Sunday, January 14, 2007
With last year’s decidedly mediocre results in the forefront of my mind, I have great expectations for this year’s nearly identical New Years Resolutions. Until last year, resolutions have been an unmitigated disaster for me. In the last few days of every year I would begin thinking about what I would like to change about myself and my life in the as yet unspoiled year ahead. I always put great mental effort into conceiving, writing down, ordering, and selectively announcing my new resolutions. And for some number of days, usually in the single digits, that effort was sustained. My problem was that I believed one slip up, however small, meant I had to start over again next year. I think I felt this way, and, to be honest, still feel this way, for two reasons. First of all, I suffer from a virulent and debilitating form of perfectionism. I abandon many projects, tasks, and aspirations long before they reach completion because I become aware of my inability to carry out said projects, perform said tasks, or fulfill said aspirations in a manner that meets my expectations for how these projects, tasks, and aspirations should be carried out, performed, or fulfilled. I have high expectations for myself and others; and big and beautiful visions of what is possible. Secondly, I am wedded to cycles. Every part of human life is cyclical, and thus has a prescribed time for beginning and ending. Tasks/experiences can be daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly in nature. Dental hygiene can be a week to week thing. It can also be seen as bi-yearly (attuned to dental visits) or even yearly (more on that in a second). The bottom line with this second point is that I see many tasks as only able to be commenced at particular times. If you slip up, or miss the start all together, you have to wait some amount of time to have another crack at it. So, if I drank and smoked and was overweight, and I pledged to eat less, exercise, and quit smoking and drinking as a part of my celebration of the New Year, I would be great until my will power lapsed and I had that first truffle, Winston, or hit of Jack. And then I would be sinning away until the next January. Last year, something different happened. My two big resolutions involved sugar and dental hygiene. I pledged to be more dedicated to one and less dedicated to the other. I rang in the new year at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic last year. Dessert was an ‘included’ feature, and I felt that my own selfish goals couldn’t possibly trump the maximization of the money spent on the trip by my in-laws. That resolution never survived my selflessness. The dental hygiene regimen never survived my failure to pack my toothbrush. I might easily have been done for the year, but I went to the dentist in February and was told that I had a cavity. This was the very first cavity I have ever had. This was a traumatic event for me. It was, in some ways, a more shocking sign of aging than turning 30 had been. I was so shocked, that I decided to revive my Resolution. I managed to stick to a very strict regimen of flossing and brushing (each one more than twice a day) for about six months. The move to the East Coast threw me for a loop, and I lapsed, but I had never before had that much success with a resolution. For the first time I started to believe that I could change, and that, despite the fact that this change was small, future change might be larger. Last year was, for me, a time to realize the startling wonder of mediocrity. I still have much to learn about small successes and making the most of mediocrity, and I am looking forward to the role 2007 can play in that process. This year I hope, again, to improve my dental hygiene regimen. I also am again planning to limit sweets. I am happy to report that I have already lapsed on both accounts, but still have great hopes, and not just for 2008.