Question: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. Each New Year, he makes resolutions and, I have to say, he’s pretty good at keeping them. He wants me to join him and every year he asks me to. This may seem like a small thing, but I’m totally not interested. I just tell him I don’t want to, that’s all. I made resolutions for several years and never kept them. I don’t want to get on that merry-go-round again with the guilt that came every year.
What is your thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions?
~ No Resolutions for Me
Dear No Resolutions for Me,
According to History.com it was the Babylonians who started the tradition of New Year’s resolutions about 4,000 years ago. They held a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu and made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. Over the centuries many cultures adopted the practice of making resolutions and some Black Christian churches continue the practice of “watch night,” originating from the anticipation of the Emancipation Proclamation becoming effective. But now most New Year’s resolutions are personal and secular, not promises to gods.
Current popular resolutions in the U.S. are to lose weight, exercise more, save money, get a promotion or new job, and volunteer more. All worthy goals, of course, but only a small percentage of those who make resolutions keep them.
My husband and I have been married over 40 years and don’t make New Year’s resolutions, although we occasionally resolve to do better on specific things when an issue arises. That fits us better than conforming to a schedule.
Since your husband is usually successful in keeping his resolutions, he probably feels proud and wants you to get the same satisfaction. In checking around the internet, there are lots of suggestions on making resolutions that are easier to keep: just have one realistic measurable goal, pace yourself and don’t expect instant results; set mini goals and track your progress; and seek support and encouragement. Your husband would probably be happy to help you if you decide to try again.
On the other hand, you have every right to not make resolutions. You can kindly let him know it’s not your thing and it triggers guilt, the opposite of what he should want for you. Maybe you can discuss why it’s important for him that you behave in the same way he does, especially if he has other controlling habits.
I hope you can work this out to the satisfaction of both of you. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous 2022.
Dear No Resolutions For Me,
Personally, I’m not one for making resolutions and I don’t observe some of the other good luck traditions of eating cabbage or black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. I have found that, like you, if I just make them for the sake of making them, I rarely follow through.
However, new beginnings do offer a chance to make new habits. Personally this is most effective when the kids start school in August each year when we get a chance to set and maintain a regular schedule of time together. The most difficult part of resolution making is the inevitable resolution breaking: We rarely build opportunities for grace and forgiveness of ourselves when we break the resolution.
I see a few opportunities here. One: Your spouse wants to share part of his life with you. Resolutions might be a way for you to start a new habit together. But there are infinite ways for you to spend time with one another. I would take time to talk about how you can do that. I would also express to him how you feel about the merry-go-round that leads to guilt. “I just don’t want to” might be interpreted as, “I don’t want to with you.” Telling him how resolutions just make you feel worse might open doors on how to build a gentler approach to new habits.
Speaking of grace – each day is a new day; in fact, each moment is a new moment. We can start new habits any time. Begin by centering them in your core values that you share as a family: health, well-being, time together. Build your goals from there and discuss how you might move forward after you’ve fallen behind.
I hope you have a wonderful start to this New Year!
Rev. Kyle Sears
Question: Our only daughter, who I’ll call Carol, just graduated with a doctorate in research. This has been her dream ever since her little sister passed away from cystic fibrosis. Carol was 10 years old at the time. She insists to us over and over that there must be a cure.
She has accepted a position as a researcher at a research facility on the east coast. The company’s compensation includes moving expenses and help with housing. The salary is also good. We’re struggling with this move. Even while she was in college here she lived with us because we were close to the colleges she attended. This will be her first time living away from home. She is 23.
We don’t want to sound selfish, but we’re concerned. We never were overly concerned parents until now. How can we support Carol and not be freaked-out parents? We have not spoken to her about this.
~ Worried Parents
Dear Worried Parents,
First and foremost, I appreciate your vulnerability. It’s never easy to share what hurts. I’ve heard it said, “People don’t resist change, they resist loss.” I’ve found this to be true in almost every anxious circumstance. What lies at the center of any major life change isn’t change itself, but loss. And so it is the sense of loss that drives our fears, concerns and worries about what will or will not be.
