Jackie Brousseau-Pereira: Taking stock in a new year

Published: 1/14/2020 2:10:14 PM
Modified: 1/14/2020 2:09:26 PM

It’s halfway through January, which means that at least some of us have already made and given up on resolutions.

I have mixed feelings about making resolutions at the New Year. I like the idea of continued growth and learning, but my anti-authoritarian streak keeps me from doing things that are advised by some expert “other.”

Regardless, over the holidays I had some time off and found myself taking stock of what I’m grateful for. I did a kind of sorting: things I want to do more of, areas for change and growth and nonsense I will no longer attend to.

Things I want to do more of:

■Spending time with family and friends. The people in my life who accept me for who I am and still love me are the ones I want to spend most of my time with. These relationships are rewarding and nourishing.

■Preparing food that nurtures body and spirit. I love to cook and feed others. I’m good at it and it’s how I show love to those in my circle.

■Going to the gym. Last year I joined a great gym after being encouraged — OK, browbeaten — by a dear friend. I’ve never stayed this long at one gym before and I go pretty consistently. The community there is awesome, supportive and non-judgmental. When I leave after a workout, I feel strong and healthy.

■Appreciating my job and my amazing coworkers. I am truly lucky to work at a job I love with people who share my values. I may get cranky from time to time because work is still work, but overall, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. We support each other as well as the students we serve.

■Visiting new places and learning new things. Recently I went with one of my dearest friends on an adventure to a museum I had never heard of. We took the staff up on their offer of a docent-led tour and had a blast. I want to have more adventures like that.

Areas for change:

■ Judge less, listen more/be kind when I want to be snarky. As humans, we have a tendency to judge others. I notice that I become more judgmental when I’m not satisfied with myself. Judging others is not going to make our lives better, but listening more can.

■Self-care. Here are some things I’m working on. I’d love to build the habit of starting each day with a short meditation to help me stay grounded. I want to practice saying no more frequently and without guilt. I plan to take time for myself when I need it. I work a lot. I have people at home who need me. I serve on a few boards and committees. Sometimes I need to spend time alone to recharge.

■Take the opportunity to speak truth to power. If you’ve ever been in one of those situations where someone says something racist, sexist or homophobic, or when you realize that a rule or policy in the system you work in is detrimental to a whole group of people, these are the opportunities where I want to practice speaking up instead of freezing up.

■Be present for people who matter. Sometimes instead of actively listening to someone who is sharing an important issue with me, I spend time in my head thinking about what to say next. Or, during their story I’ll interject something about my own life that is kind of relevant, but not really. I’m working on this.

■Buying less. Ever notice all of those ads on your social media feeds? Yup, they know what we are interested in (shoes!). Shopping is not actually a long-term solution for melancholy or angst.

Nonsense I will no longer attend to:

■Attending social functions to meet the expectations of others. If I have the choice of going to an event that is meaningless to me or hanging out at home with my kids, I’m picking them every time.

■Religion. I am not against religion if it works for you, but it doesn’t work for me.

■Arguing with people on social media. This doesn’t change anyone’s mind and it likely makes the divide between people more entrenched. The only way to get people to find common ground is through face-to-face dialog.

■Dieting. For me dieting is akin to shame. The diet industry makes a lot of money off of people who feel ashamed about their perfectly lovely bodies.

■Allegiance to society’s narrow standards of beauty. As I get older, I notice that my concept of who is beautiful has expanded. I seek it out, looking for what is beautiful in each individual. Once you start changing your focus, it becomes easier to see.

This is my list of non-resolutions for 2020. If you feel inspired to share yours, I’m all ears.

Jackie Brousseau-Pereira of Easthampton writes a monthly column. She is the academic dean and director of first-year seminars in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also the current president of the Board of Community Action Pioneer Valley.

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