Just Saying: Where resolutions go to die

By Shelley Wildgen

What was it this year? Dry January? Perhaps a banishment of carbs, gluten, red meat - or all three? Maybe you opted for the stalwart stressing less, sleeping more or sleeping less, moving more? They’re all noble resolutions and pretty doable for a while. The cycle that just keeps on giving, year after year. Clumsily, we climb aboard the lofty promise train out of the winter of our discontent, knowing all the while that we’ll easily be granted permission to disembark our chubby, well-intentioned promises before the spring thaw.

Dry Januarys often get a little damp before February, and food restrictions? Well, they struggle the hardest to be heard, really. Poor, weary, annual diet resolutions are up against the most frequent temptations. I mean, we could cut out all those fatty, crunchy treats if they’d just stop calling us in the middle of the night. Soooooooo we succumb to the pressure – leaving our warm weather thighs to look not much different than the festive ones we scolded, except that they run the risk of being exposed on a beach at a moment’s notice.

But that sleep thing. That I like! I first heard about the nationwide sleep shortage through Ariana Huffington sometime last year. She gave it a springboard on talk shows, wrote an entire book about it and it’s been sliding into conversations ever since. Apparently, as a society we need more sleep. Oh yes. It’s blamed on technology, work demands and all the regular visitors to the stress table. But increasing sleep as a lifestyle choice? Really? This I can do! And I did. All winter long. Excelled at it.

Hey, how about resolving to take up a hobby? Could that resolution possibly hang on all year long? Bit of a struggle, I must say. Reason being, doesn’t a hobby get its start from a true passion? It’s really hard to turn it around. As much as I would love to have a splendid piece of needlepoint or a quilt to flaunt after a winter’s worth of stitching, it’s about the stitching part -- tedious, tiresome….NEXT!

And there is always a ‘next’. We have no shortage of lifestyle changes we attempt to impose on ourselves. Annnnd, coincidentally (?) most resolutions are in direct juxtaposition to how we’ve just spent our recently applied festive season months. We take on too much prep stress so we need more sleep, we eat too many carbs so we eliminate white food, we drink too much so we dry up, we’ve devoted days, weeks and months to searching for gifts other people want so we then vow to create more ‘me’ time. I daresay all our superstar resolutions are simply solutions to the pre-meditated excesses we’ve just inflicted on our November/December selves.

Generous surveys reveal that most of those promises have dissolved into denial by mid-March but that’s okay because that’s when our focus naturally turns to refreshment and new beginnings. Springtime is on the horizon and all is forgiven.

Nowhere is this cycle of excess and redemption clearer than at a gym. I spent a few years working on the front desk of a local gym where membership sales were governed by the time of year. We counted on slow summers, a back-at-it rise in September which trickled to only the most disciplined exercisers by December and true to our natures, the influx of January new beginners who trailed off by March. Disciplined exercisers continued through spring and by summer the halls were hollow.

The other day I caught a clip of comedian Jim Gaffigan proudly announcing he’s kept his New Year’s resolution by managing to eat pasta every day. Yeah, fanning our fatty shortcomings is our best weapon in this ongoing seasonal discourse. It’s kind of a thing we do as humans and, yes, sometimes even we surprise ourselves. Back when everyone and their granny were smokers, the head of the New Year resolution class was always to quit smoking. It was a tough one and most of us needed those few days of abstinence just to clear the blue fog from our partied out lungs. But not always. Occasionally, someone managed to push through and keep on quitting for the entire year and the years after that. Most of us know someone who did it. They quit smoking New Year’s of ’99 and stuck with it. Of course, they’re bigger than a house now but smoke free and able to smugly strike one off the list.

So as sure as day follows night and winter follows fall, we’ve created comfy seasons of hope and despair for ourselves. Aren’t we clever? It’s not like we don’t already have enough cycles in a lifetime, we’ve actually taken the season of over-indulgence and countered it with a season of deprivation then we repeatedly tie a nice springtime bow on each messy wad and call it even. The annual planting, reaping and sowing of our very souls.

So, as I roll my not quite carb-reduced, slightly drowsy and undrunk self out of bed this morning, here’s what I humbly suggest, you know, for next year. Let’s keep our expectations tidy. We can make resolutions that stand the test of season change: paint a room, pick stray wrappers off the streets, stop pitching wrappers on to the street, exercise kindness, cook dinner for someone – anyone, change our hair colour…

Never mind. The tulips are up.