By Natalie Rivera
The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones you’ll keep because you actually want them.
It was mid-afternoon on some random weekday and I felt like total shit. I dragged my ass to the office coffee machine and felt a tiny surge of excitement (as much as I could muster) when I found the coffee pot empty. I now had an excuse to hide in the coffee room for an extra 10 minutes while it brewed. The smell of the coffee brewing gave me a feeling of comfort, of hope.
I resisted the temptation to plop on the floor while I waited and instead rocked back and forth to distract my body from its exhaustion.
Coffee in hand, I headed back to my cell (I mean cubicle). I sat cross-legged in my ergonomic chair and stared blankly at my computer screen as I sipped my coffee and pet it’s warm body like a tiny kitten. I felt like Gollum and his precious.
An hour later I was engrossed in a design project and had completely forgotten about my pre-coffee stupor. My brain had kicked back on and my focus was keeping me distracted from the fatigue that lingered in my body. On a normal day, one in which I did not partake in the mid-afternoon caffeine-induced crawl out of the hole, by this time in the afternoon I would have been doing something brain numbing (like organizing email) because that is all I would have had the energy to handle.
When my mind popped out of project-mode for a moment and I remembered how horrible I had felt just an hour earlier, I had an “aha” moment. Coffee helped me feel better and work better. Coffee woke me up! Yep, I know this seems obvious, but at the time it was revolutionary. I didn’t associate the constant feeling like someone drained my blood as being “tired” and so never associated coffee with a possible resource for fighting off the fatigue and foggy brain. Before that day I rarely had coffee after my morning cup.
The afternoon cup-o-joe gave me a boost of clarity and helped me get through the day without daydreaming about curling up in a ball under my desk.
By the time I got home, my artificial zest had faded. My typical evening routine commenced: cook dinner, scarf dinner, scramble to wash the dishes and frantically stay in motion knowing that once I plopped on the couch, I would not be able to get up again. Then, by about 7 p.m., when my small, 22-year-old body finally was completely spent, I would dive into the couch and live vicariously through the meaningful lives of fictitious characters in television shows like Grey’s Anatomy.
Not long after this day I had another substance-induced “aha” moment. It was New Year’s Eve, and I was at a bar. I know, this doesn’t sound revolutionary either, but for me it was. You see, I did my share of drinking in high school. More importantly, I did my share of being around drunk young adults in high school (and college), and to put it mildly, I was not impressed. By the time I turned 21, I was tired of being the designated driver by default because I didn’t trust anyone else not to be an idiot, holding back friends’ hair when they barfed, and wrestling people for keys. Nor was I keen on being around people who became aggressive or promiscuous when they drank. Don’t get me wrong, I made my share of stupid decisions, but I became a responsibility snob. As a result, I had never been in a bar nor did I go to one when I turned 21. I did drink, but only around people I knew, and never very much.
On this occasion, I was invited to a bar to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I figured my boycott of bars for over a year (since becoming “legal”) had proved my point (to myself) and so I agreed to go. Not only did I go drink with a bunch of 20-somethings, I drank more than usual. I drank enough that my uptight self danced with abandon in the middle of what was not a dance floor, by myself. I was laughing and being laughed at and enjoying every minute.
I was always the type of person who made New Year’s resolutions. Like most people, I didn’t always keep them; however, I did consciously reflect every January 1st and set a trajectory for my year to come.
I hadn’t put any thought into my goals for the new year, so when the countdown ended at midnight and the room erupted in cheers, as Old Lang Syne played in the background, I took a shot of whatever-it-was-my-friend-handed-me, and shouted “this year, my new year’s resolution is to drink more coffee and alcohol!” That declaration received a resounding “woohoo” from my friends and we took our shots.
That was the only New Year’s resolution that I ever kept 100 percent.
It might sound like a terrible goal to use more unhealthy, mind-altering substances, but for me it was one of the best decisions of my life.
For the first time I recognized that I deserved to feel better—by any means necessary.
It wasn’t until a year later, when I contemplated taking a nap at a red light, that I realized there was something wrong with me, at a deeper level. On my way home one day I stopped at a red light. I had the familiar fetal-position-on-the-floor fatigue fantasy and noticed myself thinking, “I wonder how long traffic lights are…I could just close my eyes, take a quick nap, and wait for someone to honk.” I looked around at the drivers of the cars stopped at the intersection. They were all probably twice my age, yet none of them looked like they were pondering the viability of a three-minute nap. They looked alive. Happy. And, for the first time I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t either of those things.
I went to my doctor and had her do every test imaginable, yet they all came back showing I was “healthy.” Right. Because it’s totally normal for 22 year olds to feel like bloody hell all the time. In fact, I’d felt that way at the beginning of high school, six months after I had mono. I had gotten worse over time, however I didn’t glean insight into any of this until much later. Eventually, my doctor labeled me with “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (which is really just a cover-up for “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you”).
While my “diagnosis” was frustrating, it did lead me down a new path, starting with changing my diet, learning how to de-stress and meditate, and opened the door to personal and spiritual development that transformed my life and eventually lead to my healing.
My New Year’s declaration to drink more coffee and alcohol was a pivotal moment. The indulgence in excess coffee and booze that followed gave me the energy I needed to function. From this somewhat improved state, I could see my life more clearly, realized I needed help, got help, and changed the trajectory of my life.
The moral of my story is NOT that you should drink more coffee and alcohol. My point is that secret to New Year’s resolutions that a) you will keep and b) will create actual change in your life, is to make them based on what you need, not what you “should” do.
So, ask yourself:
- What do I need the most in my life right now?
- What is the biggest obstacle that is weighing me down or holding me back?
- What could I do (or stop doing) that would eliminate or lessen this problem?
- What difference would it make in my life if I made this improvement?
- What you need most right now is less stress.
- Being too busy is the biggest obstacle to your peace and calm.
- You could ask yourself, what responsibility or time-waster could I eliminate that would free up some time? (For instance, step down from the PTA, get your kids or spouse to take on more of the cleaning duties, have your groceries delivered, or stop spending so much time on social media.)
- The difference this would make is that not only would you have more free time, but you would also feel more empowered because you made a decision to take back control of this part of your life.
The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones you’ll keep because you actually want them. Instead of considering all of the rational goals that you “should” set for your life, pay attention to that voice in the back of your mind telling you what you really want…you know, that thing you tell yourself you shouldn’t do.
Natalie Rivera is a firestarter, speaker and entrepreneur. She is passionate about empowering others to GET REAL and live authentically. After a decade of living a life that wasn’t hers and developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Natalie let go of everything and completely transformed. Through her journey to healing she rediscovered her true self and greater purpose—to inspire others to transform their lives. Natalie “retired” from the rat race at 24, put herself through school as a freelance designer, created a non-profit teen center, and later created Transformation Services, Inc., which offers motivational speaking, curriculum development, life coaching, event management, and publishing. She is also the Publisher of Transformation Magazine.