I made it exactly two days into 2013 before I completely blew that first resolution. Yesterday, I locked my sister and I out of her apartment while going to the post office to mail my rent check* - a day late, I might add.
All I could think was seriously, Sam? you're really nailing it.
So this morning I sat down to do more resolution making. Being more "put together" isn't an easy thing to measure (...or do, apparently) so I made a list of the tangible things I wanted do better this year. An average list, no surprises there. But, then I wrote the same list in negatives - a list of the things I won't do this year.
A surprising patterned emerged, which was ultimately not surprising at all: I put things off when they stress me out. Everyone does it. But, these little things feel like enormous things to me. They become a source of anxiety, of serious fear.
And over the years, after a lot of self reflection (and some time talking to a therapist) I know that the fear isn't a general fear. It's a very specific fear - the fear of being found out. Deep down, I feel like the "me" that people love is really just a front. I play the part convincingly, but I'm so scared of the moments when I fall out of character - when people see the "real me", the person I'm afraid that I am. So I avoid those feelings at all costs: opening my bank account (I'm broke!), picking up the phone to call my grandma after two weeks (I'm selfish!), and dealing with the health care system (I'm quick to anger!) And in turn, my fear becomes a reality.
On Monday, I was finishing a list of book recommendations I'm contributing to The Equals Record (resolution six: meeting deadlines) and one of the books I listed was Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. In that collection there is a essays titled On Self Respect, and it came to me this morning as I reflected on my resolutions and on fear.
In the final paragraph she writes that without self respect ...
"we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question.
To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect."
Every time I read that, I feel called out. I know! I know so well that she's right.
So this year I really resolve to respect myself. I will respect myself enough to figure out my insurance policy, exfoliate, and e-mail my family when I'm thinking of them. I'm going to start essays earlier, rather than putting them off because I'm scared that what I write won't be good enough. I'm going to respect my work and put it out there.
All of these things - contributing to magazines and mailing bills on time with a manicure - add up to that first resolution. They add up to being put together. And with a little self respect, the moments when I'm messy and imperfect won't seem so world-ending after all.
*I'd like to publicly thank my friend Sabrina, who took the brunt of this enormous fiasco. I couldn't find the post office where I asked her to meet me (not put together) and about fifteen minutes after we got back to her house - which is twenty minutes outside of town - she had to drive me home because my sister told me the keys were inside the apartment (not put together, at all.)