The Road to Hell …

Well, you know the rest. It’s paved with good intentions. Every year, usually during the alcohol-fueled bonhomie of New Year’s Eve, we perform the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.  Over 95% of the resolutions made are based solidly on good intentions. Of course, there’s always that 5% or so of not-so-good resolutions some people might make… the ones left unfulfilled because of the fear of civil or legal repercussions, or the actions of vengeful spouses.

For the rest of us, the arduous task of keeping our resolutions starts the morning of January 1st. To quote Shakespeare, “It was the winter of our discontent.” A few weeks into the New Year – or if you’re like me a few days – we realize that maybe we bit off more than we could chew. Then lo and behold, it’s almost the end of January and we’re facing a moment of bitter shame inner reflection.  When this happens, we go into three stages of reactive consciousness:

  • Hey! I still have eleven months to do it. I’ve got this. Eventually. Maybe.
  • That was a stupid resolution to make in the first place. No-one would ever keep that resolution.
  • Did I even make any resolutions for this year? I should really get on that for next year.

Researchers at the Foundation for American Intention Loss (F.A.I.L.) have determined that the failure to follow through on New Year’s resolutions is the second most common reason for self-loathing among Americans; the first being the failure to vote last November.  I tend to agree with them. That’s why I decided long ago to stop making New Year’s resolutions.  I have plenty of other ways to generate self-loathing, which I do fairly well I’ll have you know.

Instead, I took to heart the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!” Okay, so look. That’s just a saying. I wouldn’t really eat an elephant. Elephants are like my third favorite animal, right behind horses and pigs. Plus, I hate hunting. And I don’t eat meat. So yeah, it’s just a figure of speech symbolizing how one handles a large problem or issue. Not really condoning the eating of elephants, people. Just wanted to make that clear.

The point is, rather than set one large 365-day goal, I’ve set 365 small daily goals.

Now, I don’t want to go all “Dr. Phil” on everyone, but I find it much easier to accomplish daily “baby steps” than to try to accomplish a resolution of say, “I’m going to write a novel during 2018.” Resolutions are like term papers. You think you have plenty of time to finish them, but you wind up pulling an all-nighter the day before it’s due. Where’s the fun – or learning – in that?

BUT, when you make a small resolution each day, accomplishing it is quite easy. Start reading a book. Call Aunt Eleanor. Give a cheerful “Hello” to the checkout clerk who always looks overwhelmed. Clean the bathroom. Take the dog for a walk. Don’t rage at the rude drivers. Okay, so some are harder to achieve than others. Learn something new. Organize my closet. Well, maybe this one should take two days. But you get the idea.

Soon you’ll notice a change. The self-loathing-o-meter readings will start to drop.  Your family and friends will notice your increased self-confidence and hopefully brighter demeanor.

Better tell them what you’re doing for 2018 though…lest they think that you’re up to something.

It’s Not Just a Ball Dropping

Once again, New Year’s Eve is upon us.  Some see it as a reason to celebrate the end of a year. Others, especially the seasoned partiers among us, call it “Amateur Night.”  Still others view it only as an excuse to stay up late to watch Anderson Cooper get picked on and the ball drop in Times Square. In its simplest form, it’s a day that marks the completion of a specific period of time, and while that sounds boring, it’s not really. We celebrate the fact that after 365 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes and 38.4 seconds, this large chunk of rock and water travelling at 67,000 mph (yes, that’s faster than a speeding bullet) we call Earth, has arrived at the same spot in the universe it left 12 months ago without hitting something and spiraling wildly off into space killing us all. Hmmm, I guess that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate.  Before I go on, let me take my Neil deGrasse Tyson hat off (and hope that the smarter ones among us, I’m looking at you Paul, don’t end up correcting me on my figures – I worked hard on that).

As we complete each year, New Year’s Eve holds a special place in my heart. And while I’m not big on the whole resolution thing, it’s always been a moment of self-reflection. New Year’s Eve, especially this year, is for me a confluence of emotions that bring back a lot of memories and presents thoughts about what might lie ahead for me as I make plans for some serious changes in the coming year. I know, heavy, right?

