New Year, Same Great You

I’m going to talk about New Year’s resolutions. I know…yawn. There are probably thousands of articles bopping around the internet right now on the topic. But, I feel the need to express my alternative view of goal-making. This is not about “new year, new you,” which is a terribly overused title. What’s wrong with the old you? “New you” implies that the old you isn’t worth keeping around.

Sure, there may be some things you’d like to focus on, and January 1 is as good a time as any to take stock and plan ahead. I shied away from resolutions for…well, my whole life, because it all seemed like too much pressure. But last year, I realized there were some aspects of life I wanted to focus on: simplicity and listening to my intuition.

Taking stock now, I see that I accomplished the goal of focusing on those things. My life is simpler; I keep it in mind when accepting/declining new responsibilities, but I haven’t totally got a handle on it (I may never). That’s okay; the point is to be mindful about it.

This year, my focus is nurturing my relationships with my family — making time for Jason and me to connect, play with the kids, hang out with my parents and sister. I don’t have a set number of hours, but I know if I keep it at the top of my mind by writing about it, meditating on it, at the end of the year, I’ll feel good about it. I don’t want to make some brand new, unreal version of myself; I want make my life more satisfying and enrich the lives of the people around me.

If you want to make your focus being more active or eating more intuitively (one of my last year’s goals) go ahead. It’s all about mindset. You have to ask yourself, “Am I doing this because it’s what I’m ‘supposed’ to do or because it’ll improve my quality of life in a way that I want.

That last bit, “in a way that I want,” is important. You are under no obligation to make the choices society say are healthy. You want to eat cake and donuts for breakfast? Good for you. You want to smoke, spend a bunch of money or drink a whole bottle of wine? Fine. The point is to not kid yourself; don’t spend your energy rationalizing your behavior. Just decide to do them or not do them.  We all know what the possible consequences of these behaviors are, and sometimes we choose to do them anyway. That doesn’t make us bad people; it makes us humans who like to enjoy life.

I am not talking about addiction here, which generally tends to make people miserable; I’m talking about the choice to binge on cookies on a Friday night or spend 11 hours watching Star Wars movies. It may your stomach feel terrible and give you a tendency to reverse your sentences like Yoda the day after, but maybe it’s worth it to you every now and then. Or maybe it’s not. Either way is okay.

So when you make your resolutions or goals or whatever you like to call them, don’t make them for other people and don’t be too rigid about them. Think about what would truly make you feel more satisfied with your life — just one or two things, not a whole list of 10 — and focus on that. Or don’t make any resolutions. Maybe you’re fine with everything how it is in the moment. If so, cheers to you.

Who’s Your Squad?

Your “squad,” according to Jason, is any person or thing with which you feel a particular kinship. You can always count on your squad to comfort and put a smile on your face. Jason refers to his favorite chair as “my squad,” but he also addresses me as such: “April, you’re my squad.”

When I was in high school, I had a squad — a close-knit set of friends we not-so-creatively referred to as “The Group.” We walked into each other’s houses without knocking. We hung out every day and called each other up to ask, not, “Do you want to do something?” but “What are we doing today?” Theirs were the phone numbers I had memorized, back when that was necessary. I once spent three days straight with one of my squad. Kelly and I went back and forth spending the nights at each others’ houses, and during the day, we mostly drove around. Because with your squad, you don’t have to be doing anything special to be having a blast.

Your squad is always there when you need them. When one of our squad broke up with another of our squad, Kelly and I felt badly for the breakup-ee. So, without a second thought, we whipped up a batch of Rice Krispy treats, and drove over to comfort him. We ate half of them on the way over in the car and were not at all abashed to admit it when we got there. It didn’t occur to him to be offended, and he was grateful for the company and sympathy. THAT is the level of comfort you have with your squad.

In college, I had another encounter with squad-dom. That’s when Trey, Javier and I hung out. All we needed was a handle of cheap whiskey and balcony on which to smoke, talk and argue about politics, philosophy and modern social constructs. The next morning, I’d roll off Trey’s couch, smelling of the patchouli incense he liked to burn, and stumble my way to class.

The three of us spent formative time together, back in our 20’s, when life was one, big drunken (let’s drive to Mardi Gras at 2am) adventure. There is a particular incident in Boquillas, Mexico, just across the border from Big Bend – the kind of situation that only occurs with a squad like Trey and Javier. I’ll spare you the whole story, but here are a few highlights: moonshine sotol, falling into a cactus, stealing a boat to get back across the border and cutting some mules loose. No, that’s not a euphemism; one of us actually cut ropes tethering mules to a post.

Last night, I binge watched old episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I’m also fond of watching Friends reruns and, late at night after a few glasses of wine, I’m apt to pull up Stand By Me. These are all shows about squads – young people that have the kinds of relationships in which they skip the small talk. That’s why they’re my go-to shows when I feel a little down or nostalgic; they conjure a little of that warm, relaxed feeling of having a cohesive group of close friends.

As I reminisced over my coffee in the wee, dark hours this morning, I missed having a squad. I feel comfortable around many of my individual friends, but there’s something about a group dynamic – ease on a slightly larger scale – that is unique. I was wondering if it’s even possible to have a squad when we’re in our 40’s, with family and career taking up most of our lives. Then, 9-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Gage wandered down the stairs, sleep still in their eyes, messy rat’s nest of hair on the backs of their heads. Without a word, they joined me on the couch and snuggled in. I may get annoyed with my kiddos sometimes, but, being completely honest, I got exasperated with my squad people of old, as well. That’s part of the comfort level — the freedom to be irritated and express it, knowing the squad will still be there for you. I smiled and thought to myself, “Stupid woman. THIS is your squad, right here in your lap.” That’s the other thing about a squad; they fit with you so well, sometimes you forget they’re there.