Friday, December 27, 2013

Goals vs. Resolutions

Several of my colleagues are avid soccer fans.  In fact, at least two of them are planning to go to the World Cup this coming year, and everything World Cup is a normal topic of conversation in the break room.  Since I began working here, I have learned more about soccer than I ever knew before, even from my host brother in Germany. Our student workers has gotten into the act as well, but they have taken it a step further and have created a tournament based on the FIFA video game, and dragooned some of my colleagues into it, in spite of the fact that they don't know how to play the game!

This is the game that everyone is playing at work.
Of course, since I still don't know very much about soccer, except that there is a huge inter-office rivalry between those who root for Mexico and those that root for the US soccer team, this post about a more serious type of goal (not that soccer fans don't take their goals very seriously...), specifically where I want to go from here.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I stated my goals as follows:

I plan to chronicle my journey, both spiritually and physically here, so that my friends and family can join this journey with me.  While on pilgrimage, I plan to blog whenever I can find internet access, so there will be pictures and narrative as I walk.  In the meantime, I will talk about all of the planning I do, as well as any and all spiritual insights as the Lord gives them to me....

I am contemplating the possibility of entering religious life.... Since this is also part of my personal pilgrimage, I will talk about things as they develop.... Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given unto you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)  So, I plan for this year to be my year of asking, seeking and knocking.  Will you join me on the pilgrimage?

 So, really, my goal was to make it here:
The Cathedral in Santiago as the moon rose behind it.
and here:

Yep, this is an inside look at an actual human heart (image taken from Wikipedia), although my looking was more metaphorical!

I know that I made it to the first, and I started to get glimpses into the second, but the journey isn't done--I don't think any of us quit walking in pilgrimage until we stop breathing, even if the physical journey is over with. I'm just not sure what is next.  Of course, none of us know what the future holds, although many of us begin to think about the coming year and make "resolutions" about next year as it looms on the horizon.  I don't like resolutions because they are usually either: 1. too vague--"I'm going to get in shape this year!" 2. too drastic--"I'm going to quit my 3 pack a day smoking habit this year!" or 3. too frivolous--"I'm going to eat cheese puffs at every meal this year!" for us to stick to them.  

That is why I'm thinking in terms of goals rather than resolutions this year. I've been thinking a lot about questions like, "When I think about me 12 months from now, what do I want to see that is different?  What would I like to strengthen within myself?  What habits do I want to cultivate?  What habits do I want to get rid of? How do I plan to get from here to there?"  That last question is key--without an action plan, nothing will change--it is the key weakness of most resolutions! 

At the same time, I am one of those people who tend to fail at keeping resolutions because my goal is too lofty/drastic. One year, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon, so, Jan 1st saw my couch potato self running 4 miles with predictable results--I had wrenched my knee by the second week of January, and lost the will keep trying by the time my knee healed enough to begin running again.  Running a marathon is still on my bucket list, but I now know that you can't go from no miles to 4 miles immediately and expect to do so injury free. My motto for this coming year:


I'd like to add some specific goals that follows the above motto, but I'm just really not sure what those will be yet.  I do know that I want to make exercise something that is a natural part of my day...something that I do without thinking about.  I also know that I'd like to get back in the habit of several spiritual disciplines that used to be part of my routine: Adoration, saying my Rosary, daily Mass, etc. They were my bedrock of survival in the last years of my marriage, so I know that getting out of the habit was at least partly because of relief.  And yet, it is also no excuse to neglect my relationship with God because I no longer have emotional trauma in my life on a daily basis. I'd also like to be better at keeping my house clean, and I want to break the habit of being late all the time.  I want to be out of debt, and hope to make a major dent in that over this coming year as well. I want to write here at least once a week. I want to become fluent in Spanish.  I want to finish my novel. I want to finally run that marathon. 

If I were to take on all of these from the beginning of the new year, I know that I would give up long before Ash Wednesday, so I will likely choose one habit and work on that for January.  Then, I will add one more in February or March, and so on. If I chip away at it, then I can get all of these goals done for this coming year, but it also means a lot of discipline--something that I seem to be in short supply of right now.  I know that this is my own fault, because I have been listening to the negative voices in my head. Without the above spiritual disciplines to underpin my resistance to the dialog in my head, I tend to succumb to the despair and depression that those voices engender.  One of my Camino friends, Jillian, calls those voices the fear monster, and actually named hers George!  Check out the above link to see her comic strip about her interactions with her fear monster.  She makes some valid points about what those voices do to us, as well as how it affects our relationships with one another.  