This year, I’m celebrating my own version of the ancient Roman holiday of Carmentalia. It was a festival celebrated around this time of year in honor of the goddess Carmenta. She had the power of looking back into the past, and looking forward into the future based on what she learned from the past. Pretty nifty gift if you ask me, and don’t we all wish we had that power? The power of using what we’ve learned from the past wisely.

I feel that I should take a moment to explain. The time around New Year’s Eve always represented a personal trifecta for me. I was born on December 30th, a last-minute tax deduction for my father. I won’t say what year it was, just know that the AARP has me in their membership sights. Discounts at Denny’s are great, but yeah, not yet. Of course, there is the “normal” reason for celebrating.  I made it through another year without blowing anything up, or getting sued for anything I’ve written here. And miraculously, my kids and animals are all still alive, as is the one plant I’ve laid claim to. Go me! And this December 31st would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I say “would have been” because my divorce was final this past January, hard on the heels of my 18th anniversary.  Believe me, that was a positive event despite also being a disappointing one. And since then, the dating world opened up in front of me in all of its anxiety-inducing glory. I know, it’s weird, right? Glorious and exciting, but weird nonetheless.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate Carmentalia. And I’m going to have a little chat with Carmenta herself. I need answers. Where have I been, where am I going, just what the hell is up with Tinder?

I have big plans for the coming year and life changing events are on the horizon. It’s a thrilling and good-scary time, and long-overdue. Ever the realist though, the raging introvert in me shouts, “Yeah, okay, so you’re starting a new adventure in 2018, but let’s not go overboard, okay?” I guess I do have a New Year’s resolution after all. And that’s to put my hands over my ears shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!”

In the meantime, placating the introvert in me actually sounds like a peaceful way to usher in the New Year and ready myself for what’s sure to be a wild ride. So, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will find me ensconced on my sofa – with some equally introverted company, grazing on leftovers and sipping on a lovely Moscato a friend gifted to me, while the TV alternates between a 24-hour marathon of “Psych” and the showing of all 6 “Thin Man” movies. I know, I know, it won’t be the chaos that is Times Square when the ball drops. But, hey, it’s not like I can completely disregard who I am after all. And why would I want to? Plus, this will no doubt ease my mind and prepare me for the next 67,000 mph race around the sun.

Bring it on 2018 and Carmenta. I’m ready.

Confession Time

So, while I did not make any “true” New Year’s resolutions per se, I did make a somewhat small vow to be a better, nicer, more tolerant person by reigning in my bad colorful language (as it is directed at others, even if said persons are completely unaware of said tirades against them), especially when driving. It’s not going well. Just in case you were interested.

Happy New Year, Happy Life

Another year has passed us by and the year coming…well, let’s just hope for the best, shall we? I thought about resolutions this year, but the thing with resolutions is – they are all too often made half-heartedly and therefore easily broken. Plus, who says we have to make serious commitments to life-altering changes only once a year? Wouldn’t it be better to make adjustments as the year, and life, wears on?

Deciding on foregoing resolutions will certainly help one’s self-esteem – no resolutions made, no resolutions to break and feel guilty about later in the year month week. I mean, seriously, who needs more guilt?

Be a better person. Live a better life. Take chances. Those are resolutions worth making and would hopefully be easily kept. As for that diet or exercise regimen? Sure, make those too if you want, but just remember, promises casually given, even to oneself, are easily broken. In which case, don’t beat yourself up for it…I have no doubt throughout the coming year there will be times when you will feel the need to change some aspect about yourself or your life – seize it! For all intents and purposes, those decisions, those opportunities, they are your New Year’s resolutions, even if they come in July.

