DULUTH -- New year's resolutions can be a powerful thing. Viewed through the lens of determination and potential, a resolution made at the fresh beginning of a new year can propel a person to succeed where before they had languished. I know one person who quit smoking due to a new year’s resolution, another who lost 60 pounds, and yet another who found the footing to save her marriage because she made the simple resolution to communicate one kind thing a day to her spouse.
Of course, a new year’s resolution can also be notoriously fickle. That is the norm, in fact. We say we’re going to eat more vegetables, use that gym membership at least three times a week, and finally figure out why our friends are making such a fuss about meditation. Then Jan. 3 rolls around and we just don’t have time to do these things because we have to watch the final season of “Cheers” before it leaves Netflix for good and we’re really cozy under that blanket the kids gave us for Christmas. One has to have one’s priorities, after all. The resolution can wait.
I am nearing 50 years of age, which means I have almost a half-century of new year’s resolutions under my belt. Usually, my resolutions fall prey to “Cheers” reruns or other distractions in my life, but I have knocked a few out of the park. My greatest success was the year I made the resolution to cook a family dinner — no takeout, no pre-made meals — for 100 straight days. I’d spent years making easy, pre-packaged meals on days my husband, who was the chef and health nut of the family, was too tired to cook.
I was determined to succeed, so I made a fancy chart with 100 dated lines so I’d have to stay honest and fill in what I made that day. It worked. When the 101st day rolled around, we celebrated by plopping me down on a stool with a glass of wine in my hand so my husband could cook dinner instead. We’d created a habit of eating good food and had no intention of falling back into takeout pizza three times a week.
But here’s the thing: At that point in my life I was cooking dinner at least half of the time anyway. My kids were young; I was a stay-home mother; and I had the time, the knowledge, a supportive spouse and the funds to pursue such a lofty goal. Even with all of those privileges stacked in my favor, to this day it remains the only year I successfully followed through on such a large resolution.
The only easy thing about new year’s resolutions is quitting them.
I can Google “new year’s resolution statistics” and find results all over the board, but overall, the picture is fairly clear: Few of us follow through. We might start out with all of the good intentions, but major changes to ingrained habits are difficult to embrace for the long term. I know I’m not alone. I can practically feel you nodding along as you read these words.
I think you would also agree that we have had a rough couple years. We are nearing the two-year mark of a global pandemic that we all naively thought would be over within a few months if we all just cooperated and closed everything down, and we are tired.
So I’d like to propose an idea: Collectively, as a group, we agree that this year’s resolution will be that there will be no resolutions. Nobody will declare 2022 to be “their year;” no one will make any grandiose plans. We won’t look 2022 directly in the eye; we will just offer up this easy-to-follow resolution and back away. Quietly. We were perhaps too bold with 2020 and 2021, too intent on taming something that could not be tamed.
There can be power in a new year’s resolution. We can do this, my friends. Happy new year.
Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer and editor who lives and works in Duluth. Write to her at email@example.com.