Tis the season, right? With the winter holidays — Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and the ever-popular Festivus — and New Year’s gibbering at us from behind a ginormous pile of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy (or Tofurkey gravy if you’re so inclined) we start thinking about how a new year will give us a new opportunity to change the future. I’m not going to point out how there’s never anything stopping us from resolving to change our habits right now, today… on a Tuesday at noon, for example, rather than waiting until Monday morning, or the beginning of the month, or Jan. 1st. (See what I did? I pointed it out anyway.) If you’re inclined to wake up some time on the first of January and say, “That’s it then, no more _______” (Fill in the blank with the problematic behavior of your choice.) more power to you. That’s a hopeful way to start a year. And it can’t hurt to make positive changes in your life no matter when you start.
To be honest, it’s been years since I’ve made a New Year’s resolution, and the last one I made was to never make another. It’s the only one I’ve managed to keep for more than a month. But the other day I was having dinner with my friend Karen, and her mom, and Karen said: “My New Year’s resolution is to learn to like red wine.” This is noteworthy on a couple of levels, the most surprising one being that if you know Karen, you will know that if she has ever tasted something and hated it (or decided without tasting that she would hate it) that thing will never come within a foot of her lips again. The exception being beer because she hates the taste but loves the smell, so she always asks to sniff our beer when we order it. Yes, she’s an odd girl, but we love her.
But her resolution made me stop and think about the whole business of resolutions. For most of us a resolution is framed in negative terms: I’m going to stop smoking, I’m going to drink less, lose weight, stop whatever. Something goes away, something leaves your life. You impose some sort of discipline on yourself. But Karen’s resolution was so positive — I’m going to learn to enjoy something that others find enjoyable — that it made me rethink the whole process of resolutions and my own aversion to them.
I’m not consciously planning to wake up on the first and say, “I’m going to learn to like lima beans!” because what’s the point? And anyway how many people apart from Karen actually do find them enjoyable? But I might just decide to try something new in 2012. I might resolve to be more open to something I’d previously disregarded or dismissed. I might resolve to do more of something that I like but from which I have fallen away. I might frame a food resolution in more positive terms; rather than saying “I’m going to stop eating meat.” I might say, “I’m going to make more meals vegetable-based every week.”
To be honest, I think that resolutions, whenever they’re made, really should be framed in a positive way, be something that you can say “YES!” to rather than “no.” They should be things that open up your world a little more and make you feel, not deprived, but enlarged, smart for having done it, and even blessed for being able to do it.