May Your Troubles Last Only as Long as Your New Year’s Resolutions

The holiday season is coming to an end and as always it’s a little sad that the year has flown by. We’ve eaten too much, spent too much and binged on too much spiked cider…okay, well, one can never have too much cider…the point is — now we’re at the finish line about to watch the big metal ball drop. As the clock inches ever closer to zero on 2015 my mind starts racing with thoughts of what’s to come and, more importantly, how I want the future to look.

Come New Year’s I have a pretty steady habit of falling into the inevitable pit of denial that is typically referred to as the “New Year Resolution.” Ahhh, so many grand plans, lofty goals, and stellar aspirations! You may be familiar with what I’m talking about. The affirmation that this will be the year that you stick to that fantastically slimming new diet or never waver from an unimaginably boring exercise schedule or god forbid just being more patient with all the other people in the world (yes, even the really annoying ones).

I make these plans as if the cycle won’t repeat itself and these resolutions won’t go down in flames by the second week of January. But, as history shows, while I’m awesome at coming up with these wonderful ideas, I am severely lacking in the follow through. And that’s kinda the part that counts. I’m reminded of Seinfeld… “You know how to take a reservation…you just don’t know how to hold a reservation.” The same could be said for resolutions.

So, why do we even make these hollow promises to ourselves? Why do this to ourselves year after year? More often than not, as we’re scraping the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or letting loose a steady string of obscenities at the car ahead of us who wasn’t moving fast enough to let us speed through the yellow light, we end up feeling horrible. Okay, well maybe I don’t feel too horrible about the Ben and Jerry’s — have you even tried Karamel Sutra!? Oh my god it is sooo good! Who can resist? Certainly not me.

But the point is – with resolutions; we’re once again reminded that we simply can’t always stick to all of the things we feel we have to improve upon. And maybe that’s not the point. Perhaps just acknowledging that we’re not perfect is enough of a positive step.

Or perhaps that’s just a BS excuse that’ll make it that much easier for me to watch my new running shoes collect dust in the back of the closet.

 

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions

Road Rage Resolutions

Every good superhero has a compelling origin story. No good guy worth his or her salt lacks a detailed and gripping road they traveled down that can explain why they are the way they are. Sometimes the origin story makes the hero the sympathetic or noble or frightening or admirable character he or she is. Same goes for villains.

I have my own origin story that can explain the “super power” I’ve come to harness with great responsibility today. And it is this power that I am hoping to banish (or at least use much less of) come the New Year. Twenty-seven years ago I was involved in the only car accident I’ve ever been in, and it wasn’t my fault. It was my first taste of someone else’s stupidity, and while I emerged from the accident alive (I won’t say unharmed), I soon realized I had become empowered with a scorching new ability: Road Rage.

I’m not talking about the road rage where I carry a weapon, jump out of my car at red lights, and bludgeon people for their traffic faux pas (although I do know that I am in danger of having that happen to me if I continue on the way I am). The road rage I harbor comes in the form of scathing obscenities, mean looks, and fingers wagging furiously in the direction of whoever provokes my ire. I see some idiot  jerk  ***hole fellow driver in front of me who turns on their blinker half a second before deciding to make a sharp right turn and the power unleashes itself, bursting forth from my throat like a harpy’s cry. A Cadillac going 25 in a 45 weaving across the lane with no clue where it’s going drives me freakin’ insane.

Sure the cathartic release I have in the moment is relieving, but I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m thinking further than those initial five seconds. What is this road rage really accomplishing? Is anyone becoming a better driver because of it? Certainly not me. And really, isn’t it actually only raising my overall stress level? More importantly, given my own questionable traffic behavior, do I even have a right to complain about what other people do?

I’m not what you might call the best driver. I know this all too well about myself. So the road rage is sort of hypocritical on my part. Still, I can’t control the evil thoughts that spring up when someone else on the road does something that makes absolutely zero sense.

I do feel a bit of remorse when—after cursing at a car that has wronged me—I see that the driver is an itty-bitty elderly person or a teen with a fresh face and an equally fresh driver’s license… and I’m thankful that they haven’t burst into flames (my wicked thoughts materializing into a reality).

