I’ve been thinking about good intentions, “meaning wells,” as in “she meant well, poor dear,” and new year’s resolutions. I think they are all related and greatly overrated.
New year’s resolutions are sort of like campaign promises to ourselves. They sound so noble, so uplifting. We say just what we know we want to hear. But deep down they are really just so much hot air. Why is it we think we can ignore that two-pound box of Russell Stover’s chocolates hiding in the cupboard? It certainly won’t help with that 20 pounds we think we can lose.
Going to the gym and going to church are also biggies. We proclaim our resolutions loudly to our friends because they make us feel so “goody two shoes.” Ever notice how quiet we become after missing four days lifting weights and spending several Sundays sleeping in?
Here’s the answer! We should vow to do things we actually have a chance of accomplishing, like remembering to plug in our cellphones or putting out the garbage on the right day! I’m talking resolutions that would give us some positive feedback, instead of scolding ourselves for that maple nut ice cream. Yay me! Four days in a row I’ve remembered to make my bed! Yessss! I’ve gone a whole day without saying anything stupid and earning myself a “Motherrrrr!”
You know, sure as sunshine, you’re only going to ride your exercycle three days in a row, then you are going to go back to piling your clothes on it, so make your resolution for only three days. See? That works!
Speaking of feedback, I’m going to take just a small detour here and climb on my soapbox. The first time most of us encountered feedback was on eBay. It seemed like a good idea at the time, letting the general public know if you had a bad experience or even a good one. Now, every time you go to a doctor appointment, hire a plumber, read a book or purchase something from an online catalogue, you are expected to sit down and write all about the experience, wonderfully gratifying or horribly disillusioning.
To me, if I return to your business and buy something over and over, that’s great feedback. If you never see me and countless others again, it should give you a clue that you’d darn well better check and find out for yourself what’s going on with your business. But, I’m not going to bad-mouth you for the world at large to know about. Maybe you had a toothache that day. Maybe your cat died. Maybe the person packing up your orders has a new, dreamy boyfriend on the other end of her cellphone.
Whatever. When I was in junior high, we had something called a “slam book.” Friends and not-really-friends would circulate these spiral notebooks with a name on each page and you were invited to give your anonymous opinion of that person. It was a rather cruel rite of passage and quite often hurtful, but there it was, in writing, that nobody thought your jokes were funny and your eyebrows needed plucking. I think it was meant as encouragement to better yourself. Sort of like feedback, huh?
Sorry, I got off track. Resolutions. Question: Why do we only make them once a year or, with practicing religious folk, twice — one for the new year and one for Lent? When people make these firm statements about “no more pizza” or even “no more beer” they must know that they are only going to make it through the first week or so before their determination slinks off into the sunset and they feel bad about themselves.
So why not make a weekly resolution? Or daily? “Wow, look at me, World. I went a whole week without eating the Butterfinger candy bar I know I have hidden under my bed!” See there, a positive ending, not a negative. Maybe an hourly would do the trick.
Some people find it helpful to keep journals, as in “Here, let me just write down that I have drunk 15 glasses of water today.”
Or, “Oh, Tom, sorry, I didn’t have time to fix dinner tonight. I was too busy getting caught up with my lists, journals and feedback, but look at all the high-minded comments I’ve made!”
Or, here’s an idea, you can just keep your resolutions and lists to yourself. That way, it will be easier, less embarrassing and you won’t feel so guilty when you rip them up and throw them away. Because you know you probably will.
I make a weekly to-do list, then break it down into days. OK, sometimes Tuesday things get shifted to Thursday when I can’t get them done on Tuesday, so you might be right in saying these are not resolutions, they are merely suggestions. I call it “being flexible,” but it works for me … sort of. By the way, has anyone seen where I put the note to myself that reminds me where I put my list for today? Wait! Maybe I hid it in the box of Russell Stover’s. I’ll go check.
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and antique dealer.