New Year’s lessons from a butterfly (no resolutions for me)

It is almost 2016. Each year almost comes as a surprise to us, doesn’t it? Especially as we get older. My reaction is the same every December 31: “I can’t believe it is <insert year> already!” I don’t remember saying that as a kid, and honestly, I miss not noticing the passing of time.

Time just went, and I lived.

I know many of you do New Year’s resolutions. I don’t do them. I never really stuck to them when I was younger.

One reason I stopped doing New Year’s resolutions is because now I reflect about my life and make some sort of resolution almost every day. There are always important decisions to be made.

Another reason is because of my need to let go of ‘control’. In my life, I’ve valued having control over some things — it gives me a sense of security — but I also want to teach myself that it is OK not to have control and to allow things to just be. If my goals get done, great. If they don’t, I am fine with that too.

When I think of resolutions, I think of ‘bucket lists,’ and I don’t do those either. There is something about them that remind me of having an expiration date and that I’d better hurry. I also don’t want to create a situation where I have regrets if some things don’t get done.

I went to Catholic school in the Dominican Republic as a child, and one thing that always bothered me was the way we were taught about discipline. Those nuns were mean. I really didn’t have a choice but to listen and do. Or else. There was always a timeframe.

In first grade each one of us created a paper butterfly made out of posterboard, which was used as a symbol of our accomplishments. The butterflies represented us. These butterflies were taped on the wall of our classroom. Depending on how well we did, our butterflies would be flying high — at the top of the wall — or flying low, down by the floor. This was supposed to ‘encourage’ us to learn quickly, to compete, to set goals and get them done — except not everyone had the same capacity to do that. And no, my butterfly was not one of those that flew low, but I wasn’t at the top either. This created a lot of pressure for all of us kids. And I was only 4 years old (I skipped pre-school).

Creating resolutions makes me feel like I am still in Catholic school. I don’t want to create a situation where I disappoint myself for not accomplishing something. Doesn’t mean I am a person with no goals and wishes. I have them like anyone else. I want to trust that my goals will be accomplished, in time, when my desire is there. I also find myself getting more things done when there’s spontaneity.

Everyone has a way to accomplish things in life. I understand that sometimes people need special motivation. I can see how starting a New Year can be a good reason to reflect and want to start over. I want to take each day as an opportunity to grow. I don’t want to feel pressured though.

2016I am OK with those things I didn’t accomplish this past year. I am also very proud of those things I was able to accomplish, like my blog, for example. There were other things I wanted to do, but circumstances didn’t allow me to and that’s OK, too. I have no regrets. Self forgiveness has been another big accomplishment of mine — to be kind to myself.

Wishing everyone a healthy and joyful 2016. And while I don’t do resolutions, I have a goal: to allow myself to appreciate and accept all the complexities of being a human being. And most importantly, to let go of ‘control.’ After all, I never really had it to begin with.

And by the way…if I had a classroom with all of you in it, all of your butterflies will always fly up high on my wall. Because we all do our best. Every day.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
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26 Responses to New Year’s lessons from a butterfly (no resolutions for me)

  1. Kimberly says:

    Happy New Year friend! xx

  2. scottx5 says:

    Happy New Year Rebecca! I like the stars on your sleepers, very magical looking.

    Being in your class sounds pretty cool but I think my butterfly would still prefer being down the hall on the bench by the Principal’s office. Think having me out of the room had a calming effect and allowed the teachers to be nice to the other kids.

    Was thinking about no resolutions this year myself. They usually don’t work and end up on the list of small screw-ups that accumulate like loud, annoying dust bunnies in my head. And a list we could all stop keeping. Wonder if there’s a different way of looking at the need for control? I often see your writing as an expression of disappointment in people who are being mindless and asking them to have enough self-respect to chill on casting judgments. It’s not unreasonable to ask for reflection and better behavior from others and for them to control themselves. And of course we can really get into lecturing ourselves–we know ALL the buttons to push, how could we resist?

    Instead of trying to be in control, I see this as consciously observing and commenting. And yeah, that does sound like having expectations, which, like you said in another post, can lead to disappointments. So how DO we act in the world? That can be lesson #1 when I get back from the Principal’s office:-)

    Take Care, Scott

    This article has a unfortunate title but it’s good information: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

    • thesmallc says:

      Hahaha! I tried matching my outfit. My classroom needed some intervention but it wasn’t the students who needed it. I am sure having you would have made a big difference, probably for the better though.

      I stopped doing resolutions years ago because not only weren’t they getting done but they were also distracting. About control, perhaps there are different forms of it (same for expectations) and some can be a little more self limiting than others? I believe part of my struggles are influenced by the need of wanting to be in control. I thought if I let some of that go, maybe I will have less anxiety about life in general. Wondering if the system I have created for myself has led me to feeling trapped.

      Thank you for all the support you’ve given me and continue to give me, Scott. I’ll be sure to check out your article.

      I hope 2016 is very kind to you.

