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How NOT Keeping a New Year’s Resolution Turned Out Great!

December 31, 2021

I’m not one of those people who believes life will magically change just because it’s midnight on December 31st, and we’re throwing confetti in the air, and joining in an off-tune chorus of “Auld Lang Syne,” tipsy, with our arms slung around whoever happens to be standing next to us.

Our dreams, relationships, projects, doubts, fears, and unresolved messes all follow us into the New Year, stuck like a juicy piece of gum to the bottom of our shoe.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the symbolism of ringing in a New Year. Vowing to put the past behind us, starting anew with fresh hopes, raw and uncut, can make for a powerful covenant. And while New Year’s resolutions have a comical reputation for being short-lived, it has been my experience that even the paltry few weeks of virtue they might impel can result in lasting changes.

That’s why, as we come to the end of this year, I want to celebrate one of my favorite New Year’s resolutions. One that I ended up breaking rather quickly, but that nonetheless transformed my life, and gave me a great story to tell.

Several years ago – and I mean years ago, I decided, that at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, I would ditch one bad habit. I thought long and hard about which bad habit that would be, and spent several wine-enhanced nights trying to figure out the Big Bad I should kick to the curb. Turned out, I had plenty to choose from. There were relatively inconsequential habits, like my love of fried cheese, fried anything, really, or my resistance to attending parties peopled with more than just a few, close friends. Basically, low-grade irritants that were more of an eye-roll than anything else.

My bigger bad habits tended to revolve around what I’d call motivational issues. Things I did or didn’t do that would often act as impediments to getting what I wanted, or at least thought I wanted.

Like the fact that I love to swing for the fences. I don’t want to fall in love, I want to meet my one, great, true Wesley from “The Princess Bride” kind of love! I don’t just want to tell stories, I want to change people lives! I want them to live and breathe in the worlds I’ve conjured.

You get the picture.

Big dreams are great, don’t get me wrong, but in my wayward youth, it was hard for me to go for the ground ball, the run, the smaller moves that might get me to home base. I was resistant to reveling in the journey and finding myself surprised by, content with an outcome that may very well have blossomed because of my talents, good habits, and work ethic, but wasn’t exactly what my ego had in mind.

It was just this sort of hyper-drive ambition that I was eager to put the brakes on – just to see what would happen.

And I did great out of the starting block! I strolled rather than steamrolled through that January. I kept a gratitude journal, and gave myself frequent pats on the back for recognizing my little steps forward – the mundane, but necessary parts of any larger endeavor: phone calls, research, setting a schedule, organizing my work space. Decidedly unsexy efforts that might make day to day operations flow, but rarely provide the buzz of storyboarding yet another idea that I hoped could be a runaway bestseller complete with a three-picture movie deal.

By February, I was getting itchy, but still managing to stick to my resolution, albeit with diminished enthusiasm. I resisted the urge to start a new pie-in-the-sky project, but I did put it on the schedule for the following month, then eyed that day the way I did the last day of Lent when I was a third-grader; back in the days when I sat salivating for the moment when I could finally have sugary sodas back in my life, after long, dreadful weeks of water consumption.

March, however, was when I lost it completely.

My long-term love relationship had fallen apart, and I could summon no passion for my work. Every blank page seemed to stare at me in disappointment, any new idea sounded stupid when I tried to say it out loud. I was lovelorn, lost, and languishing, shuffling stoop-shouldered through my days, and carousing through my nights in a way that made sure I would be too dazed and dog-tired to give my failed love life more than a heavy sigh during the daylight hours.

I missed my old boyfriend, even if I didn’t want him back, and couldn’t see a life with him anymore. And every new date I went on seemed to fall into at least one of the following three categories.

Boring.

Random.

Creepy.

