The Streets Are Pre-Paved With Regret

When my oldest daughter was learning how to spell, she would sit in the grocery cart as we shopped, diligently making a list. Every time I put something in the cart, she’d write it down.  And when we got to the check-out line, she’d look at what she’d written, look in the cart, and marvel, “Mama, we got everything on the list!

Who wouldn’t like to feel a sense of accomplishment like that?  On the other hand, who wants to go to all the fuss and trouble of actually accomplishing stuff?  Smart people take a good, hard look at who they already are, and, rather than trying to improve on that, they concentrate on making the right kind of goals—the kind which, after years of repetition, you could achieve even after a stiff dose of ketamine.

Here’s my list of goals for a failproof 2012:

JANUARY:  Just clean up after Christmas.  Oh my gosh.

FEBRUARY:  Try to blast my way out of late winter gloom by buying an elaborate seed starter kit.  Float home on a sunny fantasy of tender, home-grown lettuce, intensely flavorful tomatoes and ultra-nutritious squash that my children will suddenly want to eat because no one could resist such scrumptious, bumptious, homegrown goodness.  And anyway, all those other things I’m supposed to be taking care of will fade into insignificance amid the lushness of the garden, the garden!  Who could be sad or mad or tired or ill-tempered when there’s a garden?  Oh, what a garden we’re going to have!

MARCH:  Have a sudden, irrational, and unshakable conviction that I’m pregnant.  Freak out, then feel horribly guilty that I’m freaking out instead of rejoicing.  Freak out even more.  Pray.  Through a tremendous effort and influx of grace, discover a place of peace.  Rearrange plans for the future (no garden).  Tell a few hundred close personal friends our news with sincere joy, mixed with only a few small grains of resentment and dread.

Find out I’m not, of course, pregnant. Cry.

APRIL:  Come to grips with the idea that the year is not exactly new anymore.  But it’s not that old, either!  It’s still the perfect time to make a fresh start, buckle down, and get cracking with that super important—ooh look, a furry hoodie that makes you look like Chewbacca!  Just gotta send this link to a couple of friends, and then I’ll organize my life and whatnot.

MAY:  With the fresh breeze, flowing water, and caroling birds, have a sudden revelation that life is good!  Virtue is easy, and self-control is a thing of joy.  All one needs to do is ally oneself with all that is good, true, and beautiful, like birds, and one will effortlessly and joyfully lose weight, pray regularly, have a clean kitchen floor, and teach one’s children how to scan poems and sight read Gregorian chant on weekends just for fun, and it will be easy, because look how warm it is.

JUNE:  At the start of vacation, vow to get all the boring, obligatory stuff out of the way early, so we can concentrate on having a nice time for once.

JULY:  While doing the spring cleaning we put off earlier because we were lolling around complaining about the heat, discover that seed starter kit, still in the bag.  Shove it under the bed.  Buy a couple of tomato plants with encouraging names like “SUPREMEO BIG BOY JUICEMEISTER E-Z GROW” and “FARMER NED’S DOMESTIC GUILT ASSUAGER” and stuff them into a fertile-looking area of the driveway.  Water seldom to never.  When they don’t grow, teach the children to grumble, “Thanks a lot, Monsanto.”

AUGUST:  In a panic, abandon the spring cleaning and commence the end-of-vacation frenzy of pleasant activities so that the kids will have something to write about when they have to write about “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.”  Actually have a kind of nice time.

SEPTEMBER:  Open Facebook and see the book lists, the watercolors, the inventive little study spaces, the video clips of hilarious and inspired little skits that everyone else’s kids are doing; immediately drown in regret that we’re not homeschooling anymore.  Everybody else in the entire universe is homeschooling!  It would be so easy, if only I loved my children just a little bit more!  Oh, and argh, half of them are incorporating their beautiful, beautiful gardens into their curriculum!  Thanks a lot, Charlotte Mason.

OCTOBER:  Open Facebook; read about how everyone’s homeschool year is going now.  Get down on my knees and thank the God of mercies that we’re not homeschooling anymore.

NOVEMBER:  Have a sudden, irrational, and unshakable conviction that I’m pregnant.  Just skip to the crying part without even trying to figure out how I ought to feel.

DECEMBER:  Look back over the past year and marvel over the large amount of personal growth I’ve achieved, if, by “growth,” you mean, “After building a strong spiritual relationship with our family this year, our pastor needed a break and asked to be transferred to the diocese of Pyongyang. ”  Also, I finally learned how to make a mojito. 

Thanks a lot, 2012. 

What’s on your list?  What do you just know you can do?