Sunday, January 1, 2017


“Did you make any resolutions?” Jack Baker asks.
“No,” Suzie Diamond replies. “I figured all that stuff’s a load of crap.” She takes a drag off her cigarette “I mean, you do what you do, right?”

This is not my attitude toward New Year’s resolutions, really. I am fond of navel gazing, and New Year’s Resolutions are a type of navel gazing. They’re reflective, and they are all about YOU. How you want to be better, and think you actually can become better. There’s an age when you become realistic about your resolutions. One year I resolved to quit smoking. The next year I resolved to quit smoking 3 times. Realism is important to resolutions, because it’s how you understand your limitations, or negotiate between your ideals and your limitations.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are poorly timed. We’re 10 days past the shortest day of the year. We’re just trying to sleep through the night, which we think is getting shorter, but we can’t tell exactly. Who wants to try to better yourself when you’re just trying to keep from going batshit crazy in the middle of winter? Who plans that timing?
New Year’s Resolutions should be made in the Spring; the days are getting noticeably longer. The weather is warmer and things seem to be getting better. It’s easier, in March, to think that maybe the changes you make will have a positive impression on the world. On January 2nd? Really, THIS is when you want to start going to the gym every day? When it’s still below freezing when you GET to work, never mind in the 3 hours beforehand when you are probably getting to the gym in the first place? (Caveat: I am a morning person.)
If we made our New Year’s Resolutions in the Spring, mid March perhaps, we would be buoyed by the positive inertia of the seasons. This would keep us going. You try to start going to the gym regularly when the next blizzard is coming, and you are setting yourself up for a fall and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. But the Spring? The Earth is reviving itself, everything is going through its own natural rebirth, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we take Mid March to make our New Year’s Resoultions?
Cognitive psychologists (perhaps I’ve got the wrong specialty) would warn us about the WHOLE New Year’s Resolution as setting the bar too high. Why say that “I’m going to exercise 5 times a week ALL YEAR!” when you’ve now got all year to fall back on not doing it, and the minute you start to fail, well, you’ve not met your resolution and you just give up altogether. Why not make monthly resolutions? Better yet, make monthly resolutions for the things you think you’ll be successful at, and resolve to quit the harder stuff (I’m looking at you, smokers!) every other week or two. “I resolve to smoke a pack a day three times this week. The other four days, I’ll only smoke 10 cigarettes.” See? That’s doable. You can succeed at that.
And that’s the problem with the New Year’s Resolutions. WE typically pick big things that we KNOW we won’t be able to do, and we’re soft on ourselves when we fail, because we never expected to succeed in the first place. So pick something easy. Smile more at your sister’s jokes. Succeed at the small stuff, because inertia enjoys success and if you can succeed on the small stuff, you might be able to quit smoking. Well, at least for one week a month, at any rate. #52Essays2017

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