In one year and out the other

Sunday Signal

By Jim Mullen, Signal Contributing Writer

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Me neither. What’s the big rush? 

What’s the connection between New Year’s and resolutions, anyway? Why can’t we make resolutions on Memorial Day or July 4th? Unless you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to stop procrastinating, why not wait until Labor Day to make a resolution? Not this year’s Labor Day, of course. Next year’s. 

I’ve never had much luck with resolutions; they are hard to stick to. Since I always ended up breaking them, one year, I decided to make “opposite resolutions.” I resolved to gain weight and exercise less, hoping that I would break those resolutions the way I have broken all the others. Wouldn’t you know it, they turned out to be the two resolutions I had no problem keeping. I not only gained weight and stopped exercising, I started smoking and stopped bathing. 

Everybody likes to think big on the beginning of a new year: “This is the year I stop drinking,” we say, or, “This is the year I quit smoking.” “This is the year I stop betting on horses with the kids’ college fund.” “This is the year I stop embezzling from widows and orphans.” “This is the year I stop laundering money for the Mexican drug lords.” “This is the year I stop serial-killing.” 

At least most of us won’t have to swear off murdering strangers, but if you are going to make a resolution, don’t try to make more than one. And keep it simple. You’ll never stick to your resolution if you bite off more than you can chew. Sure, it’s easy to say you’ll stop stealing other people’s identities on Jan. 1, and maybe you will for a week or two. But then you say to yourself, “Maybe I’ll just cut down,” and then before you know it, you’re up and running full-speed — going through trash cans, looking for credit card numbers; calling people up telling them they’ve won a prize, if only they’ll confirm their birthday and Social Security number. And before you know it, another New Year’s resolution goes down the tubes. 

It might turn out better if we just decided to change one tiny little thing each year, instead of everything. Something simple, like, “I won’t ask for the extra bacon on my cheeseburgers this year,” or “I won’t swear in front of the kids — before breakfast,” or “I’ll stop declaring both dogs as dependents on my tax return. Just one of them.” 

It’s easy to see why you might want to make big changes in your life after getting hammered on sparkling wine and sitting through “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” once again. Every year, you realize that Ryan is introducing more and more acts that you’ve never heard of before. You find yourself looking at some completely unknown pop star singing a hit song you’ve never heard, and thinking, “I have stuff in my freezer older than that kid.” 

Every year, you are more and more puzzled why thousands of people would want to stand in Times Square in the freezing cold to watch a ball drop. Now if the ball went up, well, that would be worth the trip. No, actually, that would be pretty dumb, too. How did that become our New Year’s tradition? Why isn’t “going bowling in Cincinnati” our New Year’s tradition? Or walking around the house three times backwards, or wearing powdered wigs, or going to bed earlier than usual? 

Every year, I think that last one is going to be my new tradition. It’s getting harder and harder to stay up to welcome in the New Year. Of course, I get up earlier each year, too. At this rate, someday I’ll come full circle: I’ll go to bed at 5 in the afternoon and wake up at midnight. Happy New Year!

Contact Jim Mullen at [email protected].

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