There is yet another thing that lies at the center of change – that is opportunity. Loss and opportunity are often married to one another, especially when major life changes knock on our door. Often the most human thing to do is to gravitate toward loss than opportunity – don’t feel bad, you’re human. For Carol, this defining moment in her life is really about her turning the great loss of her beloved sister into an opportunity to help find a cure for the millions of other little sisters and brothers who struggle with cystic fibrosis. I have no doubt that Carol’s life story and future journey will define and inspire so many and this new research could very well be that stepping stone into greatness. As the old Latin proverb says, “Fortune favors the brave.” Here’s something else that’s also true: Brave children come from great parents. With the tragic loss of your daughter to CF, you have navigated Carol’s life with compassion, love, healing and boldness – all of which have been God’s grace over your lives. Your parenting of Carol through such devastating loss is showing its reward – a solid young adult ready to be released into the world, for the glory of God, and for the good of others.
Wow! You should be commended for the years of thoughtful and patient parenting in the trenches. Her success is so intricately tied to your love and sacrifice, much like loss and opportunity. Now it’s time to let her fly. Make no mistake: Empty-nesting does not mean she will not need you anymore – far from the truth. Carol is going to need your presence and support more than ever, causing you both to thoughtfully support her in a creatively new way – trust me! This loss is presenting you both with the opportunity to transform yourselves as parents. She might not need you in the same way, and that can certainly feel strange and weird. However, Carol will need you both in a whole new way. Your late night wisdom through phone conversations and “I’m praying for a great day for you” text messages in the morning will be pivotal as she senses your loving presence from a distance.
When reviewing back at Carol’s upbringing, you both have provided all she needed in every season of her growth. God is offering you both the opportunity to yet again provide what she needs now for this new season in her journey. This time, it will take more faith and a greater sense of trust as you love her the way she needs, not just the way you’d like – from a distance. The best is yet to come “Worried Parents.” There will be new memories and shared opportunities in this next season – so get ready and hold on!
On Sept. 6, 2018, I flew to London to say my final goodbyes to Stephen, my cousin and best pal. Stephen struggled with cystic fibrosis since his childhood and the doctors predicted a short life – he lived until the age of 37. It was a huge loss for me, one that still hurts today. So I’m not only praying but rootin’ for Carol the whole way! I pray God does extraordinary things with her life. That’s what God does; He takes messes and turns them into messages, suffering into stories of hope and renewal. Let me know how things go.
Pastor Emanuel David
Dear Worried Parents,
All change is anxiety producing. Human beings are creatures of habit. We like things to stay the same. Carol has seen her purpose in life, as you said, from the time she was 10. She has pursued it avidly for all the formative years since then. She just graduated with a doctorate in research and is about to realize her dream. God willing, she will find partners in her research. She could be instrumental in conquering this disease that she witnessed firsthand and has the passion and vision to work toward repairing the world in this special way. How could a parent be more satisfied with the achievement of their child?
Of course it worries you that she will be on her own for the first time. However, she is not a child anymore. She is a woman who is ready to embark on the road to her purpose in life. Perhaps to mitigate your fears and assist Carol on her journey, you could travel with her to help her find a place to live. Maybe you could make sure that she is settled with what she needs to start her life there. Doing these sorts of things will ease the transition for you and her.
You mentioned you were concerned though you did not say what you were concerned about. How could you not be anxious about this enormous change in the lives of all three of you? Think of this: Most parents have this sort of separation from their sons and daughters when they are 18 and fresh out of high school. Carol is 23 and equipped with an excellent education, tremendous accomplishment and a chance to be supported while she fulfills her very purpose in life.
Congratulations, parents! Job well done! May Carol and her colleagues fulfill her vision and find a cure for this disease.
With prayers for her success and admiration for her dedication,
Rabbi Janet Bieber