Look Forward and Not Backward: Intentions for 2022

Jan 16, 2022

As 2021 started winding down, I felt an undercurrent of perpetual panic. Instead of looking forward to a fresh new year, I felt overwhelming trepidation and fear. The unknown was not sparkling with new possibilities but rather seemed made up of nefarious twists and turns that blocked my view of what was coming. 

A few weeks before the new year, I saw a meme that summed up the way I was feeling: "Nobody claim 2022 as 'your year.' We're all going to walk in real slow. Be good. Be quiet. Be cautious and respectful. Don't touch anything."

Part of my panic could be attributed to the way 2021 started. January last year began so bright and hopeful and ended with Aaron in the hospital with his bone marrow failing for a second time. I felt like I'd been lulled into a false sense of security, and I was scared to let that happen again.

During the week between Christmas and New Year's, we watched the movie, A Boy Called Christmas. (I read the book to the boys a few years ago, but I actually liked the movie quite a bit more.) It starts out with  a great aunt (played by the ever-amazing Maggie Smith) coming to look after three children for the evening. She begins to tell them a story, and they are quickly captivated. However, they recently lost their mother, and so they interrupt her frequently: "Is the dad going to come back?" "Is he going to be okay?" "I don't want to hear a sad story." Their need to know the end from the beginning is all-consuming; their real life has delivered such a horrible, unexpected blow that they can't handle something similar in a story.

I related to this so much. I'm scared of 2022. I don't want to start it unless I know that things are going to work out in my favor. I'm continually revisiting the past as a warning to my future self to not get too comfortable, too content, too hopeful. 

Obviously, this is not a healthy mindset, but I'm having a difficult time relaxing my grip, even as I continually remind myself that it's actually not doing anything productive to help myself or my family.

I have always loved setting goals for the new year, but after having them derailed over the last three years, I've become more wary and less ambitious. It feels less fun to come up with grand plans of self-improvement and achievements if you think you're just going to be beaten down before you even get started. But making plans is in my nature, and as the final bits of 2021 faded away, I found two phrases that resonated deeply with me and seemed to be just the answer I was looking for as a guide for my 2022. 

The first found me while I was preparing a little FHE lesson for my kids. It was at the beginning of December, and I was hoping to instill in them a desire to give instead of get. I came across an obscure verse of scripture in Deuteronomy 15:11. It said, "Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother." I immediately latched onto that phrase--open thine hand wide. The imagery was vivid.

The virtue of being generous is one I think about frequently because it is not a gift I naturally have but it is one I aspire to. I am not the type of person who passes out snacks to all of the kids at the park or spontaneously drops off dinner to someone or gives birthday gifts to every acquaintance or offers to babysit multiple children for multiple hours or donates to all of the worthy causes. I tend to hoard money, time, resources, service. I can blame this selfishness on many things (I am afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing; I don't even think about it until it's too late; I find it stressful if it's not part of my routine; I get easily overwhelmed if I commit to too many things; etc, etc.).

But as I've thought about what I want my future self to look like, I've realized more and more that I want generosity to be a natural part of who I am. But since it's not, I'm going to have to make a conscious effort to seek it out and take advantage of opportunities and practice, practice, practice. I've also realized that I'm going to have to accept certain personality traits and figure out ways to positively use them rather than letting them be a handicap. (For example, I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with inviting over a crowd of people at a moment's notice; but making a decision to have a family over on, say, the third Sunday of every month sounds totally doable.) 

This is not the first time I've had the goal to become a more generous person, and I'm sure it won't be the last. However, at a time when I'm feeling so insecure about the future and seem to waste all of my time on worrying, I know that turning outward is just what I need.

The second phrase I found came during the first week of January. I was sitting in church and someone mentioned the importance of looking forward instead of backward. I recognized this from scripture and searched for it when I got home. It comes from D&C 128:22: "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, . . . and on, on to the victory!" But in my reading, I also found these verses from Philippians, and I might like them even more: "But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark . . . " (Phil. 3:13-14).

In light of everything I've confessed in this post, I think it's obvious why these verses struck such a chord with me. I can't let the past dictate how I live the future. I need to make exciting plans, jump into new experiences with both feet, and recognize the good even when life isn't perfect.

I'm reminded of a post I wrote several months ago that I revisit pretty regularly. In it, I answer the question, "What would I do if I had more faith?" The answer is, "I would submit." I will trust that God will not abandon me even if we have another year that feels a lot like 2019 . . . or 2020 . . . or 2021. I will remember that there is good even among the hard. I will be grateful for the friends, family, and angels who are beautiful examples of generosity. I will strive to be a light for others as so many have been for me.

Perhaps it is not wise to have two different themes for 2022. If my attention is divided, maybe I won't make progress with either one of them. But I couldn't choose between them. I felt led to both, so I'm sticking with them and waiting to see what will happen. 

I have specific goals that go along with both of these themes, but I'm not ready to share them yet (and maybe never will be). Some of them are fixed and settled, and others are still fluid as I try to figure out the best way to implement them. I'm very aware of the importance of keeping my expectations realistic and manageable, so even though there is so much I want to do, I'm limiting the number of concrete goals I allow myself. 

Thanks for sticking with me through this ramble. If you read this post and thought, "It sounds like she should see a therapist," don't worry, that's definitely on my to-do list. I haven't found the right person yet, but I'm hoping that's one of the things that 2022 brings me because I have a lot to unpack and process, and I know a therapist can help me with this goal to look forward. 

1 comment:

  1. This really speaks to me. I really appreciate how thoughtful you are with your life and your faith.

    I think my theme for the year is "It starts today." By which I mean I forgive myself for past failings, and each day I try again to meet my goals. Every day I'm trying to look forward.


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