One thing I like about New Year’s is the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Unlike other holidays where the customs are meaningless and weird when you stop to think about it (A pine tree in your living room? Really?), the idea of a fresh start, a mediation of your failings, and a vow to improve yourself is about as close as most Americans get to introspection. The fact that we do it after a night of extreme partying and in the throes of the worst hangover of the year is a little obscene, but I guess regret and pain can be a great motivator.
Being a man with about as many personality defects and moral flaws as possible and still remain out of prison, I have probably made more New Year’s resolutions than any other person on Earth. I assume this makes me an expert on the subject. And as an expert, I am here to tell you: they never work.
In past years I have made resolutions of every shape and stripe. I have made resolutions to be more dynamic, more aggressive, friendlier, nicer, to be more sociable, to dress better, to give friendlier service and to win friends and influence people. I have made resolutions to be neater, to pick up after myself, do my share of the laundry, buy some clothes that fit, wash my car, organize my desk, organize my closet, and organize my finances. I have made resolutions keep my fingernails trimmed, my shirt tucked in, to comb my hair once in while and to wear matching socks all of the time.
All of these were pathetically short-lived.
Then there are the health resolutions that we all make. Lose15 pounds. Start working out. Eat whole-grains and fresh vegetables. Get in shape. Run a marathon. Hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim. Ride my bike around the world. Quit drinking. Quit drinking so much. Quit drinking so much on Tuesday. Of course this is another common mistake in making resolutions. Never make any resolution that requires will power. This goes back to what I said about DNA. There are some people who can save ninety percent of every thing they make, eat nuts, flakes and berries for breakfast lunch and dinner, run five miles before sunrise every morning—and then there are the rest of us.
One year I actually made a resolution to never make any more resolutions. As you can see, I couldn’t even keep that one.
Still a 100 percent failure rate should not discourage any one. In fact, the law of probability states that eventually one is going to stick. So I keep making them. I have, however, learned from all those past mistakes. One thing you cannot change is your personality. Whether it is embedded in your DNA or whether your awful parents imprinted it on you when you are young, you, my friend, are stuck with the current crappy personality you have. Myself, I am an aloof, withdrawn, disorganized, absent-minded, sometimes inconsiderate, often self-loathing introverted, unrepentant slob with anti-social tendencies and bizarre tastes. Deal with it. I do. Everyday. One can only pity my poor wife. That she lives with me probably has something to do with her own screwed-up DNA. Go figure.
So instead of major character traits, set your goals small. Tiny. Laughably miniscule. Instead of running a marathon, make your new year’s resolution to run to the mailbox. Instead of lose twenty pounds, make it to eat one serving of brussel sprouts. Get out of debt? How about just put $50 in savings. Did it! Ha! Check it off! Do one single load of laundry. Wait, let’s not get carried away here!
Seriously, even though I know they’re doomed. I still make resolutions. The thought that I am as good as I will ever be is just too grim to consider. So this year I came up with another 25 ways to improve myself, the world and American foreign policy. After realistically evaluating them and laughing uproariously, I’ve whittled them down to five. Here goes:
1) I will actually use all those canvas grocery bags I purchased and then wadded up in the closet. Those flimsy plastic bags the stores give you are obnoxious, defective and now featured prominently on every square mile of the Earth’s surface. I hate them, but I never remember to bring my own bags. This year will be different! (Wait! I’ve already broken this one!)
2) Keep a reader’s journal. I read. A lot. I remember. Almost nothing. The American education system trained me well to hurriedly speed read entire chapters over night, regurgitate it on a test the next morning, and quickly forget its entire existence. I still read fast and actually retain very little. This year I’d like to keep a reader’s journal where I can at least summarize the plot and identify the main characters. Just in case there’s an exam on it.
3) Move all my money accounts into credit unions. I sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think it’s probably an empty gesture at this point. Not only do the interests that control this country not give damn about the 99 percent, they are now in a position to not even pretend they give a damn. Never the less… My wife and I have accounts in both big banks and credit unions. When we need money, we don’t even consider going to the big banks (the way they laugh is really annoying), therefore I am going to close my checking accounts and big bank credit cards and go 100 percent with nonprofit credit unions. Wells Fargo is going to miss my mega-fifties.
3) Buy American, Shop Local, Boycott Wal-Mart. I already know how doomed this one is. Still, I feel I need to try. I like to do most my shopping online, but I had a couple very pleasant encounters with local merchants over the holidays that almost melted my Grinch heart. I went into my favorite local bookstore (Adventures Unlimited in Old Town) and the shop owner there was so tickled to see me… She started GIVING me books, that I absolutely had to read. “I just thought of you when I read this. You must have it…” Amazon is cheap, and efficient but nothing compared to that kind of service. As far as buy American, I’m not sure anything is manufactured here anymore but I really want to boycott Chinese and Indonesian goods. Yes, they are cheap. But it’s crap. As poor as I am, it still makes economic sense to buy less but better quality stuff. I can think of nothing they sell at Wal-Mart that could be considered quality.
5) I want to be able to touch my toes without making scary old man sounds. It’s not exactly weight-- although that is a part of it. I am losing all of my flexibility all of a sudden. My back is still strong, but stiff. I really need to improve my flexibility—preferably in pill form because I really hate stretching. If you know of anything let me know.
Then I’ll be ready for that marathon.