I have no idea what my New Year’s resolution was last year. I’m sure I made one since it always seems like the thing to do after a third bottle of prosecco in the post-ball drop hours of the night. It is most likely a good thing that I can’t remember my resolution since I’m less inclined to feel depressed about not keeping it.
This year, after another night of alcohol-induced revelry, I announced that my resolution was to wash my hands more often. My family belly laughed and ridiculed my announcement. Then, they refused to pass the shared bowl of popcorn. There’s nothing like a misunderstood resolution about cleanliness to start the year off with a bang. (For the record, I have incredibly clean hands. I just want to stave off the common cold by pro-actively washing more often.)
New Year’s resolutions are supposed to be hopeful. We’re supposed to imagine ways we can better ourselves. However, 99% of people never keep their New Year’s resolutions. (Okay, I completely made up that statistic, but it feels accurate, right?)
My television is filled with commercials which fuel the resolution craze. Lose weight. Exercise regularly. Save the shelter dogs (cue the guarantee-to-make-you-cry-or-change-the-channel Sarah McLachlan music). Stop smoking. Get your check-ups. Use anti-aging moisturizer daily so that you can look like a Hollywood B lister.
I know that when I go to the gym tomorrow, it will be packed with well-intentioned strangers who take their post-holiday depression out on the treadmill. And that’s a wonderful thing. Some of them might stick to their goals of running marathons. Others might not step foot in the gym until 2016. But the bottom line is that habits are rarely effected without major change. For some people, quitting smoking requires seeing a loved one die of lung cancer. Exercising daily requires the threat of disease. For most of us, a calendar day isn’t enough to change our lives forever.
However, there is hope in the New Year. Instead of making promises we won’t keep in the future, we can take a moment to reflect on the past. Instead of “New Year’s Resolutions,” I think we should make “Last Year’s Restitutions.” We can make in-person apologies for wrongdoings. We can return the cashmere sweater which we accidentally forgot to return to the rightful owner. We can say thank you to someone who never heard the words. Personally, I have a few thank yous to mutter to folks who I trampled on like a bridezilla at my September wedding.
And we can celebrate our 2014 achievements. We can state the one thing we did which we are extremely proud of doing. Whether it is giving birth or giving a few nickels to charity, we can pat ourselves of the back for the little things we have accomplished. This year, I solely bought organic milk. This might not seem like breaking news at first, but for folks who know me, I’ve always been a cheap curmudgeon when it comes to food choices. My husband has been trying to get me to spend more money on better quality food for years. But this year, I’ve budged. I buy expensive, cow-friendly, body-conscious, milk. And as much as I hate to admit it, it goes just as well with my chocolate chip cookies.
A new year is a blank page of history, ready to be written. But as with history, looking back can be just as (if not more) important as looking forward. Next January, I’ll be celebrating whatever 2015 had in store. It might be buying organic chicken stock. It might be learning how to swim the butterfly. Heck, it might just be returning that cashmere sweater to the rightful owner.
As for that hand-washing resolution? Remind me next year. Until then, pass the popcorn.