Stop!…in the name of sanity!

I am easily seduced by the cosmic slate-cleaning that is New Year’s Day; I’ve made all kinds of resolutions over the years. Every January 1st, I tell myself that this will be the year that I:

1. stop biting my nails
2. stop swearing
3. practice piano every day
4. arrive on time for everything
5. meditate every day
6. work out every day
7. shop at the farmer’s market every weekend
8. read a work of great literature every week
9. remember all my friends’ birthdays
10. contribute regularly to my Roth IRA

And so on. This has, historically, tended to go well until about January 2nd.

This year, I’m feeling a little more at peace with the fact that I am a nail-biter who likes swearing (God damn it). I suspect I’ll always aspire to resolutions #3-10, but realistically, if I really did all of those things all of the time, I’d be the Oprah Winfrey/Suze Orman/Mother Theresa of the New Millennium. And that’s just not going to happen.

Danielle LaPorte over at White Hot Truth had an interesting take on new year’s resolutions: What, she asks, is on your “Stop Doing” list? Ms. LaPorte posits that, rather than make a huge list of things to do, we should make a list of things we’re going to stop doing. She contends that if we stop doing things that keep us from either personal or economic growth, we clear a cosmic (there’s that word again) path for the things that really do matter.

I’ll be honest with you: at first I thought this was maybe a little jive and contrived. I mean, isn’t saying you’re going to stop doing something kind of the mirror image of saying you’re going to start doing something else? Then I hopped over to my friend, Seattle bon-vivant and amazing photographer Brookelyn Fitts’ blog, and read her “Stop Doing” list. Totally sane and totally workable. Maybe there was something to this “Stop Doing” list, after all.

See, New Year’s Eve has often found me a little rueful over the things I didn’t do all year long. I’m hoping that December 31, 2010 will instead find me raising a glass in celebration of the things I didn’t do this year. So here it is, folks: my “Stop Doing” List.

In 2010, I will stop…
1. comparing myself to others.  I hear a wonderful singer, see a woman with a great sense of style, or watch the person next to me at the gym barely break a sweat while I feel like I’m going to pass out, and I immediately start self-evaluating.  Comparing myself to other people (and subsequently feeling bad about how I measure up) is futile and self-indulgent.  I occasionally am steered off course by my own defeatist thinking, and this year, I’m going to stop it.

2. saying “yes” to meetings, rehearsals, and work, then bitching about being too busy. It’s my day planner; I can fill it (or not) any way I see fit. I don’t have to commit to something if what I really need is an afternoon at the piano, an hour at the gym, or tea-time with a good friend. I am a chronic over-scheduler, and this year, I’m going to stop it.

3. expecting the subway to be clean, prompt, or reliable. I frequently leave home with exactly enough time to get where I’m going, provided that the train doesn’t cause any problems.  The subway is invariably late, re-routed, or running local; I then become stressed out and furious, which is a huge waste of energy.  This year, I’m going to stop it.

4. visiting inane celebrity gossip websites. Following the trials and travails of Lindsay Lohan or the Next Food Network Star is a total time-suck, and encourages Schadenfreude. As I’ve said previously, the internet is a powerful resource when we log on mindfully. But all too often, I use the internet out of boredom or as a means of procrastinating, and this year, I’m going to stop it.

The beginning is always today.  –Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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8 thoughts on “Stop!…in the name of sanity!

  1. I was hoping you’d say you were going to pick your dream rhythm section, record a new CD and see that it gets issued no matter what the obstacles. Forgive me, I want to buy it. Happy New Year. Steve

  2. number 1 is huge. one requires an amazing amount of mental discipline or a healthy amount of support from others to accomplish that task. sometimes it’s as subtle as a quick glance while at other times it consumes all thought. it’s that game of negotiating between punitive behavior against one’s self and punitive behavior against others to preserve whatever illusion of self we may have created.

    personal par….i have to define that ahead of time and keep my head down to avoid the inherent distraction of other humans.

    • It is hard to avoid comparing oneself to others. But it’s much harder to live with myself when I’m constantly seeing how I measure up. It’s exhausting and unproductive. So, as you say, the task becomes to define goals and success for oneself, then just GET TO WORK. Thanks for reading, Dave!

      • try comparing yourself to the whole, instead of focusing on those who allow you to abuse yourself. many manipulate their own perceptions to abuse themselves the way others manipulate statistics to advance their message. in essence, you are focusing your attention on those who are beyond you instead of checking out the entire sample. and just because someone might be better than you, that doesn’t mean that you suck. details.

      • I’m finding it’s easier to allow myself to be inspired by other people’s successes/talents than to bring my own self-worth into the equation at all. We live in a big, amazing world, filled with interesting, gifted people. I am spending more time, lately, just being happy I’m a part of it and continuing to forge ahead with my own work. Makes for much happier living.

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