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Lost in Resolution

Barbarella
Barbarella

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s. — Henry Moore

January is my least favorite month. February is cozy with groundhogs and hearts, March is revelry with Mardi Gras and St. Patrick, April delights with tulips and bunnies, May is mindful of moms and memorials, June ushers in summer with a hat-tip to dads, July explodes with patriotism, August is sultry and nostalgic, September revolves around my birthday, October brings mischief with candy and costumes, November reminds us to be thankful, and December enchants with lights to match the twinkle in everyone’s eyes. Then there’s January...the hectic Monday at the office after a long weekend, the comedown after a phenomenal bender.

I’m sure plenty of people think January is wonderful with its promise of newness — a tabula rasa on which to scribble all of our hopes and dreams. I think that’s a lot of pressure for a tired month in the middle of winter.

In December, magazines churn out their version of the “year in review,” and everyone takes inventory of the year’s accomplishments as if compiling data for the curriculum vitae they plan to produce at the pearly gates. As the holiday fever fades and party chatter turns to talk of resolutions, I can’t help but feel negligent for not having any deep thoughts about the year before or any declarations regarding how I plan to improve my life in the year to come. I tend to do any “year before/year ahead” thinking on my birthday.

I know from reading the bestseller lists that people respect those who have personal goals. This is why, each year, I strive to invent a resolution that sounds impressive and original. I choose to fabricate my New Year’s pledge because my personal goals are, well, personal, and because I rarely have one ready by the stroke of midnight.

Maybe my disinterest in New Year’s resolutions stems from my being an avid blogger, tweeter, and columnist, which requires constant reflection. I don’t put off to the last minute of the year things I want to change or ways in which I wish to improve. When I quit smoking (around the time I met David), I did so early in December, for no reason other than that was when it occurred to me that my lungs would probably appreciate some less toxic air and because I couldn’t think of any good reason to wait until the end of the month.

Last week, with the new year on the horizon, I Googled the top ten resolutions to help me prepare my answer for the question of the day. The first thing that struck me was how generic they all seemed, each one a slightly different way of saying, “I’m going to be a better person.” I wanted something more descriptive, more specific, more...awe-inspiring. Maybe, I thought, I could take a few of the most popular resolutions and reshape them into something individual.

The trendiest resolution was to get in shape. I guess it makes sense to want to focus on health after a three-month eating-and-drinking binge (beginning with candy on Halloween). Only a monastic few escape the holiday bulge. I overdo it so much that, come January, I’m craving broccoli. If you told me three months ago that I would have a stash of chocolate that was of no interest to me, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet there it is, sitting in my kitchen drawer, unwanted. I actually gave away most of my cookie stash, as I couldn’t stomach the idea of any more sugar or butter.

We justify our excesses by promising ourselves that we will be the epitome of restraint on January 1. It is because of the sudden, synchronized emphasis on health that I dread going to my gym in January, when a surge of gym rats invade. During this month of self-reinvention, exercisers who are unfamiliar with gym etiquette hoard my favorite machines, turning a routine act of going to work out into an unpleasant ordeal akin to catching a movie on opening weekend or dining out on Valentine’s Day.

Even more irritating than negotiating my way through the mass of bumbling newbies is being mistaken for one of them. It never fails that someone perky with inspiration will assume I had the same bright idea — at the same time — to get my ass in shape. I learn of this assumption when said newbie goes out of her way (it’s always a woman) to offer me encouragement, usually by way of “Good for you!” In response, I smile and thank her, stifling the retort in my head: “Yo, presumptuous bitch, I’ve been coming here at least three times a week for over two years.”

I wrote off “work out more” as too common and continued scanning the list. Another favorite was “spend more time with family and friends.” That was good. What better P.R. than to pronounce to loved ones that your resolution declares them as your priority? I decided to keep that one in my back pocket as my failsafe.

I was surprised to see “enjoy life more” right up there with losing weight and quitting smoking. My heart went out to those who felt the need to make a pact with themselves in order to find pleasure in living. I made a mental note to be more conscious of my appreciation for how good I have it, then wrote it beside my failsafe as a possible contender for my official resolution. I read right past “quit drinking,” as no writer/wino could recite that one with a straight face.

Ooh, now “get organized” was a good idea. That’s one I tell myself I’m going to do every day of the year but actually get around to on only a few. “Get out of debt” was another good one, but not very realistic in this economy. I didn’t want to depress people; I wanted to amaze them. My eyes lingered on “help others,” while I contemplated what that might entail. Maybe I’ll keep that one to myself, I thought, and not make any grand commitments.

I don’t know why I cared so much about formulating a resolution when I knew that in a week it wouldn’t matter. Nobody asks about resolutions after the first of the year. It’s an unspoken rule; there’s an understanding that to ask how one is doing on their resolution after the first is like inquiring about someone’s weight or IQ. We are to assume people are doing their best; it would be rude to probe them on their progress.

But as a week was so far away, and I had a few New Year’s Eve soirees to hit up, I settled on a safe, unique, true-ish answer to the question: “My resolution? Ah, yes, well...to become conversational in Japanese. And you?”


* * *

Podcast episode

Reader Writers Out Loud

Barbarella Discusses New Year's Resolutions

Hear what Barbarella, a veteran psychiatrist/author, and callers had to say about the resolution concept on "These Days" with Maureen Cavanaugh.

