A day or two before New Year’s, Diana asked me if I was making any resolutions. I said no, I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in them because I think they’re either a way to disappoint ourselves or fool us into thinking we’re better people than we really are. Think about it for a minute; how many New Year’s resolution have ever kept in your life? Not a lot, I’m guessing. For some reason, every year this time, people make all sorts of promises to themselves. While, as noted earlier, these choices rarely last the whole year, here are the top ten New Year’s resolutions as found on About.com (it says Pittsburgh, but this is a pretty common list)
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Get in shape
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking.
- Enjoy life more
- Quit drinking
- Get out debt
- Learn something new
- Help others
- Get organized
Notice something about these resolutions? The majority are kind of self-centered and even the ones that don’t look like it at first have a selfish component. I don’t think there’s a single altruistic resolution on this list; not even number nine, helping others. I say that because the purpose of every one of them is to make the resolver feel better. It’s as Will Campbell (yeah, I know I’ve quoted him a lot lately. But, it’s such good stuff) once said “We are bastards, but God loves us anyway.”
Resolutions haven’t always been about the person making the resolution, though. They date back to ancient Babylon where people would promise to return borrowed goods and pay back debts during the spring and autumn equinox festivals and the Romans began each year with a vow to Janus to improve their conduct (not sure how that worked as the Romans weren’t exactly known for their “good conduct”). Not to be outdone, medieval knights took the “peacock vow” each new year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. I’m not really sure how we moved from vows involving how we treated others to the current me centered ones. I suppose it’s just human nature to eventually turn everything into a what’s in it for me deal. Which makes me sad.
That’s why I don’t make resolutions anymore. Maybe I’m jaded and cynical, but I just don’t see the sense in making self-serving promises that I know I won’t keep. Diana said that I could consider them goals instead and maybe that way, I wouldn’t feel so bad when I don’t keep them. But, honestly, that’s just more fooling myself. This year, I’m going to make a change, though. I’m going to make some resolutions. But, they’ll be ones I have a shot at keeping. Oh sure, they’ll be just as self-serving as anyone else’s, but there might not be as much risk of failure compared to vows of improvement by doing things that, let’s face it, I suck at. So, here’s what I’m thinking about:
- This year, I resolve to continue tweaking the nose of those who take themselves way too seriously. Somebody’s got to do it and it’s something I’m good at.
- This year, I resolve to do even more to stick a finger in the eye (figuratively, of course) of oppression, discrimination and general douche baggery. Even if nobody pays much attention.
- On the self-improvement front, this year I resolve to make modest efforts at eating better and exercising more. Not for me, mind you, but so my loving family can be burdened with my smart ass a little longer.
- This year, I can easily resolve to do more with my friends and family since I’m retired and plenty of time on time on my hands. Of course, they may not want that. If so, it won’t be my fault if this resolution doesn’t get fulfilled.
- And finally, I resolve to dedicate myself to reading and writing more blogs and wasting more time on the internet than ever before. This is probably the most attainable of all my resolutions. Which may be a little sad…, but I can live with it.