A New Spin on the New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again. We’ve seen all the year-end round-ups. We’ve had our fill of Turkey, spiked nog, agitating relatives, and our credit cards still sizzle from the endless desire to fill that void that the feeling of giving seems to carve in to our hearts every year when we see an ethnic couple give one another a Lexus. The stockings have been put away, the Christmas tree is on it’s last legs, and the lights are still up–probably will be for a while, maybe until next Christmas–and we’re in the final stretch of the holiday overload.

The last holiday to hurdle is the NYE celebration. You know where you’re gonna be and who you’re gonna be with and you’re titillated at the idea of spending the rare moment with the one you love in a pseudo-drunk stupor counting down integers until the clock strikes midnight. The only thing yet to be decided is which resolution you will make and break this year. It’s time to dust off that old past time and make yet another annual effort to improve one’s self on the eve of a fresh year.

The idea of a resolution is a valiant one. A chance to define a new you you intend to be…for about a month. Is it any wonder that gym memberships see such a spike in sales in January? You gorged ourselves from Halloween to Christmas and now you tried to squeeze in to the dress for the big night…well, we’ve gotta to re-lose that freshman fifteen for the 18th consecutive year. Shit, this year will be different. I’m getting to the gym and I’m gonna firm it all up. Yeah, last year it lasted as long as that Freshman boyfriend you had, too; about a semester.

It’s not your fault. Maybe you wanted to learn a language, volunteer more, lose that weight, or something abstract like be happier or find true love. Ummm, failure calling, we’d like our clichés back. That not withstanding, the problem is the idea of the resolution. By definition, resolution means “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Wow, a firm decision? Let’s not get carried away with ourselves. “To do or not to do?” A little Shakespearian for my liking, but I’ll forgive the Oxford dictionary for being a little Elizabethan in its definitions. The very definition of resolution is wishy-washy at best, so you can’t be blamed for taking not so serious a definition the is not so definitive.

Herein lies the problem. If you truly want to change yourself and see the turn of the calendar year as a perfect opportunity to redouble your efforts to improve yourself, then you are hitching your wagon to an old mare that’s seen better days. Sorry Bessy, but it’s to the glue factory with you. We need a new concept that better suits the grandiose effort that the date should spur us on to changing in a way we could have started on June 13th or any idle Tuesday all year long.

I did some searching, but I had a tough time with an abstraction that would allow for failure, but not for a lack of trying. You know the old adage, “Shoot for the stars but don’t be disappointed with the moon.” No? Well, I think I’m paraphrasing or just making it up. We need a word, a concept, that allows for falling off a horse and getting back on; oh, THAT one you know. We need something that takes in to account the endless possibility a new day holds. An organic notion that keeps us company as we venture in to the construct of white, blank, exciting newness of a new year. No more weight loss promises to our thighs broken. No more Rosetta Stone boxes left unopened and dusty. No more nicotine patches and gum tossed asunder for the real thing just one more year.

Oath felt too strong. It is the “divine witness” that got me. Breaking an oath is often punishable by prison today. In the past it would have garnered exile or excommunication, even execution, often publicly displayed as a deterrent to others…we don’t need a head on a pike for failing to save up for a summer trip to Paris.

Hope was just to childish. Hope is only good when accompanied by action. Though this is a fair pairing, action will be the rod and staff to whatever word we send in to the valley on this occasion. Hope is good, but is a bit wistful for such a task as turning over a new leaf this new year.

Promise is good, but the fallout from a broken promise stings painfully. Broken promises, even to one’s self, can be painful and can ruin even the strongest bonds and deepest trust. This one’s not for us either.

As with any quandary I might be in, when I am at a loss I turn to the source of any answer I might need; I turned to Kevin Smith. On this occasion I felt that Dogma would hold the answer. A favorite of mine, if only for the apparent blasphemy masked as an interpretation of faith, I turned to one line in the film. Chris Rock’s character Rufus talked about Jesus and that he had a philosophy. “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.” Aw, leave it to Chris Rock to deliver the nugget I needed. Thanks, Chris.

An idea. What a novel concept. An idea is just “a possible course of action.” It is an option, a path. You can go that way, or not. You might be thinking that this is a bit soft for trying to turn things around in the new year for yourself. Fine, go ahead, take a harder line with yourself, but when you fail you only have your own shame, anger, and self-loathing keeping you company. Me, I just got a new idea because that other one wasn’t working.

Life is a series of brainstorming sessions. A series of moments taken to really get outside the box. Not every idea will work, but the important thing is the spitballing and the possibly outlandish ideas that can lead to a much more reasonable, actionable idea.

If you want hard and fast goals, then by all means, etch that shit on a slab of granite and hold yourself to it. Do everything in your power to align yourself with plans laid in a panicked moment of a desire to change. When we take these oaths, make the promises to ourselves, or make these resolutions, it is nothing but heartbreak that will come, because this coming year doesn’t care. Life changes, your situation changes, and you change. You didn’t plan on falling in love with photography on you trip to the coast…well, fuck that, I have this goal I set 7 months ago and I can’t break a promise I made to myself! What kind of man would I be!? To hell with being open to unexpected change. Loosen up your mind, your life, and if you have a desire to better yourself, then just lay down a list of ideas. Turn a piece of paper in to the white board of life; no idea is bad, no idea is wrong. Let it all fly, see what sticks to the wall, and then go from there. You can always go back to the drawing board, but you can’t unbreak that promise you made to your steadily expanding ass. Happy New Year…a new year for a good idea or two.

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