About six weeks ago, as we welcomed the new year, I turned around to The Hubby in bed and mumbled words that I still, despite indications otherwise, want to believe.
“I have this gut feeling that 2018 is going to be better,” I said, trying hard to keep my eyes open after skipping out on a raucous family party. “I really, really feel it.”
My reasoning was this: It would take little to improve on 2017, which had been rife with disruptions on almost every front. I envisioned the coming 12 months as a bit more peaceful, a bit less crazy. I didn’t expect to win the lottery or publish a mega-bestseller. In short, I truly wasn’t pining for much.
Well. Well, well, well.
So far 2018 has been … not what I anticipated. I don’t want to label it just yet, but I hope the past 30 plus days aren’t a harbinger of the rest of the year. I kicked off 2018 with the flu, a nasty bout that made my whole body feel as if it had been run over by an 18-wheeler. Then just as I was recovering, my elderly father ended up in the hospital with, yes, the flu and pneumonia. Three weeks in a rehab facility followed.
And those were the “smaller” events that have delivered me, staggering, sleep-deprived and in a foul mood, into February. Nevertheless, I have high hopes for this month. And the next, and the next, and the next.
Truthfully, I want a do-over for January. I want last month relegated to 2017. I want to forget the Korea menace and the country’s increasing divisiveness, the government shutdown, the flu epidemic, and the horrors of that evil USA Gymnastics doctor. To forget, too, that for all intents and purposes, the change in the last digit of a year brought nothing but a continuation. I want to start fresh in February.
I do like that phrase: Fresh in February.
It occurs to me that one of life’s great lessons, usually learned while stuck in a deep pothole, is all about knowing when to hit the reset button. That skill, of course, requires not only surrender but also a stop to whining and wallowing. And as a professional complainer, that can be so difficult.
Still, the reset button is powerful, and in ways that are more than symbolic. A reset erases the past, or at least most of it, and then offers you a blank slate, like a prompt to sign on to your laptop. It gives you a pass but also forces you to do a reality check. For instance, in welcoming February, I’ve had to ask myself if I wasn’t being naïve in my expectations. After all, why should the mere flip of a calendar page usher in something different?
Apparently February is a favored month for do-overs. That’s because, by now, most of us have faltered (and failed) in our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions. We’ve fallen off the wagon, or returned to our bad eating habits, or stopped going to the gym, or ignored those early efforts to leave work early and spend time with the family.
No matter. Setbacks are temporary, normal and to be expected. Not only can we bounce back from them, but we can use those very impediments to recognize our mistakes and adjust our behavior. So, if you’re like this woman I know who hasn’t made it to the gym every day as she vowed, maybe it’s time to think that three times a week is a good start anyway.
Course-correction requires clarity, though. And optimism. And persistence. It also involves humility and gratitude and a certain fearlessness to understand that it doesn’t matter what happened before, only what you choose to do next.
So, OK, January was a disappointment. A flop. But in so many ways it also was a month of cleansing.
February, oh February, it’s already looking better.