This essay first appeared on my blog, Boys, Dogs and Chaos in February 2011. There is an added postscript at the end…
Every year on New Year’s Eve, I sit down with a pretty piece of paper and a smooth flowing pen and record my resolutions for the year. Then, I promptly break them. I may just be setting myself up for failure, though. I think that the time to reflect upon resolutions should not be when the champagne bubbles (or in my case, sparkling cider) are still tickling your lips, but in the dreary days that follow. In the dark hollows of late January and February, it is so easy to lose the optimism and energy that spawn those declarations of bettering oneself. Do you really feel like hauling your tired ass to the gym, when it involves bundling up and slogging through the snow and slush? Curling up in front of a fire place (or even a space heater) sounds oh so much more inviting.
When it’s bitterly cold, my butt wants to stay put, preferably with a bowl of something hot and a trashy magazine (mac and cheese and Us is a good combo – though one I hardly ever get to indulge in). Now that we are in the dead of winter, I wonder how many resolutions have already been broken. Even Target seems to have given up its aggressively optimistic flyers – last week’s balance balls, free weights and sports bras have given way to chips, cookies and soda in this week’s flyer. Yes, as we head toward the biggest couch potato event of the year – the Super Bowl – even mega chains realize they shouldn’t bother pushing workout gear, since even the “desperate to keep that resolution” crowd has probably given up by this point of the deep freeze.
I’m not talking about those who already own equipment that they use everyday or those who actually make use of their gym membership, hardening their muscles and whittling their waists on a regular basis (I count some of you as my friends, but I don’t hold it against you). I’m talking about those of us who swore that this year would be different and are already back to using the recumbent bike in our bedroom as an extra dresser (guilty!). My resolution was to ride that bike more, ok – can’t really say more if I never rode it before. My resolution was to start riding it. The bike is in my bedroom, with a place to rest a book, so I can read and exercise at the same time. I don’t even have to step foot in the bitter wind. I can read a book while I exercise, for god sakes. Why can’t I keep that ridiculously easy resolution? Well, life gets in the way. Laundry, cleaning, packing lunches and making dinner (even if it’s in the microwave) just take up so much damn real estate in my life. Add in running errands, breaking up fights and of course Facebook and, well, there’s just no time for taking care of myself. And yes, facebook is in there too – if I completely cut out Facebook, I could certainly ride the bike for 15 minutes here and there.
Does it make it any better that I use Facebook for good, to help save homeless dogs and cats? Maybe, but I’d be lying if I said that I never clicked on pictures or commented on a status here or there. But, the biggest chunk of my time is spent posting dogs and cats to my rescue page and commenting on death row dogs’ pictures. So, maybe I should just change my resolution to, “Save more animals this year.” Perhaps that would be the best way to guarantee that one keeps resolutions – observe what you are doing, what’s important to you and make that your resolution – to simply keep doing it. Is it reading to your child every night, or at least most nights? Done! Is it donating to charities? Done again. Or maybe cooking more often (ok, can’t claim that I do that, but I’m sure a lot of you out there do it already). Another easy resolution.
One of my favorite tricks to make myself feel productive is to put tasks I’ve already accomplished on my to do list. I know it’s cheating, but if I wrote a to do list the night before, making beds and throwing in a load of laundry would be on it – so why not put it on, so I can have the gratification of checking it off? At least I know that at the end of the day, I won’t be looking at a list of everything I haven’t accomplished. Silly, I know. But, it’s the same thing with making a resolution to just do more of the good stuff you are doing – you’re practically guaranteed to succeed.
There are only three times that I recall actually keeping a resolution. Those three resolutions were the same: “get pregnant.” It was incredibly optimistic or perhaps incredibly misguided for me to think that just by writing, “get pregnant” on my resolution list, I would. So many things could have upended my plan – infertility, health issues, economic issues – there are a myriad of reasons people can’t have the family they want, when they want it. But, I was extraordinarily lucky and get pregnant each of those years I did. And you know what, looking back at the end of the year, even though I had broken every other resolution, I still felt like I had accomplished something great.
So, make some February resolutions, instead of New Year’s resolutions. Think about all of the good stuff you do now – even if it doesn’t include working out and eating more fruits and vegetables – and put that on a list with the promise to simply keep doing whatever it may be. My list includes, “Reading to my son each night. Telling my kids I love them every day, even if it seems like I’m constantly yelling at them. Helping save homeless animals. Contributing to charity. Doing community service work.” You get the idea. What it doesn’t include, is riding that damn bike. (Though, I do plan on starting to do it anyway, so hopefully it will make it onto next year’s February resolutions, because it will be part of my routine by then. Hey, a girl can hope…)
Post Script: As mentioned, I wrote this four years ago – in February 2011. I still don’t ride that stupid bike regularly, though I have ridden it from time to time over the last four years (and my husband rides the bike every night, so at least it’s not simply used as a dresser anymore). I did actually write a resolution list this year and, yup, riding the bike is on it. There are a few other items on there – mostly health related (I need to get my asthma under control and fix my ongoing anemia / low ferritin, etc.), but some are professional goals. Will I hit them? I don’t know – but, I do know that goals morph over the course of a year. For the past several years getting my novel, Goddess of Suburbia, published was a resolution. That hasn’t happened (though, not due to lack of effort – it’s on submission with publishing companies still), but I did sign a contract for a short story, A New Life, that will be coming out as an ebook soon. It might not be exactly the path to publication that I planned, but I’m pretty pleased with it nonetheless. And, that’s the beauty of resolutions – they should be malleable. They should be something you aspire to, but not be set in stone. Simply achieving the spirit of a vow to do better in the fresh new year is an accomplishment worth celebrating…