Memorials, mid-life and resolutions

I can remember a time not too long ago when I greeted the turning of a new year only with anticipation and expectancy. A new year only meant new experiences and new opportunities. New years have always seemed exciting and full of promise to me.

I do still have some of that expectancy but I also feel more melancholy at the turn of a year than any other time on the calendar. I think it is partly a mid-life crisis. I know the idea of a mid-life crisis is a cliche in our culture but, like many cliches, there is an element of truth there. If the average woman in the United States lives 81.1 years (as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics), then I am more than halfway through my life. Life seems so endless when you are young, so fleeting as you get older. Anyway, this melancholy time of year causes me to pause and consider how I want to be remembered.

We just past the 8th anniversary of my sister’s death and I am flooded with images and memories of her. She is harder for me to remember every year. I don’t remember the sound of her voice. I don’t remember the feeling of the last time we hugged. But every time I see the hands of her daughters I feel like they are her hands. It’s a sense memory…I couldn’t really say what about their hands reminds me of her, just that they do. They both have her hair, or at least the hair she had before she’d spent 15 years dying it blonde. The older they get the more they remind me of her and the less they probably remember her. I remember her quick wit, her tender heart, how infuriating she could be. I remember how much I loved her and I hope she knew it. I’ll never get over how unfinished I feel in regard to my relationship with her, that’s the most terrible part of an unexpected and early death, we weren’t done. We were supposed to have a lot more time.

Anyway, all of this remembering makes me think about how I’ll be remembered. Will my children remember how short I was with them in the mornings? Will the people I love remember my ability to completely pick apart anything that wasn’t done exactly the way I would have done it? Will the ugliness of my cynicism be what I’m most remembered for? These questions make me want to be a better me.

I’ve been falling deeper and deeper into cynicism over the last couple of years. The problem with cynicism is that it is the opposite of hope and it begins to infect everything. I feel like I’ve lost my ability to see the potential for positive, I’m suspicious of everything and everyone and I don’t believe anything can be different. The problem is, when you close your heart to people, you close your heart to God. It’s hard to pray when you don’t think anything will change anyway. I think this is why cynicism is so damaging. I think this is why my cynicism has been so damaging.

The Bible says the hope we have in Christ is an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6) but sometimes in the everyday grind of life it’s easy to lose hold of the anchor. I think that’s where my cynicism starts to take over. But if cynicism is believing that nothing will ever change and hope is confidently expecting God to fulfill His promises, then I should be doing all I can to cultivate hope in my life.

So, here are a few resolutions centering on the idea of cultivating hope.

  1. Cut back on social media and phone use in general. I’m not sure I’ll ever totally get rid of social media because I do still find some small value in some of it but I know that it can feed my cynicism. So, I’m deleting twitter from my phone. I’m going to use some of the new screen time features on my iPhone and set it for downtime from 6pm to 6am every day. I’m going to find my old alarm clock and set it up beside my bed so I can go back to keeping my phone in the kitchen overnight. I know without a doubt that my phone impacts me negatively. I also know I’m addicted to it. I want to change that this year.

  2. Read my actual physical, paper Bible. As I said, I’m addicted to my phone. So, for the last couple of years I’ve done a big part of my personal Bible study using my phone Bible. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this and, honestly, one of the things I really like about it is the ease with which I can toggle between translations. Still, I genuinely think my brain interacts with digital information in a different way than with a physical book (there is actually research to back this feeling up, scientists are still studying it but it definitely seems like our brains process digital information differently). I want to be clear, I believe it’s the Word of God that is life changing, not the medium. Nevertheless, I know my relationship with the Bible is different when I’m using the actual physical book and I want to get back to that.

  3. Move. I love to run, especially long distances. I think it’s because it feeds my inner introvert, all that time by myself. The good thing about a long run is that it completely takes you away from your responsibilities and forces you to confront yourself. I have been very inconsistent about my running over the last year. Some of that is because of life changes that have impacted my schedule. Some of that is because of a minor injury that I babied and then turned in to an excuse. Some of that is because when I am most cynical (see also: depressed) it is easiest for me to lock myself in my house and think about how horrible the world is. That does not leave a lot of time for running. Anyway, I want to get back to a firm routine of running and movement, partly as a way of cultivating hope.

  4. Invest in relationships. I think one of the things that makes me feel cynical and like nothing will ever change is that I focus on the things I think are going wrong nationally or in the world instead of all the things that are right and good right in front of me. So, this year I want to be intentional about building relationships right here, in my home and in my community. That will start with my husband and kids. Every day I am more aware of how few days are left with my kids in my home. It makes me want to savor each moment with them and be diligent about knowing who they are now and who they want to become. I also really don’t want to neglect my relationship with Chris. I want to still know who he is when we’re alone in this house again and, honestly, sometimes I can’t remember what we talked about before we had these kids! In addition to focusing on the people in my home, I want to be more deliberate about relationships with the people in my community. There are people in this town who I love very much who have never been in my house! That’s crazy! I want to be purposeful about inviting people in to our home and deepening our connections here.

I’m not sure how I got from thinking about how I want to be remembered to thinking about how I want to move forward in 2019. My brain is a strange place. I guess that’s what resolutions always are: thinking about who we want to be/how we want to be remembered and making plans to be that person. The main thing I know is that I don’t want to feel so cynical/defeated/depressed in 2019. I hope these small steps help move me in the direction of hope.