      • scottx5 says:

        Well, I think your class would be cool and better than the principal’s office. I try to explain to people that around 14 I received some of the best advice from an adult ever. And they get excited until it turns out I’m crediting my probation officer. Then they get mixed up and can’t process the advice I received as useful. So if I said my teacher wore red sleepers with stars and munched Oreos they’d be just as confused? If I stay in class though it would be nice to be a caterpillar and walk on the ceiling. You could still be the boss even. I bet the nuns wouldn’t like that:-)

        Have to think more about control and try not to make it a pop-psychology think. Watched the movie “Snow White and The Huntsman” last night and it got me thinking about my doctors living in an enchanted forest. While traveling through their forest I have to pretend to be under their spell and see the illusions they see. If I try to control these people I’ll just fall into their world and that might be as hopeless as reasoning with nuns.

        Heard the other day from someone trying to change the culture of schools and he said to skip trying to change those who argue against change and work with those who try to understand what it will bring. So instead of control and being stuck, have a strategy and keep moving.

        Girl Rising is a very cool movie. Have you seen it? It’s on Youtube in pieces. This one is about Seena in Peru https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9hCcl6N1WU. The rest are listed down the side of the page.

        I actually do have a resolution. To write more in my blog from a fresh start. Been trying to control stuff I can’t and want to switch to understanding.

      • thesmallc says:

        You reminded me of our Principal. She was worse than the entire group of nuns combined. I guess that was the idea. I hope you see a change for the better with your medical team.

        Haven’t watched Girl Rising. I am going to take a look, thank you.

        Looking forward to reading your posts.

  3. Carla Burke says:

    Happy New Year! Great blog post. I don’t make resolutions either because it just set’s up myself for failure. I do however plan to spend more time with God this year.

  4. happy new year Rebecca 🙂

  5. Carrie says:

    Happy New Year! I’m with you. I don’t make resolutions just so I can break them. Especially this year, when I’m starting off with a surgery. I don’t know what I can accomplish. I hope to figure it out as I go along.

    • thesmallc says:

      Happy New Year friend! I was thinking about your surgery date. Last time we spoke it was scheduled for Jan 7 (?) but I know you’ve had different opinions/options so I am not sure if that original date has changed (please keep me posted). Would love seeing you.

      • Carrie says:

        It got moved to January 8th. They scheduled me for the wrong surgery and my plastic surgeon caught the mistake. Can you imagine???!!!!! I would love visitors when I’m home. We should set something up!

      • thesmallc says:

        Oh my!! no wonder they ask you the same questions several times before any procedure. I am glad your doctor caught the error. Whenever you are ready to receive visits, I am there. Wishing you a quick and smooth recovery. xo

      • Carrie says:

        Thanks! To my surgeon’s credit, his secretary made the mistake. He seems to know what he’s doing.

  6. Rebecca, your butterfly flies high in my eyes. I’m glad to fly with you, with or without resolutions. Happy new year. xo

  7. bethgainer says:

    Rebecca, like you, I don’t make resolutions, as I reflect and adjust my goals throughout the year. The butterfly exercise at school is cruel, but as Eileen says, your butterfly soars. I’m so happy our paths crossed. Have a great 2016! May this year and all future years be good to you.

    • thesmallc says:

      Beth, I was a little rebellious as a child and so the experience of going to catholic wasn’t as traumatizing as I would have expected. I thought the nuns were nuts (excluding the part of their commitment to God).

      Thank you for your kindness and your good wishes. I also wish you a healthy 2016 filled with good news.

      Thank you for being part of my world. xx

  8. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    I don’t do resolutions either. I do, of course, have goals, but this feels different to me for whatever reason. Resolutions feel to confining or something. Plus, like you, I prefer to think of each day as a chance to start over. Maybe this means I have an accountability problem or something, who knows? Wishing you all the best in the New Year. Can’t wait to read more of your posts.

    • thesmallc says:

      Nancy, have a happy and healthy New Year! I hope this year brings us all some good news. I don’t think I am able to handle more bad news.

      It’s perfectly fine not to have resolutions. I don’t think you have a problem at all.

      Thank you for all the support you’ve given me and continue to give me. I love your book, by the way. Please don’t ever stop writing. xx

  9. Rebecca says:

    Funny you mention control. I read your post after writing mine … first I mention that resolutions feel negative to me – they feel more about things you don’t want to do, where goals sound more positive. That being said control was exactly the same goal I had – to let go of control over some things – in my case it is the need to have some sense of control over my next meal … I need to learn to let go of that … cause you are right, no matter how much we think we are in control, life will always in some way get in the way, and that needs to be OK. Hope you have a lovely, healthy, joyfilled 2016. Hugs, Becky.

    • thesmallc says:

      Becky, I agree with you, resolutions sound like things we don’t really want to do but we pressure ourselves to do them anyway. I say if our desire is to accomplish something, we’ll make it happen. Control is a big one. I am aware I can’t ever let go of it completely but I want the availability to accept things I cannot change.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. Have a healthy 2016 filled with great news! xo

  10. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: The New Year Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  11. The Accidental Amazon says:

    I don’t do resolutions either. I try to live each day as it comes. I had nuns in school, but they didn’t do a butterfly thing. How mean! I hate that sort of thing! We humans are so foolish sometimes about needing comparisons, wanting to feel ‘better’ than someone else. That’s what causes a lot of the world’s problems, I think. Have a great new year, Rebecca. xo

    • thesmallc says:

      Kathi, I still remember all the strange things that happened at that school. Not all was bad though. And yes I agree wanting to always do/be better than others can make us overlook what is important.
      I am thinking of you. May each day get a littler easier. Hopefully 2016 will be a much better year for all of us. xo

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