As the allegedly “most wonderful time of the year” comes to a close, the season for making and breaking self-deluding promises approaches.
Gym memberships will soar. Smokers will attempt to cut back or quit. Social hermits will attempt trips “outdoors”. Etc., etc., etc.
For a few weeks, maybe a month or two, many will be marginally successful at their self-improving endeavors. But after two months, most likely, the resolutions that seemed so courageous on Dec. 31, will be abandoned. How the mighty are foiled by donut downfalls.
Too many times I’ve joined the ranks of these mid-winter quitters. It’s mostly because something happens New Year’s Eve —I momentarily envision myself as some sort of athletic, positive “gal”, with a “go-getter” attitude. Also sometimes, depending on the time of night, I am a really, really good singer. I somehow seem to forget, black out, if you will, certain important, key facts about myself. For example:
1. I hate running. In fact, no one likes to run. You can’t. The idea of running — moving fast, too fast to necessarily think, perhaps, getting energized, being healthy blah blah —I can get into that. Sign me up. Get me some Nikes. I’ll ‘just do it’ up. But once I start, embark on the actual act, I remember there is no greater human punishment than running. Take that as you will. Add some self-diagnosed asthma, and you’ve got a wheezing, hypochondriac who won’t get much else done that day.
2. Assigning numeric values to my resolutions means that, in some small way, I am inadvertently involving math. Whether it is, “hey, I’ll lose 10 pounds”, or “you know, I’ll write 1,000 words each day” or “I’ll go outside for at least 10 minutes because maybe some sunlight would do me some good”, I can never quite adhere to my self-imposed goals.
And to be honest, I mostly blame my hesitant knowledge of long division. You start dividing something like 7463.637 by 932873.0937 and all of a sudden the one subject that is supposed to be calculated and straight forward —no maybes— gets very sloppy. My resolutions, similarly, become a disastrous act of balancing an elaborate equation of excuses: I ate that entire role of Oreos by myself, but I also did the more rigorous routine on Just Dance 2. TWICE. Maybe I didn’t write much this week, but I did read a poem in a magazine, and you know what? I could do better. I didn’t go outside, but the sun looked especially bright today, and I have my health to consider. And then of course I can do some resolution-carrying-over to apply my victories in one category to another: I read a book, so I don’t have to go outside (I also did some sun salutations, and that’s basically the same idea). I wrote a poem, so a cookie wouldn’t hurt.
And then my quotient looks a lot like the numbers I started with. And those numbers prefer yoga pants.
3. For better or worse, I have no shame in abandoning holiday-related goals. I’ve always approached times like Lent with a Laissez- faire attitude: Maybe I’ll give up television. And maybe a “Law and Order” marathon is on. We’re talking SVU. It is what it is.
There is also the inevitably convenient eureka moment: Suddenly, I remember that I don’t actually have to do whatever it is that I had “pledged” I’d do. “What? Give up bread? Who said that? Not me.”
I consider myself a driven person. But when it comes to mass-coordinated seasons of self-improvement, I tend to cop out.
Yet, even I have managed to maintain one resolution: This January 1 marks the beginning of my third year as a vegetarian. It is the only New Year’s resolution that I have ever really taken seriously and followed through. And I intend to keep it. Admittedly, I occasionally still have seafood, but it is mostly out of courtesy for relatives who don’t know what to do with me come dinner time. And also because I love sushi. I am aiming to cut back even more on seafood (eating it only when someone goes to the trouble to make me something because I am not a monster) as well as dairy products. I would become a vegan but…pizza.
Though I’m loathe to admit deviation from my usual anti-cliché-alternative-warpath, it feels good to have kept a New Year’s resolution. It’s (gulp) sort of empowering. Though I have been much more successful setting goals for myself periodically —rather than saving several for a day heralded by a bright glowing ball falling anti-climatically— I’m glad a made and kept my vegetarian resolution.