“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” Ellen Goodman
The tree had just been stripped of ornaments, and as I sat cross legged on the floor, a persistent thought, like a refrain the brain won’t release, rooted in my head. I was surrounded by the remains of Christmas present and within my sight line was the large container they would share with the ghosts of Christmas past.
The thought was more a realization than an epiphany, and while you might think I’m splitting hairs, in my mind there is a difference between the two. Epiphanies just happen. Conversion was not on Paul’s mind when he began the journey to Damascus. His epiphany came in a blinding, strobe-like fashion and it lacked the insight and consideration that realization brings. I eyed the container, opened it and as I sorted through years of accumulation came to the realize that its contents were no longer needed and had been enhanced by memory. I had no need for the yards of lights or garlands, and the old treasures the children so lovingly made had deteriorated to the point they crumbled in my hand. With a sigh, I bagged them for disposal and, save for sweet memory closed the book on Christmas past and turned my thoughts to the year ahead.
There was a time I compared New Year’s Eve to a book that closed dramatically at midnight. It seem reasonable to think that if you closed one book, another could easily be opened. There was, however, a problem with that approach. Those closed books can be reopened and because they are comfortable and familiar, there is a temptation to forget the lessons the triumphs and tragedies of the past year had to teach. That is why I’ve decided to use a clean slate as a metaphor for the first day of my new year.
Last year, a YouGov poll identified the most common resolutions people made for the coming year. They were to eat healthier, get more exercise and to save more money. Pedestrian though it may be, one of those, while phrased differently, has topped my list for the past 60 years. I am an unusually measured, disciplined person, but I become infirm of purpose when the holidays roll around. As a result, I have, for each of those 60 years managed to put on 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Over the course of time, I have gained and lost that same 5 pounds 60 times. The multiplication is downright scary, but this year will be different – I think. I’m a 10,000 stepper so I have the exercise bit covered, and when it comes to saving money, I’ve reached an age where I completely understand the response of Beverly Sills, who when questioned about the frequent use of her voice, famously replied, “What am I saving it for?”
Now that you know where I stand on the common resolutions, here are a few that are more serious and probably unique to me. Understanding that there is a difference between kindness and stupidity, I’ve promised myself to no longer suffer fools. I relish difference, but when credulity is strained, you’ll find me among the missing. I want to read and write more and remain open to new people and experiences without sacrificing my own voice or priorities. Above all, I want to be more understanding, less critical and kinder than I am today, without allowing myself to be used.
I know that statistics show that few people follow through with their resolutions, but I really like the idea of fresh starts and clean slates and I am generally, at least by degree, able to follow through on mine. I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that make that possible. First, make the resolution yours, not one suggested to you by others in your life. Second, make it specific. If you resolve to lose weight set a goal weight. Third, be realistic and devise a plan that will get you to the finish line. Finally, remember your resolution should be as important on the 4th of July as it is on New Year’s Day.