One of the podcasts in my weekly rotation recently published an episode on New Years resolutions. Normally I don’t do resolutions. I find them predictable, cheesy, a bit silly, and unrealistic.
So I was a bit cynical when I found the podcast promising an approach to resolutions that could actually make a difference in the year ahead.
Cynical but also intrigued.
This intrigue eventually led to a willingness to give their advice a shot.
I do admit, once you pull away the cover of the catchy title, their concept for making resolutions shares much in common with pretty much every other resolution out there. But what stands out is the way their approach easily carries over from one year to next, allowing me to look back on the year before and integrate what worked (and what didn’t) into next years resolutions.
It comes from a podcast called extrapackofpeanuts, and it is based on a simple formula they came up with that they call the ROSEBUD system. The rules for the ROSEBUD system are as follows:
Step 1: List Three Roses-
This is the stuff that I would consider the greatest strengths, successes or accomplishments of the past year, the stuff that has managed to blossom into a Rose.
Step 2: List Three Thorns
This would reflect my greatest personal struggles of the past year.
Step 3: List Three Buds
This is a list of what I would like to “bud” into Roses in the coming year.
Step 4: Come up with a word for the year
This should be a single word that can help reflect the direction I want to head in the coming year, a single word that can give my year a theme or a recognizable flavor.
That’s it. Simple, right? A bit cheesy? Maybe. But I figured it was worth a try. And maybe, just maybe, it might manage to inspire. So here goes…
My Three Roses (greatest strengths, success, accomplishments of this past year):
This blog, which I started near the middle of this year, is the first rose on my list not because it is exceptional or unique (which it is not), but rather for what it represents. After years of trying (and failing) to find an outlet to push myself to write, this blog has finally motivated me to actually begin to move some of the fragmented pieces that have been languishing in the dusty corners of my computer shelf and into some sort of public space where I can at least pretend to feel accountable. I admit, this blog remains the product of much anxiety, and the motivating theme of “finding me at 40” has been an intentional and intensely personal effort to try and make some sense of this anxiety. But more importantly, it reflects a place to start, most notably in the opportunity it has given me to reflect backwards on the stuff of my forming years that has helped make me who I am today. Hopefully, it also reflects a place to grow, and the fact that I am still investing in it as we turn the page on another calendar year seems a hopeful sign that the effort and investment is actually working.
2. Reading Challenges:
I love film, but my first love is reading.
I grew up with books, and there is little that has managed to define me more over the years than the simple fact that I am almost always found carrying a book (sometimes two, sometimes three or more). I have, however, had a rocky relationship with reading over the years. While a film only demands a few hours of investment, giving time to a good book over the days, weeks, and sometimes even months that it takes to finish is tough at this point in my life. It has become easier and easier to fall off the bandwagon, and when I do fall off the bandwagon with reading, usually I fall off pretty hard.
But thankfully I always seem to find a way to pick myself back up, usually against the allure of a promising and familiar title. And when I do find my way back into the zone, it is often hard to stop me from reading.
When I thought about this rose, I immediately recognized the correlation between reading and the rest of my life. When I am not finding time to read it usually means one of two things- I am far too busy or I am in an anxiety/depression funk- neither of which are beneficial to the relationships around me. When I am reading it usually means I am pacing myself, managing my anxiety/depression, and thus more invested in the relationships around me as well.
I am in my third year of successfully participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, which means keeping a reading schedule through the course of the year. While I would certainly consider that a rose there is more to this picture as well.
This past year, I started to experiment with being more intentional with what I read and how I read, expanding the challenge to include some more personally inspired goals (of reading a variety of books) and purposed driven trends (of connecting themes). Looking back over my catalog for the past year (thank you Goodreads for helping me to catalog my reading schedule with such ease) has allowed me to see some of the smaller trends that have emerged from this process and which have helped shape my growth and development in 2016. For example, I got interested in the idea of happiness, and so I devoted a good deal of time to books on the subject, and have been rewarded with a greater understanding of the subject and how to apply it to my life more directly.
It is the fact that this year reflects some successive, and even some more intentional, investment in reading that puts this as the second Rose on my list.
If there is a title that has often been associated with me in my past, it likely would be the term “eternal optimist”. I haven’t done well at living into this in the past while, but one thing that I think I have adopted is patience.
