The inauguration is over and the recession is still here. Many of us are evaluating just where we are in our lives. The temptation right about now is to draw up a list of what we know we ought to be doing.
If we only would, we know our lives would be better. This is in spite of the pounds of evidence that show not much good ever comes from resolutions except for some added guilt.
Change is inevitable and necessary. I know that even if I do protest when I'm in the middle of some big shift. I have even been known to re-evaluate every decision looking for a loophole that might get me out of the corner I'm in at the moment. That never works. I even love lists, but I've noticed that what I love is making the list. The sentiment really doesn't go much beyond that.
But maybe there's a better way to get a little closer to that image we have of ourselves in our heads. How about the next time we are about to make a decision and feel that slight lurch in our stomach, we just hesitate?
Don't limit this to the big stuff like buying a new car, getting engaged, going back to school. A reasonable person knows to look both ways before entering into decisions that will change the landscape in a big way.
Try to hesitate even at the smallest of flutters, like when you're about to buy that sugary cereal in the grocery store for your kids knowing that you're the one who's going to eat bowl after bowl late at night.
Or when you're about to say "yes" to someone for a favor you never wanted to do in the first place, can't fit into your schedule and aren't even sure how you'll accomplish, anyway. Or when you're about to say "no" to someone who asked you out for coffee because it doesn't feel like a love match, and besides, what do you really know about the person, anyway.
Hesitate there and take a breath. Give your brain a chance to catch up to your old patterns and then make a different choice.
Make the different choice just to see what else could happen. Trust that you didn't need to know the ending or even what was beyond the next step. Let it all be that simple and that small. No grand ambitions down the road because we're just sticking to today and this small moment.
The plain truth of our lives is that anything we have built was accomplished because of a thousand little decisions built one on top of the other. We raised our children one small moment at a time, taking care of the sniffles before tackling the model of the solar system, and then baking 35 cupcakes with Barbie candles.
That's why, as parents, we're so amazed at our children's graduations to be looking at this young adult. We were so involved in all of those moments we weren't obsessing quite so much over the final product. We already knew, one way or the other, they were getting to adulthood.
Well, that little tip is key to every other ongoing project in our lives. Keep doing the small stuff and eventually it adds up, even during a recession.
Write that book one page at a time. Start saving this year with one dollar at a time. Quit eating foods that don't make you feel very good, one box of cereal at a time, and let that be something to feel good about. Celebrate your new choice and keep going.
One page a day adds up to a book. One dollar a day adds up to $365 more dollars on the plus side than you had last year. And one less box of Cocoa Puffs is one less inch around your middle. It all counts. Along the way, you're going to notice two things: that you really can change your life and move toward that image in your head, and you didn't have to have all the answers up front in order to do it. Now take a deep breath. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.