What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
— Henry Stanley Hoskins (not Emerson as I originally believed)
It’s day 3 in a new year. Have you already broken your New Year’s Resolutions?
At the end of 2016, I took Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever course. (This book is based on that course.) On day 3 of the course, he wrote about New Year’s Resolutions:
The average person makes the same New Year’s resolutions ten separate times without success.
After going through all of the exercises in Hyatt’s course, I confidently started 2017 with several specific goals in the areas of health, career, and avocation. I was making progress on all of them until mid-May.
Drew’s parents, who were 93 and 92 at the time, had been in good health for their age. They both were able to walk and care for themselves, and they were still living independently in their house of 54 years. He still drove, they did their own shopping, and they did all of the personal care activities that we take for granted. We enjoyed lunch with them at a restaurant on 12 May. In a blink of an eye, life changed.
On 14 May, Drew’s father had emergency stomach surgery. He was still in the hospital and not doing well on 21 May when Drew’s mother had a major stroke and became another hospital patient. Her stroke zapped the communications area in her brain and the right side of her body, leaving her unable to express or care for herself.
Suddenly, chaos had tossed aside all of my goals along with our orderly lives.
Drew is an only child, so looking after his parents’ health care and finances immediately became our responsibility and almost a full-time job. They were in the hospital for about 3 weeks and discharged to a rehab facility for over 2 months. While at rehab, Mom broke her hip and was hospitalized again.
We researched and toured assisted living facilities and moved them into one in late August. We also had to clear out their house, which was an overwhelming undertaking. Since they were children in the Great Depression, they never threw away anything. For instance, Mom still had the greeting cards people sent her when she graduated from nursing school 70 years ago! Emptying their house was a time-consuming ordeal that required weeks of our manual labor spread out over several months.
Meanwhile, in September, Dad went back in the hospital for over a week. Sadly, he passed away in October.
Mom is devastated. In the 64 years Drew’s parents had been married, they rarely were away from each other.
We continue to spend time with her multiple times each week. She seems to be deteriorating every day. Even when we aren’t with her, we are thinking about her, talking to her caregivers, dealing with her finances and Dad’s estate, trying to sell the house, etc. The situation with both parents is never far from the surface and can be a large distraction on a daily basis. Drew and I often need to tell each other to come back to the present moment.
I don’t relate this story of our 2017 challenges to gain your sympathy, but rather to talk about setting intentions for the new year. Hyatt teaches that you should acknowledge the past before planning for the future. In the session for day 2, he asks:
What if our greatest frustrations from the previous year were actually pointing us to some of our biggest wins in the next? What if disappointment was just a road sign pointing to personal transformation?
Through all of the trials this past year, I learned or re-learned several things.
First, when my time is spent in service of other people, I don’t have time to think about jobs I’m not getting or goals I’m not achieving. One day, I admit that I felt a bit resentful that I once again had to stop what I was doing toward my business so we could visit Mom. When I was sitting in front of her, though, I was completely at peace. I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be. Drew has always been my number 1 priority, with family in second place. I have plenty of time to achieve my goals and won’t have regrets later in life. (Updated to add that Mom passed in May 2018.)
No matter how bad you think you’ve got it, somebody always has it worse. The hurricanes and wildfires that suddenly displaced and killed people are far more traumatic events than my in-laws’ medical problems.
Finally, the situation reminded me to be kind to everyone I meet. Most people are going through something, but we may not know it.
This year, I’m not making resolutions, and I’m not going through Hyatt’s process of goal-setting. Instead, I’m declaring 4 new, simple intentions:
- Remain present in the moment.
- Find something each day to be grateful about.
- Realize that I am not in charge of when and how my goals will be attained.
- If a negative train of thought pulls into my station, I’ll rebook my ticket for the train on the positive track.
How are you planning to approach 2018? Please leave a comment and let me know!