There are times when life calls for pro-action, and affords opportunity that is there for the taking. Then there are times when it calls for waiting and listening and watching. I am grateful that life has called me to the latter, as this past year has not given me the energy that I would need for the former. But it hasn’t come easy.
The reason why patience is a challenge for me is that when I am sitting it usually means I am obsessing. Thus my anxiety. This is not a good thing for someone with anxiety. But this year I have managed to combat some of these obsessive tendencies, at least a little bit, and have managed to fill my time with some things that can enhance my waiting. And what am I waiting for? I’m not sure, but a part of the process of this year has been attempting to figure that out, and I think the attempting is a part of what encourages me to place this as a Rose.
My Three Thorns- the three greatest struggles of the past year
1. Social Relationships:
No question about it, this is my biggest thorn of the past year. Turning 40 has helped me realize just how few social relationships I have as I slide into the midway mark of my life. There are many reasons for this, some within my control and some outside of my control, some of which I am responsible for, some of which I am not.
The truth is, I made a promise (to myself and to my family) this past year that I would try to build back into my life some recognizable and strong social connections. For the most part I have fallen short. A tough year, growing anxiety and sheer reality that building social relationships is not an easy thing have all played a factor. Add to this my desire to build back into my life a well-balanced picture of social relationships (which would include an older mentor, peer relationships, a younger relationship that I can invest in, supportive relationships) and the picture begins to look even bleaker.
2. Managing my Anxiety:
I have actually made a lot of progress in this area, to be fair. But it still sits high on the list of thorns, and I wouldn’t be surprised (if I continue this ROSEBUD practice in years to come) if it always makes this list. It is a struggle that will always be there., even if it manifests in different ways from year to year.
If I can narrow it down to this year, the main struggle in my life has been consistency. I failed to keep up therapy or counseling- I started, I stopped, I started again and I stopped again- and more often than not I have allowed the day to day struggle to drain my energy. Most days it is simply easier to give into the negativity that anxiety tends to produce.
I know, this is going to sound like an exercise in self-pity/self-depreciation. But it is not intended as that. It is just supposed to be truthful. There remains truth to the fact that I have failed (in a myriad of ways) in this experiment called fatherhood this year. And my number one struggle? Dealing with a lack of self-confidence.
A few things happen when you allow a lack of confidence to rule the day. It causes the emotional rollercoaster of parenting a teenage son (with the rejection, the attitude and the creeping rebellion) to feel far too personal, and, secondly, it causes parenting to become more about my insecurities than his needs.
To add to this, my number two struggle when it comes to fatherhood is knowing how to manage the marriage of my anxiety and my parenting. When I am not managing it well, which most days I do not, is that I either end up controlling or I end up shutting down, neither of which are healthy reactions. Add to this the lack of supportive social connections in our life (when it comes to outside support for parenting a teen), and it becomes a tough cycle to try and maintain.
My Three Buds- Three things I plan to bud into Roses for next year
1. More Focused Writing
What I hope to do this year is begin to bring a greater sense of focus to my blog. I have a few projects that I have been working on for a while (in those dusty corners of the computer), and I hope to incorporate them in a way that can help define some next parts of this journey for me.
I also hope to start to make it more accessible. I recognize this means shorter blogs and more relatable topics. We will have to wait to see how that goes. I am a man of few words… until I start writing.
Much of what I wrote over the course of 2016 was an attempt for me to make sense of my past. I hope to write more about what I am learning in the here and now this year.
2. Take the Small Steps
I have such a hard time with investing in the small steps. And yet, one of the great frustrations of this past year was the feeling of being stuck in the mud (in a lot of respects). We had plans, but very little of what was hoped for managed to come to fruition over the course of this year.
What I hope to bud this year is some smaller investments that are, hopefully, more achievable- getting rid of 15% of our debt, giving a small percentage more, finding a place to give of my time where I feel like I have something to offer, taking smaller trips that are more manageable and achievable and sustainable for where we are as a family… which leads me to number 3…
Everyone knows I love to travel. This past year I resigned to armchair traveling.
This year my hope is to bud this into some ideas that can fit for us a family (which means finding places and ideas that can reaches a consensus with everyone), that are manageable and sustainable, and that can provide memories.
I have a few ideas that I think can work, but more importantly, here is to seeing them come to fruition.
One Word to define my year