While helping my parents clean out their attic last summer, I discovered a shoebox full of my old photos, greeting cards, and a five-year diary. If you’re a woman of a certain age, you’ll recall the kind of diary I’m talking about…fake leather with fake gold embossing and a small lock with a flimsy key that might or might not deter a younger brother. Every one of my friends in high school had one of these books. Some even wrote in them.
I did, but not regularly. I started each year with good intentions, but usually after two or three weeks, school and extracurricular activities, parties and movies and excursions to the beach distracted me. My entries dwindled to an occasional sentence about some life altering event. Such as the boy I was currently crazy about inviting my best friend to the prom.
The entry on January 1 of my senior year was a list of my New Year’s Resolutions and included the following:
Do homework immediately after I get home.
Practice piano one hour every night.
Lose ten pounds.
I don’t think I managed to make good on any of them.
Beginning in college, I pretty much gave up on New Year’s resolutions. I’m not sure if I was disillusioned or just lazy, but for many years I dismissed the whole idea as unrealistic and a waste of time. Until last year.
Turning sixty-five kicked off an orgy of self analysis and soul searching the likes of which I hadn’t engaged in since I was nineteen and first reading French philosophers. I won’t bore you with details, but one of the exercises involved deciding what attribute I most valued in other people. Intelligence, charm, humor, creativity…all important, all admirable. But eventually I realized the people I was most drawn to shared only one thing…a certain generosity of spirit.
It seemed to me that there had been too many times in my life when I took the small view, perhaps afraid that I would be seen as weak or that I might be taken advantage of. I was embarrassed to realize that in nearly every instance, it wouldn’t have made any difference except that I could have been kinder, more giving, more open. So I resolved for 2012 that, given a choice, I would try to err on the side of generosity. The surprising thing was that during the past year, I occasionally remembered that resolution and acted on it. It made me like myself better.
So for 2013, rather than trying for another game changing resolution, I’ve decided to just re-up. I think if you err on the side of generosity, you cover most of the bases.
Happy New Year…