It’s that time of year again. Time to set unrealistic goals for ourselves, then promptly blow them off! Let’s be real. Nobody really expects change to occur as the result of a New Year’s Resolution. That’s not the point. The New Year’s Resolution is not so much about making much needed improvements to ourselves as it is about staving off guilt for another year by simply acknowledging that there are improvements to be made.
You take a look at your life, make a list of the things that need improving, then resolve to do something about it. Boom. You’re set for the year. Now you don’t have to think about it for awhile. And isn’t that what we really want most? To not have to think about things we never really wanted to think about in the first place? It’s the American Way.
If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it. If it is Broke, Don’t Look at it!
New Year’s Resolutions have never worked for me. For instance, I’ve been New Year’s resolving to start this blog for close to 10 years now. But, no matter how badly I say I want to do it, no matter how sincerely I try to convince myself that,
“This time, I really mean it. And, yes, I know I say, I really mean it, every year, but this time, I really, really mean it.” (Note the use of 2 reallys.)
Every year, like the striking of the clock at midnight (and not very long after that), I start slipping right back into my old comfortable ways. I don’t even realize I’ve slipped until next New Year’s rolls around and it’s time to pony up more resolutions. Crap! What happened? Oh, well. I’ll just pull up last year’s list. Yup! Still valid.
Do more yoga. Stop treating myself like shit. Start that blog I’ve been meaning to start for the last ten years.
Stay in Denial for as Long as Possible.
Up until now I’ve been able to remain in a delicious state of denial about the ineffectiveness of the New Year’s resolution. But this year, for some reason, I’m having a much harder time buying my own bullshit. Is it because there’s so much bullshit going on in the world right now that bullshitting myself has lost all romance?
Or maybe I’ve just reached that age where I finally realize, if I’m ever gonna get my shit together, I’d better get crackin’. And maybe it’s not the best use of my rapidly fizzling years to engage in activities that, for me, clearly don’t work.
Change is Uncomfortable. Fuck that Shit.
When I look at the times in my life when I was able to make lasting change, it was when something became so glaringly obvious and uncomfortable to me, that I had no choice but to change. Like becoming vegan. It wasn’t something I tried to do. It wasn’t even something I wanted. It just sort of happened.
One night, Lacie and I accidentally watched a seemingly innocuous video that started out being about how vegans can still eat Oreos but ended up being about the hideousness of factory farming with footage and everything. By the time we were able to pull the throw pillows away from our horrified eyes, we were vegan.
Apparently, if I want to change something, I need things to be so uncomfortable that I feel like I have no choice but to change. That’s the beauty of getting older. On the one hand, I feel more and more like I’m being chased by death and failure, and it’s a race to the finish to see which one gets me first. But on the other hand, I’m starting to feel more and more uncomfortable about staying the same.
Sure, fear of wasting your life might not make for festive holiday traditions, but it does tend to light a fire under your ass. And, even though I’m still not convinced that a burning ass is enough to force me to do the things I say I want to do, it feels like a step in the right direction. Like spiritual teacher, Rev. Michael Beckwith, likes to say,
“The burning ass pushes until the vision pulls.”
Or something like that.*
Please Stop Sucking.
When I was a kid I sucked my thumb until I was 12 years old. I felt horrible about myself. My mom tried everything to get me to stop: nagging, scare tactics, bribing me with Barbies. Nothing worked. Eventually when I got braces (12 years of thumb-sucking = orthodontist’s dream!), I was able to quit. Somehow metal barbs digging into my upper lip took all the joy out of thumb-sucking for me and I quit cold turkey.
Years later, my mom told me that she, too, had sucked her thumb when she was a kid. And for even longer than I had. Are you fucking kidding me?
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” I yelled.
“I didn’t want you to think it was okay.”
Surprisingly enough, feeling shitty about your shortcomings does not inspire you to change. In fact, it is is exactly what makes you want to drink too much and eat garbage and not do yoga and suck your thumb into early adulthood.
But, what if we could find a way to accept ourselves as we are (go with me on this), while acknowledging that there’s always room for improvement? Maybe we might find a way to love ourselves enough that we would naturally want to be our best. Maybe I could even start that blog I’ve been meaning to start for ten years.
Oh, holy fuck. I did it!
What do you all think? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Have they ever worked for you? When have you been able to make actual change in your life? Leave your comments, we love to hear from you!
* “The pain pushes until the vision pulls.” – Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith