I’ve always kind of resented New Year’s. It wasn’t ever the start of another year or the passing of the last that bothered me. It wasn’t the staying up late to watch the ball drop or running outside at the stroke of midnight to obnoxiously bang pots and pans together in the streets. And it definitely was NOT the kissing someone (namely Adam Smith) that ever irritated me. But that pesky oversized New Year’s resolution; the one that I absurdly felt compelled to make year after year. It annually soured a chunk of my New Year’s elation.
It’s sorta awkward that it wasn’t until I was quite grown (beyond high school), that I came to understand that New Year’s resolutions aren’t requirements that accompany the changing of a year. I’m not sure why I didn’t know that I could grant myself permission NOT to make a resolution. I don’t remember my parents being big resolution people. They didn’t boast extravagant goals of betterment for themselves or the family and encourage me and my sister to fall in step. I imagine it was all the seasonal commercials and maybe my peers that conditioned me to feel required to resolve to do something…anything different or better, come New Year’s.
When I finally embraced the thought that resolutions are entirely arbitrary, subjective things that we individually select and willingly burden ourselves with, I immediately felt freed from resolution making. Only then was I able to truly have a happy New Year’s. Even as I write this I’m realizing that it wasn’t really the striving to improve that I struggled with. Improving, growing and gaining fresh vision is absolutely essential to healthy living. That proverb that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”(Proverbs 29:18), has always resonated with me.
You see...the thing about most resolutions is that they usually strive to be life altering, course adjusting, momentous pledges that are built upon the premise that a certain portion of life (up till now), has been an utter failure. Resolutions are often birthed in negativity and at times include a bit of self loathing. We look at ourselves (usually in the mirror) and say, “I don’t like this thing and that!” So, we agree with the hateful voice that wishes to rip us to shreds and punish ourselves in the form of a harsh and extreme New Year’s resolution. And then when we fail to meet our own ridiculous expectations, we’re left to pick up the sad pieces of ourselves. Then, once again, we cozy up to last year's addiction and maybe purchase a Groupon for therapy sessions.
I’ll be the first to admit that my assessment of New Year’s resolutions is pessimistic and a bit grim. Even through the negativity, I do acknowledge the possibility that an extremely mentally stable and emotionally healthy person might be capable of making a balanced and meaningful resolution that doesn’t begin with self hatred and end with failure and depression. It’s just that in past years, that person was never me.
The other day, this whole business of pledges was the subject of a treadmill chat with a girlfriend who also swears against New Year’s resolutions. This little conversation brought me close to a resolution of sorts (we’ll just call it a healthy goal). This friend mentioned that she was aiming to be more positive in 2016. She wasn’t going to waste her worries on ridiculous things like those few wretched pounds or other menial irritations that life will surly bring, but instead she was going to make an intention to focus on the things and the people that she’s thankful for each day. She wanted to maintain gratitude and an understanding that tomorrow is promised to no one.
Of course I immediately responded by declaring that I was just about to say the same exact (breathtakingly beautiful) thing! In reality, I REALLY wish I’d thought to say something that amazing and meaningful instead of sharing my New Year's resolution grumpiness. This friend really inspired me! Our little talk made me want to work on living each day with gratitude and humility. I want to appreciate each moment with the ones I love (even the crazy, I want to pull my hair out, moments). I'm going to pledge not to punish myself if I have a rough, negative day. Instead I'll start again fresh the next day. Here goes nothing...
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.