I fell in love with list-making and goal-setting early in life. I would make lists for chores to be done, books to read, movies to watch, and more. I would think about 5-year plans and 10-year plans and this-year plans.
I didn't save these activities for January. I would make them any time I felt was appropriate, and then reassess these lists every so often--or sometimes never.
About five years ago I came across the list I wrote in my journal about the qualities the man I would marry would have. I was fourteen at the time I wrote it, and in my memory never really reviewed the list after writing it.
However, other than having a singing voice to rival the Phantom's? I married that man.
One quality that wasn't on that list was that my husband would be as much of a list-maker as I am. Thank goodness. Two people like that in a relationship would probably drive each other insane.
Jason and I still manage to have our "crazy times" as he helps me to learn to live more in the moment, and I urge him to commit to future plans--like a date for tonight, or the three-week vacation we might (or might not!) be leaving for later in the week. Over the years, we have each been stretched and changed to be more accommodating of the other's idiosyncrasies.
Of course, being a mother with small children for many years, my own "goal-setting" started to look a little different, too. Things on the "what I will accomplish this year" list were--wait, what list? In the midst of sleep-deprivation and potty training, "lists" became "wishes" for things like a full night's sleep, or a grocery shopping trip that doesn't include anything being left behind in the bathroom or meltdowns in the produce section.
Last spring, I made a list with some really ambitious business goals--I even wrote out the 2-year plan. (Let's not get too crazy, right? I was easing back into this list-writing thing, after all.) It included the steps I intended to take to reach those goals.
I reviewed the list with my husband, and he agreed that the goals were ambitious, but that he would support me in my efforts to achieve them. (He's told me, only half-jokingly, that our retirement plan is "I support you now and then you can support me later." Meaning when I am a successful author/composer-who-gets-paid-to-write-music and making enough money he doesn't have to work anymore.)
I made that list in early May. And then June happened.
The remainder of 2015 did not include goals, or plans, or much more than bare maintenance of existing structures as far as businesses, relationships, and even house keeping.
And that's okay.
When everything extraneous has been stripped from your life by a loss, and you are left naked and broken, sometimes just getting your pants on in the morning is a big deal.
As one of my friends who has had long experience with depression told me, "sometimes you celebrate that you were breathing today."
But you look for those moments that you see progress, too.
Last weekend, not because it was January, nor because of any forethought, persay, but because it seemed like the right moment, I made a list.
Depression is hard. Grieving is hard. It's hard to know when it is time to move forward. And when you do take a step forward, you feel guilty because you feel like you are leaving someone precious behind. So that makes moving forward that much harder.
When I made my list, I wrote out a few specific goals I want to accomplish this year. Some of them I even put a month beside. I also included steps I intended to take to achieve these goals.
And then I had a good cry session. No, it doesn't make sense. But that's what grief is like.
I've been thinking about this list since I started it, tweaking it on occasion. I've been thinking about if I'm really ready to make the small changes I outlined to help me achieve these goals.
You know what? I don't really know. A part of me is just glad to have something to work towards and think about besides all that I've lost. But I also recognize that I won't succeed at the daily action steps every single day.
There are going to be days where depression and grief rob me of my will to do anything at all, where boxed pizza is going to be as healthy as our meals get and browsing Facebook and YouTube might be as much "platform building" as I do for my marketing plan.
There are going to be days where getting my pants on is a real victory. And maybe when I look back on the day, there might actually seem to be a net loss on progress.
But hey--getting the pants on is a start. One small step. Making a plan is another step. Doing something from the plan--writing my word count, creating a knitting design, promoting my work, taking a walk, networking--these all move me even farther along my path.
Moving forward, whether in small steps, or giant leaps--in the end, that's the only thing I can really ask of myself.
Have you made some goals for the upcoming year? Have you made a plan? And have you also determined to be gentle on yourself if you don't always follow it, but get up and keep going after a failure?
Years ago, when I was so busy with small children that it seemed I never made progress on any of the projects I desperately wanted to complete, I adopted the mantra "Slow progress is still progress." As long as there were stitches being knit, or writing being done, or some kind of work being accomplished then I considered it a win.
The context is different now, partly because I look at my goals differently than I used to. (That's the topic for another post.) But I intend to re-adopt that motto this year, and whenever I look at my personal or professional life and think that I am failing miserably, I will say it to myself.
Slow progress is still progress--in grieving, in working, in living. Slow progress can still get you to your goal.
So, first step--did you put on your pants today?