Change Me: A New Year's Prayer

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

We're now a full two (almost three!) weeks into 2016, and I've still yet to craft any New Year's Resolutions for myself.

Well, actually, no.  That's not exactly true.  I've drafted a few lists, drawing on inspiration from internet articles boasting the best ideas for resolutions, and from decisions that others have made as they've stepped forth into 2016.  Some, like those of the "eat more vegetables" or "master a new skill" variety, were serious, and some, like "hone your car karaoke skills," verged on the silly, and I compiled my lists with the same care and meticulousness I apply to every endeavor.

And I think it's that very characteristic -- that fastidiousness -- that speaks to the problem with New Year's Resolutions for me.  It's not necessarily an issue of follow-through, as the case seems to be with many people, that keeps me from committing to them.  I have no problem holding myself accountable when I deem something worth my while.

As a perfectionist, though, I tend to approach New Year's Resolutions from a place of feeling like I need to "fix" everything that I perceive is wrong with me.  I need to be more patient with and forgiving of myself and others.  I need to stop comparing myself to other people, and not worry so much about what they think of me.  I need to avoid gossip.  I need to stop overthinking and take more chances.  I need to be more present and productive.

It's a tall order.  And certainly these are honorable intentions, but it's hard to measure up to them because I feel I am expecting perfection from myself.  Improvement in something so general as "life" is already hard enough to quantify, since there are few objective ways to measure it.  And it's disappointing, at the end of a year, to look back and feel like I haven't made much of a difference in, well, anything, because I haven't lived up to my own expectations.  It's difficult to measure change in retrospect, a phenomenon perhaps best described by C.S. Lewis: "Isn't it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything's different?"

I am, however, usually keenly aware of the moments when I'm at the threshold of change.  They're the moments when my mind and my heart are in conflict, when I want to step toward growth, but instead I'm drawn toward the comfort and complacency found in familiar patterns of behavior.  These are the moments where true improvement takes root for me, and so I want to learn to recognize more of them, and seize the opportunities therein.

I'm quite fond of the quote that goes something like this: "Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step.  Tiptoe if you must, but take the step."

That is what I want for 2016.  I don't need to be perfect, because that's not what God asks of me.  God created me for a special purpose in this world, and if there's one thing I want most for my life, this year and always, it's to grow into that a little bit more every day.  But I can't do that alone.  I want the courage and strength to tiptoe into a better version of myself, one that isn't marked by a neat list of resolutions to check off, but rather by the courage to say this short prayer on a daily basis:

Change me, Lord.

I am ready.

The Enduring Wisdom of Lizzie McGuire

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ah, 2002.

Such a wonderful year for me.  The Sims.  Crimped hair.  LMNT's classic jam, "Juliet."  Alaska.  Bike rides around the Air Force base in summer and massive, streetwide snowball fights in winter.  Seeing moose in the flesh.  Crossing "stand on a glacier" off my bucket list.  Leaving school early to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the day it hit theaters (little Sarah had not yet been introduced to the glory of midnight premieres).

And not to mention, Lizzie McGuire was at the height of her popularity in 2002.  My mom is fond of telling me, now that I'm in my twenties and presumably have achieved enough distance from this show to see it objectively for what it was, that it really wasn't anything special.  That it was overdramatic and silly.  I, on the other hand, credit Miss Lizzie with teaching me some of preteen life's most valuable lessons.

Like how you should always try to be kind, even to mean people, because they're the ones who need it most, even though they might still turn around and hate you after you've helped them (like Kate did to Lizzie even after she broke her arm and Lizzie was kind enough to teach her how to do all those one-armed stunts so she could maintain her cheerleader status).  Or how about how you should never, ever lie to your parents for a number of reasons, one of them being that they are guaranteed to find out you didn't go mini-golfing like you told them, when you are on the news later for saving some guy from choking at the R-rated movie you snuck out to see instead?

(I'm going to be kind here and overlook the fact that Lizzie McGuire also gave me the impression that I would meet a hot Italian at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, because that so didn't happen to me... but if it had, there'd be no guarantee he wouldn't have turned out to be a crazy fame-obsessed psychopath, so maybe I dodged a bullet there.  Thanks for the warning, all things considered, Lizzie.)

Anyway, you can probably imagine my euphoria when I stumbled across this show while channel surfing the other night, because Lizzie McGuire is the Holy Grail of television reruns for people in their early to mid-twenties.

...Or maybe just for me.

Still.  I watched the first few minutes of the episode, in which Gordo was offered the chance to skip the rest of eighth grade and go straight to high school (such are the big life dilemmas encountered on this show, people!), and then I heard the theme song.  I'll admit the singer's voice is a little grating on my ears these days, but I wasn't too focused on that because I experienced an epiphany while I was listening to it, my friends.  Let's dissect the song lyrics for subliminal meaning, shall we?

"If you believe, that we've got a picture-perfect plan, then we've got you fooled, 'cause we only do the best we can." 

Those people who seem to have it all together?  To have the perfect life?  Psst... they actually don't.  They're only doing the best they can, just like you and me.  Every life is a full measure of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and I can tell you with assuredness that every time I have said to someone, "You seem to have everything figured out," they have chortled heartily, as though what I've just observed is as ridiculous as saying, "You're a unicorn."  I mean, it would be cool if they were a unicorn, but that's kind of impossible, as is having life completely together.  

"Sometimes we make it, and sometimes we fake it.  But we get one step closer each and every day.  And we will figure it out on the way."

Some days are good and some days are terrible, but the only way to create a life for yourself, to "figure it out," is to just live it one day at a time.  It's in this process that you determine, actually, who you are, and I don't think that's ever really complete.  It's just something you grow closer to each day.  And this makes sense when you think about it, because if you got to the end, if you suddenly had everything you wanted... well, that would be kind of boring, wouldn't it?  

So, thanks, Lizzie, for coming through for me one more time in this awkward period of early adulthood.  You are still so wise.  Here's to "figuring it out on the way."  :)