No New Year’s resolutions for me!
After the many twists and turns of the past several months, the notion of being able to set fixed goals in 2022 seems almost laughable. Just when life seems to be returning to “normal,” another challenge or obstacle arises.
So, instead of making a list of “musts” that will be obsolete by midmonth, I’m going to hold fast to faith and God’s abiding love and proceed with one, simple, overarching “resolve”: Expect the unexpected.
It’s not a comforting thought.
Unexpected external events upset our routines and can prompt anxiety as we face something sudden that we’re unprepared for.
However happy they might be, unexpected events can make us feel frightfully inadequate, even a little silly, much like realizing we’ve set a dinner party table for 11, but have invited 12 people instead.
Unexpected internal events might also be unsettling; the nudge of the Holy Spirit, when it turns into outright “change-your-life-direction” realization is exciting yet translating this into practical steps can be nerve-wracking as the inspiration we feel inside meets with resistance and “practical considerations” on the outside.
Difficult challenges, such as health crises or natural disasters, bring stresses that can hit us with a force that sets us reeling, turning joy to tears. The tornadoes and wildfires that have caused so much destruction for so many of late are examples of this.
When the unexpected occurs to loved ones, our own level of worry and stress can rise, too, understandably.
We cannot prepare for every eventuality, nor set dates and times on our calendars for the unexpected.
However, in keeping with my one “resolution” this year — “Expect the unexpected” — there are some actions we can take to be better able to navigate 2022 with confidence.
The better we know ourselves, the more we can nurture helpful habits that support us through unexpected occurrences.
If we know, for example, that we might react angrily to sudden snags in our carefully planned lives, we can take steps now to learn to constructively cope, be less apt to erupt and bring overall calm to the situation instead of more stress.
To gain better insight on ourselves, regular prayer is helpful, as is a practice such as the Examen, which offers an opportunity to reflect on our actions and reactions in light of God’s mercy.
Knowing our environment at home and in our communities is important at all times, but especially if unexpected events occur.
Do we know what kinds of local weather events occur, and do we know where our tools for coping with them are? Do we have our neighbors’ contact information, do our children know the drill if a weather event suddenly separates family members?
Is our legal paperwork (health care directives, insurance documents) updated and accessible? Are our mobile devices charged and close by?
January of a new year is an excellent time to review these practical preparations. We hope never to have to use them but will be in better shape if the need for them arises.
Faith gives us countless inspiring examples of people who faced unexpected events with God’s grace and protection. Sacred Scripture and song uplift us in times when we experience detours and need clarity and strength.
Among the wise words from the saints is a phrase attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and included in my book, “Don’t Panic! How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough”:
“First, do the necessary. Then the possible. And soon, you are doing the impossible.”
An apt framework for coping with whatever might unexpectedly occur as 2022 unfolds!
Pratt’s website is www.maureenpratt.com.
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