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Gimme a Smile: Reasonable resolutions

Posted: January 1, 2012 - 1:00am

Happy New Year! Do you notice, we say Merry Christmas but we don’t say Merry New Year? It’s Happy Easter, Happy Birthday, Happy Halloween, Happy Hanukkah, and if you’re not sure, Happy Holidays, but Christmas is supposed to be Merry. Puts a lot of pressure on, don’t you think?

Christmas is all about traditions. If you get the traditions right, then you’ve got a merry Christmas in store for you. Now some would think that the older you get, the more important it is to get the traditions right, but I think otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, it is the kids who cling most strongly to the need to follow traditions. “We always do it that way”—parents and church pastors alike cringe when they hear those words. Of course, with a kid, a few years can equal a third or even half their life, so if you do something even two years in a row, it’s “always” to them. Thus a tradition is born. Like the “First Annual” whatever it is, you’re committed for years to come.

Christmas is also a time to behave. “Santa’s watching” — how parents do love that phrase! It’s a great way to keep the kids in line. No one wants to end up on the Naughty List. Then comes New Year’s — time to make New Year’s Resolutions. You’re expected to make your own Nice List — a list of things you’ll do throughout the next year to improve yourself, and ultimately keep off of Santa’s Naughty List come December. Talk about pressure! Thank goodness for New Year’s Eve — a little chance to kick up your heels and let off some steam.

Midnight on New Year’s Eve is time to make noise, right? Bang on pots, shoot off fireworks, play the bagpipes in your front yard — all’s fair on New Year’s Eve. Don’t even think about trying to sleep until after midnight.

I’ve heard tell that whatever you’re doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve, that’s what you’ll be doing for the next year. Hence the scramble for someone to kiss as the clock strikes 12. I still remember the year I held a crying baby in my arms at the stroke of midnight. Yes, I did a lot of that throughout the following year.

So you stay up late and party, and then face the repressive tradition of New Year’s Resolutions the very next day. I wonder how many people make resolutions to get enough sleep, go on a diet, or control their alcohol intake. Could that be a direct result of the wild night of abandon the night before? Happily, Lent follows soon after the start of the New Year, giving you an opportunity to give up your resolutions for Lent, or so says a pastor of my acquaintance.

But if you’re serious about New Year’s Resolutions, you should know that there’s an art to making them. Vagueness is the key. You should never make a resolution to do something specific every day. Don’t say you’ll do 15 pushups at bedtime each night. Instead, say you’ll try to exercise more in the new year. Then if you do even one pushup, why, that’s more than what you did last year, so you’ve fulfilled your resolution. Don’t say you’ll lose 10 pounds — say you’ll watch what you eat. You can watch each tasty bite as it makes it’s inexorable way to your mouth, and still abide by your resolution.

I like to resolve to accomplish something each day. Already I’m tempting fate, by saying I’ll do it every day. But I’m saved by the vagueness of the word “something.” I don’t say I’ll accomplish something momentous each day. Sometimes it’s an accomplishment just to get out of bed in the morning. Then I’ve started out by fulfilling my goal for the whole day, and everything else I do is an added bonus. It’s all a matter of interpretation.

Or, if the pressure’s too much for you, you can always resolve not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year. That’s usually an easy one to uphold throughout the year, although some would call it cheating. Still, you’re partaking in a time — honored New Year’s tradition. Happy Christmas, and Merry New Year!

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