Download podcast

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John Harris: editor of one of the first English dictionaries

Known as a man of science as a man of faith
Barbarella
Barbarella

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s. — Henry Moore

January is my least favorite month. February is cozy with groundhogs and hearts, March is revelry with Mardi Gras and St. Patrick, April delights with tulips and bunnies, May is mindful of moms and memorials, June ushers in summer with a hat-tip to dads, July explodes with patriotism, August is sultry and nostalgic, September revolves around my birthday, October brings mischief with candy and costumes, November reminds us to be thankful, and December enchants with lights to match the twinkle in everyone’s eyes. Then there’s January...the hectic Monday at the office after a long weekend, the comedown after a phenomenal bender.

I’m sure plenty of people think January is wonderful with its promise of newness — a tabula rasa on which to scribble all of our hopes and dreams. I think that’s a lot of pressure for a tired month in the middle of winter.

In December, magazines churn out their version of the “year in review,” and everyone takes inventory of the year’s accomplishments as if compiling data for the curriculum vitae they plan to produce at the pearly gates. As the holiday fever fades and party chatter turns to talk of resolutions, I can’t help but feel negligent for not having any deep thoughts about the year before or any declarations regarding how I plan to improve my life in the year to come. I tend to do any “year before/year ahead” thinking on my birthday.

I know from reading the bestseller lists that people respect those who have personal goals. This is why, each year, I strive to invent a resolution that sounds impressive and original. I choose to fabricate my New Year’s pledge because my personal goals are, well, personal, and because I rarely have one ready by the stroke of midnight.

Maybe my disinterest in New Year’s resolutions stems from my being an avid blogger, tweeter, and columnist, which requires constant reflection. I don’t put off to the last minute of the year things I want to change or ways in which I wish to improve. When I quit smoking (around the time I met David), I did so early in December, for no reason other than that was when it occurred to me that my lungs would probably appreciate some less toxic air and because I couldn’t think of any good reason to wait until the end of the month.

Last week, with the new year on the horizon, I Googled the top ten resolutions to help me prepare my answer for the question of the day. The first thing that struck me was how generic they all seemed, each one a slightly different way of saying, “I’m going to be a better person.” I wanted something more descriptive, more specific, more...awe-inspiring. Maybe, I thought, I could take a few of the most popular resolutions and reshape them into something individual.

The trendiest resolution was to get in shape. I guess it makes sense to want to focus on health after a three-month eating-and-drinking binge (beginning with candy on Halloween). Only a monastic few escape the holiday bulge. I overdo it so much that, come January, I’m craving broccoli. If you told me three months ago that I would have a stash of chocolate that was of no interest to me, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet there it is, sitting in my kitchen drawer, unwanted. I actually gave away most of my cookie stash, as I couldn’t stomach the idea of any more sugar or butter.

We justify our excesses by promising ourselves that we will be the epitome of restraint on January 1. It is because of the sudden, synchronized emphasis on health that I dread going to my gym in January, when a surge of gym rats invade. During this month of self-reinvention, exercisers who are unfamiliar with gym etiquette hoard my favorite machines, turning a routine act of going to work out into an unpleasant ordeal akin to catching a movie on opening weekend or dining out on Valentine’s Day.

Even more irritating than negotiating my way through the mass of bumbling newbies is being mistaken for one of them. It never fails that someone perky with inspiration will assume I had the same bright idea — at the same time — to get my ass in shape. I learn of this assumption when said newbie goes out of her way (it’s always a woman) to offer me encouragement, usually by way of “Good for you!” In response, I smile and thank her, stifling the retort in my head: “Yo, presumptuous bitch, I’ve been coming here at least three times a week for over two years.”

I wrote off “work out more” as too common and continued scanning the list. Another favorite was “spend more time with family and friends.” That was good. What better P.R. than to pronounce to loved ones that your resolution declares them as your priority? I decided to keep that one in my back pocket as my failsafe.

I was surprised to see “enjoy life more” right up there with losing weight and quitting smoking. My heart went out to those who felt the need to make a pact with themselves in order to find pleasure in living. I made a mental note to be more conscious of my appreciation for how good I have it, then wrote it beside my failsafe as a possible contender for my official resolution. I read right past “quit drinking,” as no writer/wino could recite that one with a straight face.

Ooh, now “get organized” was a good idea. That’s one I tell myself I’m going to do every day of the year but actually get around to on only a few. “Get out of debt” was another good one, but not very realistic in this economy. I didn’t want to depress people; I wanted to amaze them. My eyes lingered on “help others,” while I contemplated what that might entail. Maybe I’ll keep that one to myself, I thought, and not make any grand commitments.

I don’t know why I cared so much about formulating a resolution when I knew that in a week it wouldn’t matter. Nobody asks about resolutions after the first of the year. It’s an unspoken rule; there’s an understanding that to ask how one is doing on their resolution after the first is like inquiring about someone’s weight or IQ. We are to assume people are doing their best; it would be rude to probe them on their progress.

But as a week was so far away, and I had a few New Year’s Eve soirees to hit up, I settled on a safe, unique, true-ish answer to the question: “My resolution? Ah, yes, well...to become conversational in Japanese. And you?”


* * *

Podcast episode

Reader Writers Out Loud

Barbarella Discusses New Year's Resolutions

Hear what Barbarella, a veteran psychiatrist/author, and callers had to say about the resolution concept on "These Days" with Maureen Cavanaugh.

Download podcast

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Comments
3

Mine? To stop trying to impress people as to how nice I am and just be nice and to live for myself. In an nut shell? To stop being ingratiating.

Jan. 6, 2010

To be less of an a**hole. I'll still be my caustic and cynical self though.

Jan. 6, 2010

おはよう。

Jan. 7, 2010

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