A reader wondered if I had committed to any New Year’s resolutions, and prodded me into making a statement of my beliefs as if it were a religious mandate.
No I have not, and in my entire life I have never made one. They seem like, and research confirms, they are more like wishful thinking as the success rate for achieving them and sticking to them is pitifully low. Having said that, I none-the-less don’t have any issues with others who make them. The issue here is not that people want to change something to improve their lives, but that they wait until the dead of winter to do so. Want to make a change and stick to it? Do it on a warm spring optimistic morning when the sun is bright or when the spirit moves you, not on a day when the mercury hits 20 below and your nose hairs freeze solid and daylight is reduced to the minimum. On such days the sum total of one’s motivation is used up just getting out of the bed.
But having been prodded into making a statement, the following are some thoughts on ‘reinventing’ one’s self, which is what has to be done to achieve a successful New Year’s resolution. The most common resolutions are centered on making improvements to one’s self, usually involving achieving some goal. It might be to lose ten pounds or start working out. It might be to start saving more for retirement. It might be to eat better or take better care of your health. It might be to quit smoking. It might be to write a novel or spend more time with the family. It might be to find a more rewarding job. Or it may be something like getting involved with a humanitarian cause or striving to make peace with someone with whom you may have been at odds. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of these. So why wait until January? There is no magical reason they have to be initiated on Jan. 1. Waiting until January is more of an excuse, a delaying tactic.
Resolutions involving interactions with other people are the hardest to achieve because there is another person or persons involved who may not be interested in your overtures. Personal relationships in friendships, marriage, or other interactions are rarely if ever in a ‘steady state’ and therefore are subject to random changes that can immediately affect the dynamics of the relationship. But what you do for others, good or ill, will come back to you. Karma, you know.
Writing out holiday greeting cards, I was thinking about how couples become one entity. We address them, not individually, but as Jack and Lois or Mary and Bob or Mike and Peg, and so on. To the outside world they are a single entity, and also to each other in the best relationships. But if the union is broken through death, divorce, or ‘alienation of affection’, one or the other or both are forced to ‘reinvent’ themselves’. That is the often overlooked part of grief healing. It is a difficult and painful time because the brain has to literally ‘rewire’ itself, old habits and attachments are archived or abandoned altogether, and new circuits are established in a cerebral reordering of how we process information and how we operate in society and intimate relationships.
Reinventing ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean changing who we are, and it doesn’t have to wait for January or be a forced result of broken relationships. We can all use some fine-tuning. The results can be transforming. Case in point: Sharon was a friend in college, a biology major, with long brown hair. She always seemed rather shy and plain and walked slightly stooped over. In her senior year after she came back from summer break, she was unrecognizable. She had gotten her hair cut into a shorter style, and walked with a ‘purpose’. Her entire attitude was different with greater confidence and even her stride was more deliberate. One could not help but notice her attractiveness. I asked her what the heck happened over the summer. She said. ‘I got tired of who I was’. There was no New Year’s resolution, but there was stubborn resolve to pursue a different path.
Want to make a change? Strive to make life better for others. Make readily achievable adjustments to yourself and the larger issues will become of less concern. It takes surprising little effort to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Contact the friend you haven’t seen in a while. Answer the correspondence you’ve been neglecting. Smile with children. Help out a neighbor in need. Lighten someone’s burden. Accept help and encouragement from others with grace and gratitude. Set guilt aside and pamper yourself now and then. Tired of the ‘old you’? Changing one’s appearance with a different look and attitude puts a different face in the mirror every morning and that can help with the start of a ‘new you.’
Email Terry Mejdrich at firstname.lastname@example.org.