So. I’m starting to think that maybe it would be good idea, spiritually speaking, if I tried to become a better person by reining in my road rage. At least a little. (Well, maybe a lot.) The first step of course would be to assume that maybe the person in the other car is simply having a bad day or a bad moment and made a little mental error, not to make me upset, but because their mind is temporarily preoccupied by something more important.

Case in point: Just the other day I was on my way to the movies. I approached a traffic circle where you’re supposed to yield before entering when there are other cars going round (so as to oh, I don’t know, avoid a collision). Well, a car happened to be going round so I slowed down to wait my turn. The person behind me immediately — and I mean immediately — starting honking at me and of course I started to yell and curse something about needing to yield at a traffic circle when there are other cars going round and how stupid did you have to be not to know that. Unfortunately, the person I was yielding to thought I was directing my rage at them and gave me this look of utter confusion that said “What do I do wrong?”

I felt horrible because they were only doing the right thing but got caught in my rage crossfire. To make matters worse, the idiot behind me went on their merry way not knowing or maybe just not caring that I was simply following the traffic rules… because that’s what idiots do. Had I taken a more calm mentality, or Zen approach, let’s say, I would have let the idiot’s (damn!) person’s rudeness roll off me and the innocent victim wouldn’t have been accidentally berated.

So this New Year’s I’m resolving to be more patient on the road. Is it achievable? We’ll see. I’m going in optimistic, but there are a lot of fools out there and I don’t know if I can bite my tongue for all of them. Fingers crossed. And mouth shut.

 

road rage stress

 

A Resolution Worth Keeping in this Year of the Horse

 

I know that I made a bit of a fuss in a previous post about how many of us, certainly myself, are going to make some pretty lofty promises to ourselves for the coming year. We’ll then watch those oaths peter out quickly as we scrape together legit justifications that deep down we know are just lame cop outs. “Hey, I’d totally go to the gym if it didn’t look like it was going to rain sometime in the next few hours,” or “That lasagna is healthy. It has a bunch of zucchini in it,” or “I know I was going to cut down on shopping but how can I not buy cashmere at this price?”   We’ll somehow become masters of the impenetrable excuse.

But this year there is one resolution that I will keep. And I know I’ll keep it because it’s something I actually find fulfillment in doing…which is always a plus.  Exercising, dieting, financial responsibility…boring! There is just one resolution I can’t wait to make a reality. Namely, continue to do what I can to make a difference in the well-being of animals. This isn’t a new idea. If you know me you know how passionate I am about animal advocacy, but I am more determined than ever to make a difference in the lives of the creatures we share the world with.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of evil in the world and a shocking number of people are all too willing to exploit or destroy animals; animals who, frankly deserve better. I mean, for god’s sake, dog fighting is still an industry! Can you believe people engage in that?  Not to mention the continued slaughter of our horses.  Don’t even get me started on that one because I could talk your ear off….and none of it pleasant.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many small ways to contribute that can and will add up to a big difference. This is both a terrible and an uplifting thought. The great thing is that becoming more deeply involved won’t be hard and I’ll be welcomed with open arms (as would anyone who wants to help). The depressing part is that the only reason it’s so easy to join in on such a worthwhile cause is because there are so many acts of cruelty being done out there.

Yes, this resolution is one I can’t help but feel good about and who knows?  Maybe it will end up being contagious. 

Not to be a complete contradiction I am also going to try harder at the whole vegetarian thing. Yes, yes, I know I’ve stumbled in the past, but hey, it’s a new year and that’s the whole point of these resolutions, right?  Let’s start fresh and make those changes we want to see.  And this change is something I’m very determined to make within myself so it’s a goal I know won’t fall by the wayside.   I hope you stick with me as I work on this one.  I’ll share my successes and my failures.  It will keep me honest and provide motivation….as if I needed more motivation. 

So bring on 2014!  The Year of the Horse, yes!

 

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Artwork by the very talented Susan Monty
(click photo to visit her site)