As a PR pro who’s had to comb through editorial calendars for client opportunities over the years, one of the most reliable issues to plan for in almost any publication is January: “New Year, New You!”
It’s not just lifestyle/beauty publications (but don’t get me started on the body image witchcraft and gross expectations that many of those sell!). Tech, general business, sports, education, insurance — they’re all going to feature some type of article on resolutions or “best practices” to set something up for success in the new year.
No surprise there. We all talk about New Year’s resolutions: who makes them, who doesn’t, who keeps them, who resolves NOT to make them… I typically fall into the latter category, mostly because I would never intentionally set myself up for failure. Last year I made the mistake of resolving to use a written planner, rather than just relying on my Google Calendar. And well… I should probably give that its own post as it’s a great way to understand your host’s personality! Yada yada yada I didn’t keep my resolution.
But 2018 has been one of the bleakest and most painful I have experienced. Judging by my Twitter & Facebook feeds, many people would agree right off the bat, but for me it has nothing to do with “the world on fire,” tragic news stories, the continued descent of our politicians into power-hungry gridlock or the general sense that humanity would like to rip its collective heart out.
For me, “Peak 2018” is diagnosis after diagnosis of debilitating chronic illnesses. A categorization of being a “7 on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of disability,” with only a “hope” of someday getting daily life to a “3.”
A friend told me how skinny I looked, as a compliment, and asked what I was doing. “Well I’m taking an anti-lupus drug with a side effect of maybe having detached retinas and going blind someday, but it also causes you to lose pesky pounds! And I can pretty safely travel to any malaria-prone country because it treats that, too!”
Image: Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Great Gatsby” (2012), Village Roadshow Productions
The homily at Mass today reminded me of that giant concept: PERSPECTIVE. The priest shared a story of how a family from his former parish had sent a mass text to all of their friends and family a few weeks ago to joyfully announce the birth of their son. They had discovered – and shared during the pregnancy – that their son had a chromosomal disorder, one which carries a devastatingly short life expectancy.
But the parents’ text on the birth of their son was as joyous as any parents’. They encouraged all of their friends and family to visit them and their son as often as they could while he was alive, and to do so joyously. This child was a gift, they said, and they wanted him to be celebrated as any child would. Perspective!
When I say “perspective,” I don’t mean thinking of how people have it worse off than I do. I’m perhaps overly empathetic, so understanding that perspective usually isn’t far out of my mind.
I don’t even think I’m talking about counting my blessings, though I do and will.
I’m talking about finding a perspective of joy. Living the joy of life even through pain, suffering and uncertainty. I don’t know what that looks like for me yet. I’m still processing it. And yes, the other perspective will probably help shape it. I’m living with chronic illnesses, not wondering when my child will die or watching my child battle osteosarcoma, as a friend currently is. I do worry that my daughters will inherit one of my conditions someday, but that’s nowhere near on the same level.
My understanding of my own faith will play a huge role.
But I am resolved to look for and find the joy. This is one New Year’s Resolution on which I may falter, but will not fail. I’ll update you on my progress throughout the year in different ways.
On December 31, 2019, I intend to report that I kept this resolution.
But it’s still 2018, so if you’ll permit me, I’ll say goodbye to this year with the sage words of Beyonce.