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Resolution relief.

A few weeks ago, I sat around a table with a circle of Sister-friends to do something I have not done in I can't remember when. Make a New Year's resolution (at least one that I had any real, bona fide intention of keeping). The truth is, I have not made a genuine, serious, no-kidding-around-I-really-mean-to-do-this New Year's resolution in at least six or seven years. And you know what that one was? To never, ever make another New Year's resolution again.

It's not that I have anything against them. I can assure you, I don't. As a matter of fact, I used to make them all the time. If the truth be known, when I was in my 20s. I made enough New Year's promises to last a decade. I couldn't just make the standard one or two. Oh, no. By the first week in January, I had compiled a whole roster of resolutions, most of which were, at worst, grandiose, at best, impossibly naive. Here's a typical list: (1) Lose 15 pounds by Valentine's Day; (2) Read at least two important books a week (e.g., Maya Angelou's I know Why The Caged Bird Sings, the Bible) and learn to recite whole chapters of each with skill and passion; (3) Write an important book and submit a completed manuscript by spring.

When I couldn't pull these things off by the appointed time (and I never could) I was left feeling disappointed, frustrated, a mess from the stress. "Don't worry," my girlfriends would always say when I would moan about my broken resolutions, "not even Wonder Woman could have done those things." I was never sure if they said this because it was true or because it was comforting, and so for the rest of the year I was haunted by my failure.

But then, around the time I turned 30, something happened. Slowly, imperceptibly, I gave up this annual ritual. At the time, letting it go was the only thing that made sense. Truthfully appraised, my success rate wasn't great or good or even moderately proficient. The only person I was kidding with all of these grandiose plans, I reasoned, was me, and so, what was the point of torturing myself?

This year, thanks to a wise and wonderful new Sister-friend, I have come to realize it wasn't the making of the resolutions that was the problem; it was the resolutions I was making. They were too impatient, too unmanageable (in short, too, much). As this Sister explained: "New Year's Resolutions aren't about reinvention, they are about renewal. They shouldn't be about trying to do everything, they should be about committing to do something. You should make resolutions that are challenging, not out of reach. Because the road to success is always under construction."

In the spirit of that sage advice, I polled dozens of Black women accross the country (Sisters of every age, occupation and walk of life) and asked them to share their best New Year commitments. Here are 20 resolutions you cam make (and keep) without turning your life upside down.

1. For 15 minutes every day, still your mind (do yoga, meditate); move your body (do aerobics, walk around the block).

2. Treat yourself to something you want (a book, a bubble bath, a bauble) every month.

3. Treat others as you want to be treated every day.

4. Get in touch with your best friend from high school.

5. Get in touch with your inner voice.

6. Meet a loved one's needs, not just their expectations.

7. Develop a spiritual ritual. (It doesn't have to be anything fancy or elaborate. Like Oprah's, it can be as simple as a morning prayer. "The first thing I do when I wake up is pray," she has said. "It's a time of solace in which I can take a few moments to appreciate all I have and to think about my expectations for the day: What do I have to accomplish in order to feel that I've made the most of the gifts I've been given?")

8. Say you're sorry to someone you have hurt.

9. Say good-bye to someone who continues to hurt you.

10. Donate some of your time or your money to an organization dedicated to helping Black children. (As Mother Hale said: "If you can't hold them in your arms, please hold them in your heart.")

11. Schedule a yearly appointment with your doctor. Learn the right way to perform a breast self-exam, and do it monthly. (For free instructions, call The American Cancer Society at 1/800-227-2345.)

12. Don't give unasked-for advice.

13. Don't hesitate to ask for needed advice.

14. Learn at least one new skill (ho to swim, cook a gourmet meal, play the stock market.)

15. Sleep late on Saturdays.

16. Don't sweat the small stuff or things you can't control. As a 92-year-old Black woman who (I swear) looked half her age once told me, "You can't smooth out the surf, but you can learn to ride the waves."

17. Make a detailed will to handle your holdings when you're gone to the hereafter.

18. Make a detailed plan to handle your hopes in the here and now.

19. Break a bid habit (e.g., smoking, overeating, biting your fingernails).

20. And last but not least, in this new year and every other, remember to follow the wise advice given by Children's Defense Fund Founder and President Marian Wright Edelman: "Slow down and live." As she writes her best-selling book, The Measures of Our Success, slow down and live is an African song she sings in her head when, as she puts it, "I begin flitting around like a hen with her head wrung off."

As we ponder our, resolutions for 1997, let us all keep in mind the song's words. "Brother slow down and live, brother slow down and live, brother slow down and live, you've got a long way to go. Brothers love one another, brothers love one another, brothers love one another, you've got a long way to go."
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Title Annotation:Sisterspeak; New Year's resolutions
Author:Randolph, Laura B.
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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