kept for emergencies), and I wondered if I could get back to normal.

        The tsunami hit. How could one not open the checkbook again? I was paid this Friday and it barely replaced the buffer already spent. Somehow, I will bring finances under control, but I need to send another check for tsunami relief. How can I not give, when I come home to food, warmth, and comfort?

        Since the divorce, the boys have been brought up in two very different households. I always wonder how much they will gain from each parent. My ex and I are so different in outlooks and lifestyles -- nowhere is that more evident than by the way we run our finances and by the way we each approach the notion of charity and giving. The boys are grown enough that I can only wait and see which values they will chose for their own lifestyle. I still want to impress on them the need to help others, but I see their patient tolerance and wonder if my words have become 'mother talk,' something a teenager or young adult endures and then quickly forgets.

        I should focus on giving advice only to myself -- Jan, let go. This is a year to make my own goals and let the boys travel their own roads. I can face the upcoming year determined to live a simpler, less cluttered life, to find new ways to open my heart, and to find balance in what I give to my sons, myself, and the world. Maybe that's enough for now.

Posted on Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 10:11AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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