Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Got Those New Year Resolution Blues?

No sooner were Christmas lists fulfilled, then there were those who may have started to compile another, perhaps shorter, list and check it twice. An inventory of ostensible resolutions one hopes to stick by in the coming months.
Nevertheless, that itemized record, made in the waning days of December when your thoughts may be fogged by alcohol-laced eggnog or stronger drink, is rarely followed or may lead to regret. More often than not, by the end of January, some or all of the entries may be overlooked or broken, and you start to hum the-sorry-I-made-‘em-when-I-never-stick-to-‘em Resolution Blues.
No matter how sincere and sober you were when making that year-end list of vows, it’s inevitably partially violated or ancient history. In fact, some resolutions are probably forgotten by the time the confetti dropped on Times Square streets, after the ball drops to ring in the New Year, is swept up. And it’s long gone by the time Punxsutawney Phil pokes his head out of the ground weeks later to forecast the rest of winter.
Making New Year’s resolutions is a recurrent ritual, coming on the heels of shopping for presents, gift giving and unwrapping, consuming a holiday meal, whether it’s a meat roast or pasta for Christians or Chinese food for those of the Jewish persuasion.
Resolutions usually don’t have religious undertones — after all, every denomination already has its own set of principles. All the same, resolutions may include an increased devotion to one’s faith.
After a brief Internet search, I discovered the origin of resolutions may have a religious link. At the start of each year, Babylonians made promises to their gods that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began a new year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
Seems logical. New Year, new goals.
Procrastinators don’t pay too much attention to resolutions, since they have twelve months to contemplate achieving them.
Resolutions are often like political campaign promises — made with good intentions, like the paved road to hell — but they’re made to be retracted or, at least, revised. In other words, personal resolutions are made to be broken as often as most campaign pledges. (Does “no new taxes” come to mind?)
Essentially, resolutions generally focus on self-improvement. You know, go on a diet, exercise more, quit smoking, drink less alcohol or smoke less pot, reduce credit card debt, keep in touch more with relatives and friends. They may also cover completing home repairs that have been overlooked, finishing the novel you put away after reading the first 100 pages or, perhaps, begin that hobby that got sidetracked by more urgent responsibilities, like a career, marriage, children, divorce, second marriage, second career, etc., etc. Some may also be altruistic, like helping others or volunteering for worthy causes, which may be gratifying even to the surliest curmudgeon. (Does the name Ebenezer Scrooge ring a Christmas bell?)
When you think of it, resolutions are merely self-motivating gestures, that should be steadfast all year long, not just a timely pledge.
My intent is about year-end resolutions not cynicism. However, show me someone who adheres to a list of ten resolutions, and I’ll introduce you to twenty people who’ve never accomplished even one.
The only resolution I ever intend to make again is NOT to make resolutions. Well, almost. I resolve to continue writing columns in 2016, stay as active as my body allows, read more books and…There I go, caught in the ritual I just mocked.

Wishing loyal and occasional readers of this column and my blog, a happy and healthy New Year!