So, it’s the middle of January. Do you know where your New Year’s resolution is?
According to the experts who study these sorts of things, if I’m like most women my resolution went out the window a few days ago. It’s not at the gym anymore, not on the bathroom scale, not in my cupboard next to the Hershey bars I’m supposed to save for summertime s’mores. Phew…good thing I’m not like most women! My resolution never left because it was never here to begin with—not on New Year’s Day, anyways. I never made one. Or at least I never, as they say in the Bahamas, “put mouth on it.”
And, let’s be real. Once again, this isn’t like most years. It’s another year when it’s normal to set my sights on the most rudimentary of triumphs, for being happy I’m “able to sit up and take nourishment,” as my Nana used to say, and “still throwing a shadow.” Pretty sure I’m in good company not making any promises to myself for a while.
I used to make plenty of New Year’s resolutions. Loud assertive ones. I’d wake up January 1st feeling the traditional tidings of discontent—mildly disgusted and moderately depressed—ready to throw my bad habits to the curb with the Christmas tree. Most years I’d vow to break the food-filled hand to mouth reflex I’d acquired over the holidays. I’d hop out of bed, into my sneakers and sweats, and throw my body into gear before my brain realized what was happening. For a couple weeks, I’d even manage to combine abstinence with exertion. But then I’d hit the “Yeah, right!” wall, too hungry and tired to mark any more milestones. The bold new leaves I turned over would quickly lose their brilliance and I’d decide to re-root myself in complacency.
Don’t get me wrong, I can still find plenty of room for improvement. And I do love the raw challenge of a brand new calendar just waiting for me to log my pounds lost, miles metered, or whatever weekly results are inching me toward a lofty goal. But I now believe in taking a quieter, slower approach. “Keep ’em guessin'” is my new motto.
“Hmmm…what’s different about her?” folks may be wondering, if I’m lucky, this time of year. “Is she losing weight? Maybe she’s just trying a new hairstyle or she’s doing yoga again.” I maintain the suspense and keep on plugging away in stealth mode until sometime mid-year when, if I’m lucky, I can admit to some sort of victory.
Those of you who know me can attest that, while slow is my style, quiet is definitely not. My true nature is to vocalize my issues and regularly broadcast my successes. I instinctively want to proclaim my resolve to my friends, neighbors, the bank teller, my hair dresser and whoever happens to be with me in line at the IGA. External validation does drive me. It inflates my ego and boosts my self-confidence. But, if it backfires, it can burst my bubble and send me into a downward spiral faster than a bald tire slamming through frost heaves on Route 17. In my old-aged wisdom, I now trade the possible agony of public defeat for the inner thrill of silent victory.
The last time I made the mistake of boasting about the “new me” was in 2000. Not only was it a new year, it was a new century, and I got caught up in ushering in its challenges with my office mates. One coworker in particular, who was competing in some sort of Iron Woman competition, seemed to seek me out as a captive audience for her training and self-denial sagas. On the fourth consecutive day of her announcing how much she could bench press and how little she could eat, I got competitive, too. “Well, I just bought a Torso Track,” I blurted out. “I’m up to 50 reps on it a day and I do Abs of Steel!” (For those of you who didn’t get suckered into the Suzanne Sommers infomercial, Torso Track was an abdominal crunch machine you knelt on. You then gripped onto rolling handle bars and slowly inched yourself forward into push-up position. If you were lucky, you got ripped, six-pack abs. If not, you got back trauma.)
“So…how’s it going?” Iron Woman wanted to know each time she’d stop me in the cafeteria and start eyeing my midsection. Ashamed to admit that my right wrist was the only thing that got ripped before the Torso Track began gathering dust, I’d ask her what kind of lettuce she was eating that day to quickly change the subject. Lesson learned: When tempted to blab about my bold new beginnings, or whatever bad habit I’m bringing to a screeching halt, I bite my tongue. Public disclosure might feel right, but that rush of self-importance will be over in an instant. On the other hand, not having anything to show for my resolve by February can haunt me for the rest of the year.
So…no more New Year’s resolutions for me. I now make “concentrated efforts.” And, if I begin doubting that my small, behind the scenes achievements are actually adding up, I remember my old penny jar. Actually, it wasn’t really a jar, but a quart-sized mug with my name and my sorority logo on it that I kept atop my dresser in memory of more decadent days gone by. Clink…clink…clink…it went from holding beer to collecting loose change and, before too long, I’d accrued $22.49, a ball bearing and some fishing hooks. It was enough for take-out Chinese food and for the pre-Coinstar bank teller to wish she worked at a branch without a coin rolling machine. Of course, I see my life as grander than a giant beer mug. But the notion of suddenly brimming over with measurable results from discreet, everyday sacrifices really appeals to me this time of year.
Since it’s no longer on my dresser, I’ve resolved to find a Rangeley replacement for that old mug. With more catch-all containers than I could cart up here during the Big Move to Rangeley, I gave it to Salvation Army. I’ve got my sights set on finding an old blueberry bucket or syrup jug or something else suitable for chucking change into. Meanwhile, I hope another sorority sister named Joy who shares my philosophy has inherited my mug. And I sure hope she lives closer to a Coinstar machine and take-out Chinese than I do.