Some 20-odd years ago, returning home to my parents' house on a winter break from Rutgers University, I descended on my bedroom armed with a fistful of black contractor trashbags and the caffeinated zeal of a college student who had just cleared his last remaining final exam hurdle. Goodbye calculus, hello clean bedroom.
While Isaac Newton described no such psychic derivative -- not even after the fabled apple smacked his noggin -- the ferocity and focus of my New Year's resolutions has always stood in direct proportion to the loathing I've felt over some aspect of my life. My dresser drawers stuffed with trash, running the gamut from moth-eaten sweaters to crumpled high school biology notes, had never bothered me before. So why change, and why then? No end of nagging from my wizened Italian-American momma could do the trick. But the junk-o-logic that a tidy bedroom would somehow create coherency held some appeal for me, a lanky kid who lacked a steady girlfriend and thus figured something in my life needed fixing.
Now in my mid-40s, you might say I've come full circle on the resolution revolution, and plan to jump off the carousel for good. That's right: No resolutions for me. I'm disgusted with being disgusted, if you will, and think that a fine way to begin 2011 is to do away with resolutions altogether.
I'm not sure if I need fixing or not, though I suspect on many fronts I do. While once lean as a string bean, I'm now 20 pounds overweight, pushing 200. I don't floss my teeth every night and pick at my scalp when I think no one's looking. I start and discard novels and creative epics of all types with whiplash inefficiency. I've been laid off from two high-profile journalism jobs in the last 18 months. By the world's measure, the one thing I constantly succeed at is failure.
And yet, I've developed just enough moxie -- the grit of all this tough stuff in my life yielding a pearl of great contrarian price -- to say that maybe it's the world's measure that's bent beyond recognition. Making resolutions in 21st Century America is like trying to take accurate measure of yourself in a funhouse mirror that makes your butt look all wiggly and Sumo.
We idolize idiot misogynist rappers over tireless teachers. We stare and sigh at airbrush-altered fashion models, more CGI than real life, and all we can wonder is why we can't get that thin. And while the world continues to spit out zillions of lottery winners who blow it all and end up more miserable in their post-jackpot state, we still think money can solve all of our problems. And how many of us will kick off 2011 vowing to become adored, rich and thin?
No more for me. Instead, I'll take my solace from deep thinkers like theologian Parker Palmer, who espouses the fine, funky art of learning to live with your deep internal contradictions. I press my ear to a club dressing room scene vaguely remembered and the words of a seasoned guitarist I can never forget: "Lou, there is beauty in the flaw." Or, to borrow from Miles Davis: "Mistakes? There are none."
Resolutions? Hooey. Who needs 'em? I don't, especially not this year. So if there's one resolution I'm intent on keeping, it's to not make any damned...