Really,  if I were to be honest with myself, that needs to be my main goal this coming year--conquer the pessimistic voice in my head that tells me that I'm not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to be, do, accept, etc. I don't want it to be a fake kind of affirmation, like the Stuart Smalley Skits on Saturday Night, Live, though.


What I'd really like is to continue to build upon the healing that has happened in my heart so that I have a firm foundation for whatever God has for me in the future.  That way, when I sit here and look back on next year, I can be like all of the soccer fans I'm surrounded by at work: "GOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I woke up this morning with this song, Lady Gaga's Applause, stuck in my head (the preceding link is to the lyrics only).  You can see the official video below, but it is pretty explicit, so it isn't good for little ones.

Anyway, I first heard this song because one of my colleagues likes to turn up his volume really loud and then lay his headphones on his desk rather than wear them on his ears.  It is a catchy song, and I think it points to something that all of us crave: affirmation.  We all want to be liked, to be cheered on.  But, earlier this week, someone on my Facebook feed posted this response to this article in the Wall Street Journal about how annoying it is to see people with 13.1 or 26.2 stickers on their cars.  I used to have a 13.1 sticker on my car, and will probably put one on my car again at some point.  Why?  Because I'm proud of the fact that I have finished a half marathon, and because I hope to finish several more before the end of 2014 (at least 4 and maybe 5, in fact).

There is also a pitfall to this craving for affirmation, and it is one that both the original article and the video for the song point to: when we live for the applause rather than for ourselves, it leads us further and further away from who we are (note that Lady Gaga has several moments in the video where she looks almost deranged--living for applause is making her crazy!). Applause in our culture is very fickle, and unless I continually talk up my own achievements or conform to the most recent fad, it is also very fleeting.

It is so very easy to fall into the trap of constantly seeking affirmation.  I've actually been trying to refrain from posting about my exercising/races on Facebook because my nephew once tagged a post #humblebrag.  His tag had the sting of truth, and that little response was enough to make me think more about what and why I'm posting on Facebook, or even here.  Am I writing because I want to see more traffic on my blog, because I want to see who is "like"-ing my posts, or because I really have something to say?  I'm not immune to doing the same thing in person either, though.  To my chagrin, I worked that I had run a race before coming to dinner on Thanksgiving day into the conversation.  It was entirely unnecessary to even mention it unless I wanted my family to ooh and aah over my discipline, and I should have kept my mouth shut.

Ginger and me at the Turkey Trot.  I couldn't resist adding a picture...

Like the Bible says,

It's not like I expect God to reward me for running, although He does all the time through the sheer joy of it. It's also not like my running times are anything to really brag about.  I get done faster than the people that are walking these races, but just barely! I know that some would say that I'm still lapping the people who are still on the couch, but is rubbing my new-found active lifestyle a valid way to motivate them to join me?  I don't think so. The principle of the above verses is still valid--If "I live for the applause" as Lady Gaga sings, I'm doing it wrong.

Instead, I want to have more of the attitude of this song, Katy Perry's Roar (The above video is more cute than racy, so it should be safe to watch around kids as far as I can tell).  It is the difference between saying, "look what I did." and *shrugs* "Of course I did. I'm a runner."  I'm still working on transitioning from the first to the second, and I'm sure that I will have the occasional slip up like what happened on Thanksgiving. I guess it's hard not to brag when something is so integral to my personal healing process... In the year since the divorce was final, I believe that building my identity as a runner has been a means for me to repair my identity of myself as a woman, as a human being, and as someone worthy of respect and basic decency.  It is something that I cherish, and because of that, something that I want to share with those that I love.  And lastly, it is something that this Katy Perry song exemplifies. I'm stronger and more healed than I have ever been in my life, and I can't help but want to share that... Not for the applause, but for the sheer joy of being closer to what God intended me to be than I have ever been in my life.  All the glory goes to Him, but please rejoice with me about it!

"So look at me: I'm sparkling!"