I don’t want to quibble with the calendar, but the real New Year’s Day is today, because today is the day we begin the arduous task of adhering to our New Year’s resolutions.
Before we begin, an observation. The idea of New Year’s resolutions had to come from the same person who decided to make Jan. 1 a holy day of obligation — meaning that we all had to get up, still a little bit fuzzy from the night before, and somehow make our way to church.
I always figured that whoever that person was got stuck at home while everybody else was out reveling, and decided to invoke the Almighty as a way to get back at all the partiers. How could it be anything else? Mass on the morning after a heavy night of partying isn’t exactly the hair of the dog that bit you.
So it is with New Year’s Resolutions. They come after a holiday season that, if you’re the social butterfly type, usually involves copious amounts of eating and drinking. You might throw caution to the wind from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and partake in all manner of glutinous behavior. Then, you put on your favorite pair of jeans (and not even skinny jeans either) and it’s a struggle to buckle them up.
And in the throes of grunting and sweating to get into those jeans, you resolve to get back to the gym — or join one; to get back on the diet; and get that extra weight off. Because, after all, there’s no way you’re going to buy those elastic-waisted fat jeans. Vanity won’t permit it. You’d rather walk around for two weeks unable to breathe properly than buy an expandable pair of pants that’ll give you some comfort.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I do them every day. Every day I wake up and vow “this is the day I stop all the nonsense and get down to doing all the things I need to do to be healthy. I’m going to go to the gym, buy and eat healthy food, and all the rest.”
This generally lasts until noon, and then it all goes out the window for one more day at the first sight of a Peppermint Pattie or my work colleague’s candy jar.
For Catholics, New Year’s is the second-biggest day for resolutions, the first of course, being Ash Wednesday. That’s when good Catholics everywhere “give up” something for Lent. It could be Peanut M&Ms, coffee, beating up your little brother, Peppermint Patties … whatever. When I was a student at Sacred Heart School, the nuns used to line us up against the blackboards and, one by one, demand to know what sacrifices we were making for lent. One by one, we learned who was going to stop arguing with his siblings (or worse); who was going to stop eating candy; who was going to go without watching her favorite TV show (very likely that was going to last five weeks); and, most hilarious, who was going to attend Mass every day.
I’m afraid New Year’s resolutions are just as silly. They’re panaceas. They give us the false security that we are finally going to change our evil ways.
Only we don’t. Oh, we may get off to a rip-roaring start. If you go to the gym regularly, you’ll notice that for the first few weeks of January it’s more difficult than usual to find an empty machine. There’s an uptick in new memberships as people set about fashioning their major overhauls.
Then, imperceptibly at first, it gets easier to get on those machines. There are parking spots near the door, where there weren’t before. And this trend continues until, by June, you could go into a gym at certain times of the day and get lost.
If you Google “New Year’s Resolutions,” you’ll find an inexhaustible supply of suggestions, analyses, funny ones, realistic ones, and even tips on how to keep them.
I have a better idea. Stop them altogether. All they do is set you up for failure when, for whatever reason (excuse?), you break down one day and have a hot dog. That immediately turns into a tour de force of forbidden foods, topped off by a half-gallon of Haagen Dazs.
And then all bets are off, and you begin the cycle all over again.
The more you try, and the more you fail, the harder it is to find the resolve to do it all over again. So don’t do it!
This isn’t to say you should just neglect your health and well-being. By all means, striving to do the things you should is a noble endeavor. It’s just that it’s not something you do willy nilly just because you’re disgusted with yourself. You need some knowledge not only on how to do it, but how to do it realistically. And built into it is the notion that, once in a while, you need to back off and live a little too.
And that’s very difficult to do when you’re holding a gun to your head because of some artificial resolution you made simply because your pants didn’t fit.