While many will bravely take their birthday spankings, no secular ritual seems to incite more whining than that of the New Year’s Resolution. Those who do not participate do so with scorn and derision, you can almost see the spit fly from their lips with their ready quip about why they are better than such a ritual. Others list their resolutions with the temerity of a spurned lover waiting by the phone. For a ritual that more of my friends participate in than Christmas Mass, I can’t name anyone who actually likes New Year’s Resolutions.
Well I like them.
Yes, I understand that the first of the year is a totally arbitrary date. So what? So is Christmas. If you want to set goals in June, no one is going to complain. The problem is that most of us don’t. We hem and haw about how we don’t have any time and then another years slips by and our dreams sit in a tin box with our VHS tapes and our old photos and the rest of the things we never touch. They become memories, archival.
Whether it is arbitrary or not, the turning of a calendar year is end and beginning of a cycle, as much as the turn of the day into night or Spring into Fall. For us humans, the winter is our time of greatest hardship. It is cold. Food is scarce. The landscape is barren. It is why in this season we gather and feast. It is why we worship and *decorate mighty trees that leap inexplicably higher year after year, without death touching their leaves. It is also the time when the sticker shock of that big increase hits you: wait, 2010 is the end of the decade? Didn’t we just have the Millennium? Wasn’t that, like, yesterday?
Thus it is natural for us to think about the struggles we’ve faced and, in turn, where our life is headed. If looking at all the shit we didn’t get done last year doesn’t make us want to strategize about what to get done next year then I don’t know what will. We have made it through the dark heart of winter and spring promises new beginnings. You can have a say in what those beginnings will look like, or you can be one of those people who lets life happen to you.
I know, I know: now you are going to tell me that no one ever sticks with their New Year’s Resolutions for more than a few weeks. But if indeed we are so undisciplined that we only choose novel-writing, house cleaning and smoothie drinking over chain smoking, hooker shopping and pimple popping for several weeks a year than perhaps we should welcome even that brief period of accomplishment. And every time we fall off the wagon we have to put our panties back on, take two Excedrin, and hop back on it. Or rather, climb awkwardly up its wretched timbre, ignoring the hangovers of our chosen vice, cursing the splinters that imperil our ascent to righteousness. There’s no need to go all Amy Winehouse on our lives just because we suck at setting goals.
If anything, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that we need to spend more time on them, not less. We would all have shinier skin and resumes if April showers brought May resolution evaluations. The longest day of summer should be celebrated as a massive deadline crossing, wherein we get as much done in that day as we can, before dividing what’s left of our goals in half and throwing ourselves into renewed commitment. This occasion is marked by running through red tape, like winning a race, but we all get a turn. We may eat little white cakes with red check marks, and we are only allowed as many as there are achievements completed. When the fall trees lose their leaves, we should have a holiday for the slashing of our goals, a year-end-overstock-going-out-of-business sale for our annual To Do list. It would be celebrated by dressing like Used Car Salesmen and wishing people, “Act Now!”
Then when Santa’s checking his list, we already know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. And as the year’s end encroaches, we can see that the birth of the New Year is a cause for celebration. Because, arbitrary or not, history is about to put a great big lock on the filing cabinet of 2009 and that knowledge puts a gravitas on those of us who haven’t quite gotten our homework done. And isn’t it appropriate that the lightness of the foundling 2010 should be counter-balanced with commitments to all we hope this year should grow up to become? Who we are in 2009 has just become Who We Once Were. And 2010 is completely open, can only be defined as Who We Will Be. For those of us who look back in regret, it is an official chance for renewal. Either way, the looking back and forward is healthy, and to be encouraged. For those who accomplished much, we celebrate but, the old year being deceased, we are not allowed the humbrage of resting on our laurels. Instead, we collect our laurels along with our unfinished lists in a mighty heap, for everyone has at least one to contribute. Then we eulogize ourselves, burying the old with a baptism of alcohol poisoning, feasting, excess, and yes, fire: our laurels and our To Do lists will make such a beautiful bonfire, and the ashes, ink and rose petals must be trampled under our dizzy dancing feet.
2 Songs for the New Year:
*Thus cutting down a Christmas Tree is a sacrilege, like killing a Jew to celebrate Easter.