Friday, January 4, 2013

Resolutions

As 2013 begins, and we find our way out of the foggy haze and food comas of the holidays, we have another 12 months ahead of us. 365 more chances to make this a year to remember, to improve our lives, and hopefully avoid the inevitable tragedies that accompany this living thing. Usually the New Year marks a fresh start, a chance to right the wrongs, meet new people, find new opportunities. However, this feeling of being born into a new year of possibility is amplified by the fact that we all survived 2012, the year that the world was supposed to end. Did anyone really think that the apocalypse was going to happen? Sure, it's fun to speculate and even fantasize, but my feeling is that when the world really does come to an end, if any of us are around to witness it, we won't have a countdown clock and a planned party, we'll just...stop. Since the world didn't end and we moved through December with our regularly scheduled programming, it's time to start thinking about New Years resolutions, right? It's the question that most of us has to face as we see family members and reunite with friends and co-workers: What's your New Years Resolution?

Let me start by saying that if there ever was a time when these so-called resolutions were taken seriously, no irony or self-deprecation, just pure intention to really make a positive difference in our lives, then it came way before my existence. Now, it's almost a society-wide joke to ask the resolution question. We all know we won't stick to them, that we're dreamers, that two weeks into the New Year we'll be eating junk food, flipping out with road rage, smoking a pack a day, and all those other negative traits and vices that plague us all. But it's a nice idea, isn't it? That night could turn into day and suddenly we have all the chances in the world to finally make those changes we've been putting off. The calendar now says 2013, so who's to say that we can't eat healthier, drive safer, give up smoking, and so on. Try it out, though. Ask someone around you about their New Years resolution. Chances are, and this is just from my own experience, you won't get a verbal answer, just a laugh, a sigh, or a shrug. Maybe some people really do believe that when the calendar changes we can change right along with it. The truth is that most of us don't have the patience for true self improvement. We're in our routines and we like our guilty pleasures and we're supposed to love ourselves just as we are, right?

Let's dig a little deeper into how our human-made constructs of Time relate to our attempts (and failures) to change certain aspects of ourselves. Now, I'm no scientist, no great philosopher or theologian, I know most of what I know just by being observant and taking careful notes about what I see around me. What I do know is that clocks weren't already here when Man and Woman came along. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that we'd categorize our experience of time passing into years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds. Beyond that, we dressed some of these days up real fancy, coming up with special titles like Christmas and New Years so that, just once a year, a Tuesday is more than just a Tuesday, it's something special. When a Monday night turns into a Tuesday morning, most of us barely even notice. When New Years Eve turns into New Years Day, we party like animals, or at least celebrate to some extent. Now, with the monotony of living day to day, I fully understand why we have these special holidays, a way to break depression and an excuse to be nice to our fellow man in the name of something grander than 'just because'.

What's a little more confusing to me is why on this Special Tuesday (New Years Day), we give ourselves a laundry list of improvements to make over the next 12 months. It seems to me that if you really wanted to eat more vegetables, smoke less tobacco, drive like a rational person, wouldn't we just...do that? People get so stuck in their routines, in this concept of 'personality' and 'habits', that it often doesn't occur to us that we're in control. Life changes can be terrifying, difficult, and time-consuming, but we can start anytime we want. Don't eat like a pig all year and then tell me that just because we say it's January 1st, 2013, you'll suddenly stop. It's the pressure that gets to most of us. The fear that we've told our loved ones that we're going to exercise, and two weeks into the New Year, we're plastered to the couch with soda stains on our shirt. Here's my friendly advice: Don't change because it's the New Year. Don't change because everyone else has resolutions that they're working on. Don't change because the calendar that we invented ourselves tells us that it's time. Change because you want to. Change because there's a healthier, calmer, safer life to live. This week is only different from last week because we say that it is.

Sure, there are aspects of my lifestyle that I'd like to change. Furthermore, there's aspects of my lifestyle that I need to change, if I want to live a long and fulfilling life. But I'm not making a list, I'm not making a resolution, I'm not waiting around for a New Year, I'm working on these changes every day. It's a conscious effort and it's not easy, but it's something I want to do, and the only pressure comes from myself, not from Time or Society or this magic idea that we've entered a new era, when really, it's just another day out of the thousands that we're going to live. And if I am going to accept this idea of a New Year, then all I hope is that I'm in a better place this time next year than I am right now. If I make that a resolution, chances are I'll fail. If I make that a reality that I'm going to live every day, then it just might work.

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