I have spent the last fifty years of my life jotting down a list of New Year’s Resolutions which I never follow beyond February. As a result, this new year will find me resolute in my decision to break a senseless annual tradition. I shall not make promises I cannot keep!
It all started in my boyhood; perhaps I was ten or eleven. I had a notebook in which I wrote short stories and my friend George Newman added graphics. We were a good team. I wrote the stories, he portrayed it artistically. On rainy afternoons during lunch hour, Sister Rita Damien would ask the two of us to entertain the class with another story. One I recall was entitled, “Silver Death,” about a man who goes out searching for a magic dagger but his greed causes him to find it and fall on it as he races away from the police. Well, I read the story aloud to the class while George walked up and down the aisles showing each classmate his pencil drawing of the silver dagger. Most kept eating their lunch, hardly giving George’s art a second glance or my reading an attentive ear.
“I will write a story once a week for all of 1951,” I wrote in that same notebook, somewhere in the back on a page labeled, “New Year’s Resolutions.” That commitment lasted until George moved away and I couldn’t find another collaborator who could draw as well or cared as much as my friend George.
And so it would go each year.
“I will quit smoking” was a rather popular one that made it to the head of many a year’s list, but despite leading off a list of lesser resolutions, it never made any headway with me. If anything, I smoked even more until finally in 1980, on the precarious edge of borderline emphysema, unable to inhale without falling unconscious, I finally was able to delete a longstanding resolution.
A few other perrenial resolutions on my list were these: “I will stop using bad language.” “I will listen to my mother when she asks me to do something.” “I will not quit kicking my sister Joanie while at the dinner table.“
They were writing exercises, nothing more. Some years I’d write a resolution and before the day ended I was already breaking it. One had to do with not missing Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation.” No sooner had I jotted it down when my father asked, “You ready for church?” I made a pained face and said, “I’m not feeling so hot.” And there went the resolution, quicker than it took to write it down.
Throughout my life I have found it difficult to break the habit of writing New Years’ Resolutions. It had become almost a tradition, something to signal a new beginning, a sentence of strong intent that never amounted to much at all. There was simply no way to keep the resolutions I had made. They looked good on paper. They resonated with promise. They fizzled.
I could not even keep last year’s list of two resolutions, the shortest up to that point. I had written, (1) “I will help my wife around the house since I am now retired; (2) I will do my best to lose some weight in this new year.”
After a few gallant efforts to assist Sharon in her housecleaning, she asked me to go sit down and read a book or watch TV. And as for losing weight, the closest I got to satisfying that resolution was to become an avid fan of the TV program, “World’s Biggest Loser.” I would watch the show while snacking on crackers and m &m’s.
So there you have it. The failures associated with my so-called resolutions. I admit it. Will Power is not my forte. I make promises and then recant. I am the man who says he will turn over a new leaf, but for the next twelve months he continues sporting that same old one. I am not one you can swear your life on. I’d let you down.
Where does all this lead me? Half a century should be enough time to admit defeat. I had raised the hammer for many years against oppressive habits that needed breaking, but within months––no, weeks and even days!––I put my hammer away and whatever I swore I would no longer do I did again and again.
We are days away from 2011. I have no pen and notebook in which to carry on the farce of empty words. I will cross into the new year without insisting this time it will be different. I will not commit myself any longer to making resolutions come true, except for one.
I resolve, for the next fifty years, to never make another single New Year’s Resolution again.