Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Best Day

So here it is, New Year’s Day, the beginning of 2012. Funny, but nothing really seems new to me. (Possibly because I haven’t yet written the date on anything and had to change that last digit from “1” to “2” by tracing over it eight or ten times.) Another reason that I don’t have a feeling of newness today is because my life is structured by the academic rather than the calendar year: so my “new year” begins at the end of August not on January 1st. Even our health insurance year runs from September through August so we are not even looking at having to meet new deductibles beginning today.

I have spent some time this afternoon considering what I can do to make this day the beginning of something new. Traditionally people make “new year’s resolutions.” As I pondered this possibility, I learned something about myself. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions as a positive way to begin another year. You are probably thinking that I have this somewhat bizarre belief because I am weak and know that I can’t keep a resolution more than twenty two hours. Or, that I am so ego-centric that I don’t think I need to make any changes in myself. Neither is the case. Basically, I find new year’s resolutions kind of depressing.

Making an effective resolution requires us to take stock of all the places in our lives that we perceive ourselves to be unhappy, unhealthy, ungrateful, unproductive, etc. We then vow to change. This is not necessarily a bad exercise in and of itself; what seems to me to be negative and thus depressing is that we have to continually return to these less than positive feelings as a means to measure the success or failure of our new year’s resolutions. And let’s face it, the truth is that most people never attain the goals that they set for themselves on January 1. Most often this is because the goals themselves are unrealistic, unattainable, and possibly even unnecessary. Therefore rather than improving our lives, things actually seem worse.

It seems to me that lots of people spend too much time focusing on the past and others worrying about the future. What about today? What about right now? What if I resolve not to wallow in the pains of yesterday or the uncertainty of tomorrow. What if I simply resolve that today I will be the best I can possibly be? That may mean that today I am ten pounds overweight; that I am grouchy; that I have Oreos for breakfast; that I disappoint my husband; that I fail to reach that student in the back corner. Or it may mean that I need to buy my pants a size smaller; that I smiled at everyone I met even if they were less than cheerful with me; that I prepared and ate three healthy meals by anyone’s standard; that all my students were challenged and invigorated by the learning process. Whatever the day brings, if I can honestly say that I was the best person that I could be today then it is a good day. If I have been the best that I can be today then I should have no regrets. And having regrets is what leads to those feelings of unhappiness that burden so many people.

I guess what I have learned through today’s musings about January 1 and new year’s resolutions is that what we really need to do is look at each new day as a beginning and resolve to be the very best we can be on that one day keeping in mind that “best” is not relative. Best simply means that given what we are facing today, we do the best we can with what we have or don't have and, most importantly, at the end of the we have no regrets. If we can crawl in to bed each night and not be cbombarded by a list of “I wish I hads” and “I wish I had nots” racing around in our minds then it was a good day. Tomorrow will most certainly be a different day but if taken for what it is, it too will be the best it can be.

Here are a few thoughts to help make every day the best it can be:


“Thank you.” is so much more than two words.

Time is the best gift you can give to anyone.

Sometimes it is necessary to be late.

Everyone is grouchy and unhappy at one time or another.

How you look is not nearly as important as how you act.

Words are not always necessary.

Sometimes cookies are a meal.

A clean heart feels better than a clean home.

Everyone deserves to have a friend.

You don’t know what anyone else is really thinking or feeling.

Never pass up an opportunity to say “I love you.”

Feel free to add to this list by posting a comment.

As we greet each new day of this new year, let’s each resolve that today I will be the best I can be leaving yesterday behind and not worrying about tomorrow until it becomes today.