You are 15 books behind schedule. The notification glares from my phone screen, mocking me with the impossible task I know I won’t complete before the end of the year. Being incredibly goal oriented, I decided to set a high bar for myself on Goodreads this year with a challenge of 52 books—one for each week of the year. So far I’ve read 32 and with my full-time job, and all that’s left on my to-do list, combined with having just moved, being almost five months pregnant, and having a 2-year-old daughter, it seems like 32 is probably where I’m going to close out the year. Here it is again: New Year’s resolution pressure.
I let out a sigh and my eyes fall on my yoga mat, the one that’s been rolled up in the corner for months. I’d started off the year strong, working out five days a week, taking at-home barre classes and yoga breaks in between. Then in July I got pregnant and my first trimester symptoms were so extreme that I let my exercising fall to the wayside, and soon I lost my routine and rhythm. My calendar sits in front of me—doctor’s appointments and moving dates marking the pages.
After years of traveling the world with my husband before we welcomed our daughter in 2019, I’d been looking forward to our first fully vaccinated kid-free trip to Chicago this past August, but when the Delta variant hit as I discovered I was pregnant, we decided to be cautious and cancel.
Now, more than halfway through my pregnancy with COVID numbers beginning to rise again because of the Omicron variant, we have no trips on the books for the foreseeable future. Knowing just how tough the newborn stage was even before a pandemic, I doubt we’ll have anything planned in 2022.
“I just feel like a failure,” I tearfully admitted to my therapist a few days later. “I’m coming into the last month of the year without having accomplished or stuck with any of my 2021 resolutions.” I expressed that these failures had left me without motivation to try anything other than just to exist at the most basic level.
“I bet if you think about all you’ve done this year, you’d have quite a long list of checked-off resolutions that should be acknowledged too.”
I was cruising on autopilot, my days filled with work, making peanut butter sandwiches, watching Paw Patrol, washing the dishes, and starting all over again. She paused, absorbing what I was saying. Instead of telling me I wasn’t a failure, as I assumed she would, she said something no one has ever said to me before. “Maybe your list just wasn’t long enough,” she said.
Now, I’ve always been the organized one. The planner of trips and gatherings, the maker of lists, a textbook Enneagram 1. No one has ever accused me of having too short a list before. She elaborated: “You didn’t put ‘keep your daughter safe and healthy’ on your list, but you’ve managed that. Moving into a new house and selling your old one wasn’t on your list, but you did that. I bet if you think about all you’ve done this year, you’d have quite a long list of checked-off resolutions that should be acknowledged too.”
I nodded, trying to take in what she was saying. We ended the session, but her words lingered. I thought about them as my daughter whispered, “I love you too, Mommy,” a sentence I’d heard for the first time this year as her language exploded. My therapist’s suggestion rang out as I walked into my newly unpacked living room, preparing to decorate it for the holidays.
Her comment felt particularly fresh as I crafted the annual photo album I put together every Christmas, taking me back through the year in photos. As I explored the pages, I saw my little girl’s isolated second birthday party in March. I remembered just how heartsick I was that she had to celebrate without any friends or extended family. I flipped the page and watched the photos transform as friends flooded the photos for the first time in more than a year as we were able to celebrate being together again after getting vaccinated.
I saw my daughter’s first in-person playdate. I saw her hug her friends and hold their hands. There was a picture of my husband on our first outdoor dinner date at a restaurant in more than a year, reminding me of just how novel it had felt being out, of how I said I’d never take that for granted again. There were weddings that had previously been postponed, my first time back to the movie theater, kayak outings down the river, surprise parties, first-ever introductions between old friends and our little one, smiles, tears, hugs, and a particularly fun night of trick or treating.
In the pages, I saw a new list, one I hadn’t even thought to make—staying safe, keeping healthy, enjoying what we can, appreciating what we have, remembering all we gave up last year, holding our loved ones close again.
When I compare it to some of my past years, it may not seem like much, but in the context of a pandemic, a new pregnancy, motherhood, and all that the last two years have been filled with, it’s everything. So for 2022, I’ll be making my list of New Year’s resolutions longer and more inclusive—but without the New Year’s resolution pressure. I’ll try not to focus on those big, overarching goals. Those are no longer my guideposts for success. And if we’re lucky enough, I’ll be teaching two little girls the same lesson soon.