Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new calendar year is here. 

In the great passage of time it is really a meaningless blip on the universe’s radar. To many humans it is a time of again trying to start over from an arbitrary marker on the path to self-improvement. Most New Year’s Resolutions fade away rapidly into oblivion and disappear mercifully. Others go out in a blaze of short lived embarrassment. 

Why resolutions fail

Resolutions fail largely because of their name. A “resolution” is a “formal intention of resolve”. Who are we kidding here? Most people can’t do anything formal, and most human intentions are mired in the miasma of self-servitude. To be “resolute” implies a stiffness, and conjures images of matronly, freeze dried nuns patrolling classroom aisles with rulers poised to thwack indolent fingers. 

Resolute is a resignation to failure. One is resolved, or given over to the Dark Side of failure before one has even started. It is being condemned to sinking before the ship is launched, a Titanic size hole already gashed into the vessel’s hull with no lifeboats or shout outs on board. No Scotty to beam one up :-(

Black is failure, white is success in the world of self-imposed resolutions. We judge ourselves by comparing our inevitable weaknesses to an unachievable standard with the white bar set so high it cannot be reached. In reality the world is grey, a million shades of gray, but none are pure white. The one white soul was born December 25 and His work is in progress. 

Grey is Okay

Instead of resigning oneself to predisposed failure, one should expect at least 365 shades of grey. Latitude for actions attempted daily is a human quality that is normal and inescapable. We need to go easy on ourselves for being what we are- human and flawed. Just as it is in the makeup of a fish to swim or a plant to seek light, humans are going to miss achieving perfection in the human world. But just as inevitably as the fish keeps swimming, and the plant keeps growing upward, humans keep trying even though they will not reach a state of achieved perfection. The trick is to realize where in the grey in okay.


So instead of making resolutions we know we will fail to achieve, for 2014 let’s all create expectations we have a good chance of reaching. Excluded are autonomic functions like breathing and making our heart beat. New Year’s Expectations are small steps along a longer path. Included in achieving each expectation are pats on the back and forgiveness for backsliding. Every day can’t be better than every previous one. Shit happens. We get sick, circumstances descend on us that are out of our control, like a pipe bursts or the car battery dies or we trip over the dog and sprain a wrist.

But we can learn to recognize that we have done something positive we hoped to do that day, or that just appeared unbidden. Like writing a chapter in the novel we are working on, or paying bills that were due today without forgetting. Like looking out the window, seeing the older neighbor struggling to shovel the walk and putting on our coat and helping because it is the right thing to do. 

Deciding to take a positive action is a huge expectation achieved. Some days we may actually take the step and pat ourselves gently on the back because we did it. Some days we may not take the action we want to because we are human. Then we take the action of forgiving ourselves for being human, and that is achieving the expectation from a different perspective. Some days we end up in the light grey, some days in the darker gray, but grey is okay.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to expect a great grey day. And the more we look forward to expecting to achieve something realistic on a gray day the more we are okay. And that is an expectation that is more white than grey. And okay.