Humor Me

You Say You Want a Resolution?Making Them and then Breaking Them is All Part of the Tradition

By Lisa Monti

Well, here we go again. The old year is fast winding down to its celebratory end, and that means it’s time to step back, take stock and recalibrate our humble lives so that next year we will be the best we can possibly be.

Yes, dear reader, this is our latest last-minute chance to shift from pathetic, or maybe mediocre, to nothing less than perfect. And it’s all thanks to a miraculous overnight transformation that hopefully will happen as Dec. 31 fades into the history books.

There will be no more accompanying wayward, undisciplined friends down the road to ruin. We will map our own virtuous route, paved with the best of intentions.

Make a few simple changes in our behavior, correct this, tweak that – how hard can it be? After all, we know exactly what to do and what not to do: forget about impulsively spending our retirement funds on fabulous shoes or wasting precious time with long naps or savoring dark chocolate.

We will be in complete control of our time, our money and our diet.

Yes, it’s time to get serious about making New Year’s resolutions, to clear the slate, to start anew. Put another way, it’s time to become a completely different person than who we are right now. Yet again.      

In truth, this is not anybody’s first time at the resolution rodeo. The practice of making resolutions is said to date all the way back to the Babylonians – and here we are in late 2006, still perfecting the practice.

On paper, it’s simple enough. In the remaining days of the year you make a list of things you want to give up, change, improve or incorporate into your life so that you can be a better, richer, smarter, skinnier individual, friend, partner and whatever your professional title is.

But in practice, we all know that’s an entirely different story. Change is hard at best, and discipline is a rather slippery virtue.

I have a theory about what it is that makes us want so desperately to change in the new year, then backslide in a heartbeat. For one thing, the timing is all wrong. How can anybody expect to eliminate the naughty and negative stuff when we’re in the midst of the holidays – when there’s too much food and too much liquor served at too many parties? We also spend too much money and generally run ourselves ragged, and then we decide it’s time to abruptly turn our lives around.

Yet in an odd way, it does makes some sense. After all of that spending and imbibing and nibbling and rushing, we would crave something simple and cleansing that will make us feel warm and comforted.

Should have, would have, could have, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve done the New Year’s resolution dance. And I’m pretty sure that had I actually followed through with all my goals, I would be running the country and running a marathon while precisely balancing my bulky bank account. And did I mention I’d be wearing a size 2 the whole time?

Let’s face it: After a while, you’d have to be pretty bad off not to realize what’s going on, year after year, as resolutions spring from high hopes and fizzle out in a few weeks. It’s like the old saying: If your hair is on fire, don’t use a hammer to put it out.

But who can resist the attraction of a brand new year bursting with optimism and endless possibilities, when we have one more blissful chance to make things right?

So here we are again at this great juncture of mediocrity and greatness, ready and willing to leap over into 2007 and emerge on Jan. 1 a whole new person.

(On a personal note here, I’d just like to stop cussing at work. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried. My record is 30 minutes. I’m not proud of that.)

Next year, our family and friends won’t recognize us as we burn calories, stand up straight and beam with a healthful glow.

We won’t be alone. Gym memberships increase sharply, exercise equipment flies out of stores, Weight Watchers meetings balloon, and we all declare our resolutions proudly: no more cigarettes, no more assuming the couch-potato position all weekend, no more brownies for breakfast.

But then here’s where we mere humans all begin to have a giant problem. Our resolve, which is so powerful in late December, starts to disappear faster than clerks at a big-box discount store.

One day in mid-January you wake up, see the running shoes in the corner and wonder where they came from. (Hey, it’s dark and cold outside.) And who in the world shoved all those Lean Cuisines in the freezer, anyway? There’s hardly room for a bottle of vodka and two glasses in there as it is.

And why is the health club calling to see if you’ve been kidnapped or hospitalized? Just mail them a check and be done with them.

Hello? Mere human, remember?

But let’s not beat ourselves up too badly. How can anyone with any compassion expect us to come off of the holiday season and turn around, in whiplash fashion, to become some clean-living, exercise-loving savior of humanity?

In researching New Year’s resolutions for this column, I found this wonderful quotation by Mark Twain. Who better to wring out the resolution practice for what it is?

New Year’s Day – Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

This New Year’s, I’m using a different tactic. I’m going to resolve not to resolve anything. And I’m going to read more Mark Twain. On the treadmill.
Damn, I’m doing it again.