A Work in Progress

By Diane Stark

A Work in Progress

Finally lose that baby weight. Keep my house neater. Be a more patient, loving mom to my kids. Do a better job at work.

All of the usual suspects when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. Most people have made one or two of these at one time or another.

But not me. I make all of them. Every year.

I even write them down. The list goes something like this:

1. Exercise for at least an hour every day. (Wrestling into my skinny jeans does not count as exercise.)

2. Absolutely no dessert, unless it is my birthday. (Which is in November, precisely 11 months and 27 days after I will have lost all hope of even locating this list, let alone keeping any of its promises.)

3. Never under any circumstances will I lose patience, snap at, or otherwise present myself as anything less than Susie Sunshine to my children. (Did I mention there are five of them?)

4. Ditto for my husband. (Even when he arrives home from work late, leaving me by myself with the aforementioned five children.)

5. This year, I will finally write the Great American novel, or least write something every day. (And, make millions doing it.)

6. At all times, my home will look as if I’m expecting the Queen to stop by for a quick visit. (And this includes ridding my bedroom of the basket of clean, but not yet folded, laundry that seems to perpetually hang out at the foot of my bed, which is usually unmade, by the way.)

7. I will complete every task on my To Do List, every day, no matter what. (Even if the baby has an ear infection, the school district calls a snow day, and my husband is out of town – all at the same time.)

Yes, on the first day of every new year, I make a list of New Year’s Resolutions, a.k.a., Impossible Things that I Will Never Actually Accomplish During this Life Time.

For a week or so, I actually find the list motivating. I look at it frequently and remind myself that I’m going to be a better person this year. I’m going to eat better, look better and feel better than I ever have before.

But the problem is, I don’t. After a week or two of trying to be this perfect person, I’m not one bit better. I’m just plain tired.

But still, I make the list. Crazy, I know, but something in me just insists on it. It’s as though I enjoy reminding myself that I’m not living up to my own impossible standards.

Yeah, I know, I’m a nut.

Now that I’ve explained the severity of my New Year’s Neurosis, it’s time to explain that I have actually discovered a cure for it. Last year, I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I made up an acronym that finally allows me to cut myself a little slack. I love the freedom of it – it’s like a whole new me.

The acronym is CREW and it represents the four major areas of stuff I need to do each day. The C stands for cleaning. And by cleaning, I don’t mean polishing the silver. I’m talking about washing dishes and dirty clothes, nothing that would impress the Queen – or anyone else, for that matter. The new me accepts that my house is a home for seven people, and that by definition, means it’s going to get messy. I keep up the best I can, but I’ve finally come to terms with a little dust. (Although I’m still going toe-to-toe with that ridiculous laundry basket.)

The R stands for relaxing. This usually involves playing a game or reading a book with my kids. So later, when I snap at them for not picking up their rooms, I can remind myself that I was a good mommy for at least a few minutes that day. (Hey, the acronym is all about baby steps!)

The E means exercise. The old me set limits on time and how many calories had to be burned. But the new me is a card-carrying member of the “anything is better than nothing” train of thought. If the only exercise I get one day is walking down the driveway to the mailbox, that’s OK – because anything is better than nothing. (Before you start thinking I’m a total sloth, you should know that we do have a really long driveway. And I haven’t even mentioned the butt muscle squeezes I do while blow-drying my hair each morning.)

The W stands for writing, my other job. (My kids are Numero Uno, but they don’t pay me for my services, except for the occasional hug, which are great, but you can’t exactly take those to the bank.) So I write when I can. The old me made crazy promises about writing every single day. The new me recognizes that with a toddler in the house, I’m just not going to make it to the computer every day. But I love writing, I love the little checks that come in the mail, and more than anything, I love the occasional email I receive from someone who’s been touched by one of my stories. So I write. When I can. But if I can’t one day, I remember that anything is better than nothing.

So instead of making impossible resolutions that make me feel like I’ll never be good enough, I’m looking for daily progress, baby steps, any move in the right direction.

I try hard to see the good in other people. It’s time I looked for it in myself.

After all, I’m a work in progress.

And anything is better than nothing.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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