New year, new you!—a motto that makes me want to vomit. What’s so great about a new me if I couldn’t even love the old me? And thinking that I’d have to create a new me every year just makes my anxiety flare. Lose that weight, make that money, achieve that goal, by all means! But all of these things should be done because we love ourselves (and God and those around us), not because we loathe looking in the mirror or think we are failures for not having a ton of disposable income. When we can set goals or resolutions that draw us out of our weaknesses and into lives lived more fully, for ourselves and others, then we have set good, solid resolutions. So, instead of a traditional resolution, this year I have decided on a theme: be stronger. I want to be stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (NOTE: Change is essential and necessary and we will all become new creations, but not in the way that New Years resolutions tend to lead us to believe. The great Simcha Fisher wrote a really poignant article on this metamorphosis we shall all go through.)
To be stronger physically—This doesn’t only mean losing weight, but, I think more importantly, it means building my stamina again, helping my lungs grow strong to deal with my asthma, toning my arms, legs, and abs, and eating foods that I enjoy and that will also nourish my body. I’m achieving this by learning more about proper nutrition for myself and taking at least one class a day at my local YMCA (I’m taking a mix of classes to keep things interesting, including Zumba, Insanity, Body Combat, and an abs class). This will make me strong enough to keep up with my kids, hopefully not be in pain most of the time, and to start treating my body like the temple it is. The body is an important aspect of our beings and taking care of it helps to give us the discipline necessary in other aspects of our lives. Here is more about the importance of the body.
To be stronger mentally—For me, this will consist mostly of reading more books, and on more varied topics. I am determined to finally finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy this year and also, hopefully, The Silmarillion! There are also some various books on American history on my list. I’ve also subscribed to Lumosity to have a few simple games a day to stretch and train my brain in other ways. This is important because the mind, the intellect, is a gift to guide us in the right direction to God, to rule over our passions, and to order those passions correctly. A strong intellect will not only order the passions but also help to keep the will in check, especially in situations where the will might become weakened.
To be stronger emotionally—I keep it no secret that I struggle with depression and anxiety (which also cross over into the mental category), but getting help for these conditions is not the only way I want to grow stronger emotionally. Learning to rule my emotions instead of allowing them to rule me—especially anger/frustration and especially with my children—is actually at the top of my list. Those little moments throughout the day when I think ill of someone else, when I practice disgust instead of understanding, when I cannot or will not remain calm and at peace. These smaller, everyday moments are the most telling sign of someone’s emotional state, and I want mine to be in much better shape. I’m tired of feeling out of control and all over the place. This will be an exercise of the will, learning to not let myself be ruled by emotions and to stand firm in truth and righteousness even when my emotions are raging.
To be stronger spiritually—This is the most important one, the one that will ground and make possible all the others. So first things first, get my prayer life in order. Some of the changes I’m making are simple, like kneeling beside my bed for prayers in the evening. Others are old habits being resurrected, like praying Liturgy of the Hours. Next, I’m making Confession a much bigger priority than it used to be for me and going to receive the sacrament at least once a month. Getting a spiritual director is also in order. Here are a bunch of other Catholic, spiritual resolutions to get your noodle going with ideas. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). If I trust in Him, if I turn over all my weak areas (the physical ones, too!), and make myself a complete offering to Him, He will give me His own strength and not just help me achieve strength but to be strength for others- I will be a vehicle of love and Truth to all that I encounter in every aspect of my life because He will radiate through me. This is the real purpose of becoming strong spiritually- knowing and loving God and then being His light to others.
Maybe your theme for this year is different; maybe it’s something like “die to self more” and that makes the actions of these same categories look different than how they look for me. That’s good! Becoming stronger in these ways will not only make me a better person, it will also give me the tools I need to achieve some long-sought goals and will also make me depend more on God, the ultimate source of strength. What is your theme for the year? What is God calling you to focus on? How will you set about to achieve that?