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I Resolve to Find a Better Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas (cue humbug). I’ve got nothing against the holiday, per se, but I really don’t like what we do to ourselves (and each other) in the name of all that’s holly and jolly. We shop, we make, we clean, we bake, we run around with big, nervous smiles embedded in our faces. There’s the expectation that we’ll get this holiday to be the best one yet, but when the ribbons eventually come off, we’re exhausted, and left wondering why we don’t feel all egg-noggy and cinnamon-sprinkled about the whole thing.

And then, only a week later, we make ourselves promises about the coming year. I will get my squishy, cookie dough butt to the gym and will make my muscles the consistency of fine Italian marble by Valentine’s Day. I will climb at least three rungs up the professional ladder. I will keep my new rhododendron alive at least until summer. And then I will pretend I never promised any of this stuff, lest I end up looking like a first-class dork later on.

I don’t know about you, but I work pretty hard, all year long. I’ve done my best in 2018, both at times when the universe gave me a cookie for being a swell gal, and when it flipped me the bird and said “Let’s see what you do with that.” I’m light years from achieving perfection in any one area of my life, but I’m not a slacker. Never have been, never will be. I’m not keen on the inevitable guilt trip that will come if I make resolutions, and then can’t fulfill them (and yeah, it’s gonna happen that way). So I just don’t make them anymore.

But what to do instead? I mean, just because I don’t make resolutions, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to pay respect to the year about to tap out, and welcome the one waiting to come in. Attention must still be paid. I’ve come up with a couple of alternatives, suggestions that still give a nod to the changing of the temporal guard, but that won’t make me feel like sheepish, inadequate garbage at any point next year.

First alternative: choose a personal theme song for 2019. Find a catchy little tune to play as a condolence whenever life appears to go off-book, or as a victory march when things work out. It should embody who you are, and your general goals, without being specific enough to set you up for failure. Really, it should be more about your frame of mind than about specific tasks or projects, and yeah, if you get part way through the year and find it isn’t cutting it anymore, you get to change it. Since I’m more about playlists than about single tunes, here’s my top 5 list, in no particular order:

  1. Ukulele Anthem, by Amanda Palmer
  2. What a Difference a Day Made, Jamie Cullum Version
  3. And She Was, by Talking Heads
  4. Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell
  5. Raise Your Glass, by Pink

Okay, so maybe a theme song isn’t direct enough, or it won’t work because you can’t pin it up above your desk. Fair enough. There’s also great value in a slogan or a catch phrase. Choose a quote to light your way through 2019. Use it as a mantra, or a battle cry (depending on the level of zen in a particular situation). Heck, choose a whack of them, make multiple copies on sticky notes, and plaster that business all over the place. Words pack a pleasing wallop. For myself in 2019, I’m thinking of:

“My optimism wears heavy boots, and is loud.” Henry Rollins

“I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.” Dorothy Parker

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” C.S. Lewis

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh

“You are what you settle for.” Janis Joplin

There, now isn’t that a whole lot less intimidating than solemnly swearing to read War and Peace or single-handedly finish the bathroom reno? You can still start a new year with intention, without having to adhere to a specific checklist. You can set yourself in a general direction and enjoy the ride, take advantage of the pleasant surprises along the way, and not be too thrown off by the bumps in the road. Best of all, you can maybe come to realize that life, the universe and everything don’t unfold in one-year chunks, if they unfold at all. We are ourselves on-going projects, impossibly complicated and lovely.

Happy 2019, all. I wish you beautiful theme songs, poignant words, and a palpable lack of resolutions.