Finally, at the end of April that year, my father gifted me with a wall calendar. It was complete with lots of pictures of nature, which is what he loved, and I guess he figured it would cheer me up if I replaced my plain numbered calendar that had no pictures whatsoever, with a log that showcased snowy mountains, bubbling brooks, fields of wildflowers, and infinite deserts. What was lost in translation for my very Czech father was the fact that he hadn’t given me just any run-of-the-mill nature calendar. This one was tongue-in-cheek and parodied those mindful meditation calendars that were big back in the 1990s. The ones that attempted to kickstart your spirit with quotes like, “Every experience I have is perfect for my own growth.” The ones you want to take a Sharpie to. Or a Zippo lighter.

His little cultural misunderstanding did crack me up, and I opened the calendar to May, pinning it on my corkboard. Right there, staring at me, was a picture of a volcano on the big island of Hawaii. The quote at top read thus: “If you drop your keys in a river of molten lava, let ’em go, because man, they’re gone.”

After I finished laughing so hard that I plopped down on my kitchen tile, bruising my tailbone something awful, that’s precisely what I did. With the stroke of a pen, I fell off the New Year’s resolution wagon in a really big way, and just…let it go.

One of my bad motivational habits that I was attempting to curtail was what I referred to as “writing my directives.” Basically, this was a list of all the things I wanted in the coming year. There’s nothing wrong with writing down your goals, of course, and it works for a lot of people. The problem was with my approach. At that point in my life, I tended to go bonzai! with this list, because, I figured…why not? My lists could include anything from winning a Nobel Prize in Literature to being offered a round-the-world luxury voyage. Sky’s the limit! I rarely put practical things on there. Stuff like – put $100 in your savings every month, or learn how to cook three great dishes.

But this time I was determined that my list would have standards! I wasn’t going to be haphazard, lumping in personal goals with professional ones. It was going to be specific, with the intention of identifying the qualities of my perfect romantic partner. The only rule? Every item in the directive had to be positive. Nothing like, “I don’t want another mama’s boy.” Rather, the same sentiment should read, “I want a grown up. A man.”

And that was exactly what I wrote in the number 1 spot, even though I could think of so many more glamorous qualities for a lover. I suppose I figured that if I got that one right, the rest of my more castle-in-the-air conditions and character traits would follow.

When I finally finished the directive – and it took at least two hours. I looked it over and felt a little foolish. It seemed a bit like one of those Santa wish lists that included things like superhuman strength and a diamond-studded Ferrari.

“Here you go again,” I said to myself.

So, I closed the journal and put it away. Frankly, I forgot about it for a good five or six years.

It was only as I was preparing a gift for my husband on our very first wedding anniversary – our paper anniversary – that I came across my old journal, complete with my old list that was meant to build and attract to me, perhaps through a combination of alchemy, wishful thinking, and heartsickness, my perfect mate.

That man was handsome, but not like a movie star. He had quirks and enough frayed edges to make him interesting. He was charming, and passionate, and creative, and adventurous. His wit was wry, his whiskey was rye. Style, generosity, and courage were a must. People liked him, but he was no glad-hander. Most of all, he was the kind of guy a girl could rely on.

He was my husband.

In this case, falling off the wagon, allowing myself once again to channel my inner Lucy Ricardo, had been a boon, after all. And my broken New Year’s resolution had delivered. I’m not claiming it was my “directive” alone that got me the kind of love that’s kept us dancing through the mud, and the sludge, and the blood and bruises and warm, weak beer of the luckless years. I’m sure there was more involved than that.

Nor am I saying we should all double down and keep executing the same strategies that have lead us to heartbreak, ruin, or even just an extra five pounds. What I am suggesting is that if you make a New Year’s resolution this year and break it, it’s not the end of the world. Go ahead and laugh at yourself, revel in your foolhardiness, but then forget about it.

Because one day, you might look back and see that those indelicate, zigzaggy steps you took to get where you are, had their own logic. Some of your own broken promises – even the ones you cried about, that made you shake your fists and curse the sky – were a wink and a nod from God.

Happy New Year

From → love

2 Comments
  1. A New Year’s Eve love story. 🙂 Happy New Year, Vic! May your new year be bright and shining.

  2. Your’s, too, Tim. Wishing you and your family a great year!

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