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Jessie Raymond: January 1 is a bad time for resolutions

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Posted on January 14, 2015 |
By Jessie Raymond



New Year’s resolutions. Are they still a thing?

I don’t mean are they still an annual cultural ritual. I mean are they still a thing by Jan. 15? I think I missed the open enrollment period.

Not that I really care. Sure, I might have felt like making a few resolutions on New Year’s Eve as the ball dropped, but I had already been asleep for over two hours at that point. Perhaps “Stay up until past midnight at least once during 2015” should have been my first resolution. (Let’s say past 10 p.m., just to keep things realistic.)

Does it matter that I didn’t make any resolutions yet? Most people, now two weeks into 2015, have already abandoned any pretense of sticking to theirs, except maybe for the gym membership that they will continue to pay each month in perpetuity, just in case.

But if we’re just going to abandon our resolutions as soon as we make them, I have to wonder why we make them in the first place.

Partly out of a sense of tradition, I suppose. It’s expected. For decades, people have been resolving every Jan. 1 to lose weight or get organized. These days, we have a lot more resolutions to choose from: In addition to old standbys like spending more time with family or volunteering for the needy, now we can resolve to refrain from checking our phones at the dinner table (or during job interviews or medical exams) and to shun gluten, high-fructose corn syrup or carbs — the Official Deadly Poisons of the Year for 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively.

At a glance, New Year’s might seem like the perfect time to start fresh. Our normal self-control begins to weaken around Halloween when the candy shows up. Thanksgiving is a spectacle of gluttony. In December — a carnival of overeating, overindulgence and overspending — we lose any semblance of routine or moderation. By the time New Year’s rolls around, guilt and indigestion have reached crisis levels, and many of us feel the need to start over.

I woke up Jan. 1 with a (figurative) hangover caused by a month of general depravity and dissipation — meaning only, in my milquetoast world, that I ate too much chocolate and watched a lot of bad TV. The idea of announcing a resolution or two naturally crossed my mind.

But when you think about it, Jan. 1 is an inauspicious time to turn over a new leaf. There are no leaves, for one thing, which is telling. That’s because it’s frigid and forbidding out. It’s dark more often than not. This is not a prudent time to give up things. Particularly chocolate.

I’m not saying resolutions aren’t a good idea. But on mornings when I’ve spent 10 minutes scraping ice off my car, and snow has fallen into my boots, and I’m running late because I had to change my wet socks, and my left wiper keeps icing up, the last thing I feel like doing is focusing on my resolution-driven self-improvement goals. What I want to do is mutter cutting insults at other drivers on my way to work and then wrap my face around a plate-sized bagel slathered with a half-cup of cream cheese.

I think I’d be more likely to stick to my resolutions if I made them at a more amenable time of year, that’s all. It doesn’t really matter when, as long as wind chill values aren’t below zero.

Right now, I’m thinking summer. It’s sunny. It’s warm. Fresh vegetables abound, and outdoor exercise is a pleasure. When I can greet the day in shorts, enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch, listening to the birds sing, it’ll be easy to focus on all that is good in myself and others, instead of waking up in the bitter cold as I do now, despising all of humanity, myself included, before I’ve even set eyes on another person.

As radical as it sounds, I’m going to do it: This year, I’m going to make my New Year’s resolutions on the Fourth of July.

I don’t know specifically what they’re going to be yet, but I know where to start. By July, the Official Deadly Poison of the Year for 2015 should be all over the news, and whatever it is, I resolve not to eat it.

As long as it’s not chocolate, I’m all set.

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