Karen M Mittan - descendant of early pioneer settlers (DAR and DUP) - wife of RickyLee (the band) - mother of 8 - grandmother of 12 - member LUW - author of 'I, NEPHI..' (a novel of homesteading in Jackson Hole, Wyoming) - occasional poet - country girl transplanted to Taylorsville, Utah. Allergic to cameras, hence this photo of the river I learned to swim in - Snake River, Jackson Hole, Wyoming ranch where I was raised.
HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?
By Karen Mittan
When I was a kid there was a tradition in our family of spending New Year’s Eve writing out a list of resolutions for the coming year. I’ll work harder in grammar at school. I won’t get in so many fights with my classmates. I won’t snitch lumps of brown sugar or slices of Velveeta cheese at home. I could always find a whole bucket load of things to resolve. And maybe I kept those resolutions. For a few days. Until I got disgusted with participles, or irritated with one of the boys at school, or supper wasn’t on the table quick enough.
As I progressed into my teens and thought back about just how long my resolutions didn’t last, I found myself becoming very disheartened. I seldom kept a resolution more than five or six weeks at the most. By Valentine’s Day I was right back where I’d been, the same old person doing the same old things, feeling the same old discouragement. It was especially frustrating because I lived in the shadow of an older sister whose only sinful act was to play saxophone in the high school band. She never blacked anyone’s eyes, or broke her cousin’s nose (that one was an accident, I swear!) or ate most of the head of cabbage that was supposed to have been for supper. And she always got superb grades, too. I hated standing up at the blackboard diagramming sentences. I never did learn the difference between a participle and a gerund. And prepositional phrases? Puuleeze! Math wasn’t so bad but history was a bore and science wasn’t even mentionable in polite society.
Years later, still discouraged with being me, I read an article penned by a very wise person about how long it took to develop a habit.
Twenty-one days, folks. Just twenty-one days.
Twenty-one days of getting up fifteen minutes earlier and it’s a set habit. Twenty-one days of flossing your teeth and it’s a set habit. Twenty-one days of honestly and sincerely complimenting your spouse or a rebellious child on something different each day and it’s not only a habit, but you’ll find a whole, new, wonderful relationship developing—one that you have never had before. Maybe never even dreamed was possible.
It sounded pretty good— a lot easier than trying to keep a list of impossible resolutions for an entire year—so I decided to try it. And it worked. Sometimes it doesn’t take all of twenty-one days. And sometimes big things take a little longer.
Will I ever get my weight back where it was ten years ago? Only if I become terminally ill. Does it bother me? No. It’s just not something that’s important enough for me to worry about. But do I keep it steady where it is? Yes.
I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles.
Will I ever feel comfortable around little kids? No. Does that mean I won’t make the effort to help each of my grandchildren, or the other children who come within the sphere of my influence, feel that I care? Again no.
I pick and choose my battles.
Will I ever have complete control of my temper? Probably not. Does it bother me? No. I can look back on my life and see that I have made tremendous progress in the temper department.
So, again, I pick and choose my battles.
I choose to direct my life in the way I want it to go. I choose to develop habits that help me progress toward what I want to accomplish and I work at them, one at a time. I choose to take the little individual steps that ensure success.
Am I always totally successful? Not the way I’d like to be, but then I’d love to be perfect. Right here. Right now. Lay it on me, Lord.
Realistically, that ain’t gonna happen in this lifetime so, one more time, I pick and choose my battles.
I choose the little steps I know I can manage and, by keeping my eyes on the small, individual goals, I’m able to take larger and larger chunks out of the perfection elephant as I go along. I find it so much more encouraging to be able to look back and see the progress I’ve made rather than the trail of resolutions I haven’t kept.
So do I have a list of New Year’s resolutions? Nope. What I have is a list of blessings that 2009 has brought me.
I have a new daughter-in-law.
I have a son who graduated magna cum laude in psychology from the U of U.
Every one of the guys in my family now has a job.
2010 will bring me at least three new grandchildren. ..and it’s fair to count that since I got the news in 2009.
I have a wonderful home with wonderful scenery that I share with my husband, my youngest daughter and her best friend— my foster daughter, two dogs and heaven-only knows how many koi-goldfish out in my pond.
I have friends—both new and old.
I have food to eat, clothes to wear, cars to drive and the freedom to choose what I want to do and how I want to live my life.
Those blessings and that freedom to choose are the important things to me.
And to answer the riddle of how you eat an elephant—the answer is one bite at a time.
May your New Year bring you the confidence to take little bite-sized chunks from your perfection elephant and may you experience joy and satisfaction in 2010.
I'd like to thank Karen for such a wonderful post. It really made me think about all the many blessings I have and the wonderful things I've been a part of in 2009. You can visit Karen's blog by clicking HERE.
Next week's Guest Blogger will be: Shanna Blythe