The New Year (any new year) is the time for resolutions. According to the bored folks who track these things, 90 percent are broken within the first 30 days. The top 10 (according to Google and some writer in Pittsburgh) sound all too familiar and here they are.
As for moi, I used to write them on holiday stationery and hibernate them in a time capsule, which was sealed with blood. (I’d pull a hangnail and that seemed to do the trick.) These macabre pledges would then be tucked in with the holiday ornaments, destined to reappear the following December when I’d tear open the dried blood spattered envelope and regret everything I never did do. This year my resolutions = 0, so I’ll have no envelope to face in December 2011.
Here are the 10 top resolutions and some not-so-terrific outcomes from family, friends and myself in the hope that our experiences will help you avoid the error of our ways.
Resolution No. 1 — Spend more time with family and friends
Three winters ago, a howling blizzard hit during the first night of a sleepover for my four nieces, ages 5-13, during the holiday school vacation. The visit? Let’s just say that after spending an hour getting everyone dressed for tobogganing, they stayed outdoors for 8 minutes and 12 seconds and yet were able to destroy my neighbor’s century-old Japanese maple and ruin my $ 30 pair of suede gloves after shoving them into Mrs. Frosty so she would have hands.
At the end of the three days from hell (I mean their visit), the youngest chirped, “We had fun auntie, can we come back next year during winter vacation?” I’ve decided I’d rather move to Boca.
Resolutions 2 and 3 — Get fit and lose weight
It’s been an awful year of cravings, and for me, weight loss is not a laughing matter. It’s a life and death struggle between the death of chocolate cake and the life of lentils.
Way back when, after seven years of marriage, I never got that proverbial itch because I couldn’t bend over to scratch it. My size 8 wardrobe had been sealed cryogenically in the basement for five years and size 12s sprouted in my closet with alarming regularity. Out went the tight little denim vest and in came the tunics. My ski pants were purchased in the maternity department and I gave up belts in favor of a challis scarf tied around my shoulders (camouflage). My shoes got tighter, and if I couldn’t appear at some social occasion in fancy bedroom slippers, I just didn’t go.
My youngest sister attempted the Atkins Diet: the diet with no sugar or carbs — you live on all the meat, cheese and mayonnaise that you can stuff in your face. After day eight of no fruit, no cereal, no pasta, no bread, you fantasize about robbing a Pepperidge Farm delivery truck. My sister, who consumes more chocolate and Tostitos than the state of Massachusetts, devoured a whole chicken and a 6-pack of diet Jell-O by noon. By 3 p.m. it was “who cares,” as she ate her way through a family-sized box of Hostess cupcakes. Within one hour she had set a new world record for the most corn popped and then the hot-air machine overheated and died.
Anyway, my words of wisdom are from Barbara Cartland, a woman who knows: “After 40, a woman has to choose between loosing her figure or face. My advice is to keep your face and stay sitting down.”
Resolution No. 4 — Stop smoking
You would think that with a pack of cigarettes costing close to $10, most folks would have already quit, but heck, nicotine is an addictive substance. My friend started wearing the patch and she was able to quit smoking, but now she’s addicted to the patch. Last summer she kept her blouse on to go swimming because her arms have round pink welts that look like needle marks for a dinosaur.
Resolution No. 5 — Enjoy life more
Pleasure is a relative term and is seldom found by spending time with relatives. In 1841, William Makepeace Thackery advised, “If a man’s character is to be abused, say what you will, there’s nobody like a relation to do the trick.”
Pleasure, for many, is a guilty pleasure, but a recent New York Times article advised, “When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it actives the area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life.”
Let me tell you about my best friend’s hobbies — doughnuts and shopping. Her life changed when she discovered that there’s a Dunkin Donuts within walking distance from her house.
Even though she craves her doughnuts, she’s finally discovered that the lethal combo of trans-fat, sugar and hundreds of calories makes the triglicerides spike and the pancreas sputter.
She is also a shopaholic who absolutely believes that the most beautiful words in the English language are, “50 percent off.” Her credo is that shopping is like motherhood — courageous, optimistic, undervalued and exhausting. Her favorite stores are those with restaurants inside and a “Happy Meal” is sharing a table with overstuffed shopping bags resting on the seat next to her.
Resolution No. 6 — Quit drinking
You imbibe too much if you can answer yes to any of these questions. Have you at any time woke up at a party and found yourself under a pile of guests’ coats on a bed in the spare bedroom? (It was my best friend’s holiday party 20 years ago and she woke up when the clock struck midnight and found she was clutching a strange mink with a Shalimar fragrance.) Since that night she drinks Pellegrino.
Have you at any time called in sick for work because you were A: too hung over to find your shoes or, B: still drunk from the night before? Sadly, one of my friends can answer yes to both those questions but she was 28 then and didn’t have a clue that alcohol impairs those little gray cells that she now guards jealously.
Most people drink too much because having a buzz not only loosens the tongue but it breaks down the wall against intimacy of all kinds that many people have constructed in the hopes of protecting themselves. Alcoholics Anonymous says that for many, alcohol makes people feel “self-confident and at ease.” Yes, it’s true, alcohol is the No. 3 killer after heart disease and cancer.
Despite the lampshade on the head and the party personality some folks inhabit when inebriated, in reality, once that buzz wears off, depression can set in. So not only are you poorer (alcohol isn’t cheap), you’re depressed.
Resolution No. 7 — Get out of debt
If your hobby is like my mom’s friend, you’re in big trouble. Step No. 1 is to cut up all your credit cards and always wear a large nametag that says, “I AM ADDICTED TO SPENDING MONEY I DO NOT HAVE SO PLEASE DO NOT LET ME.”
This otherwise very sane lady used to be the kind of person who figured that if she had checks left she must have money. Now she doesn’t even have checks.
Sadly for us we live in a media-driven shop-till-you-drop culture that says shop and you’ll feel better (and save the economy). The vast majority is concerned more with what they have or can buy rather than who they are or what they can become. Keeping up with the Jones costs money — too much money.
Resolution No. 8 — Learn something new
Brain cells die as we age if they are not used in new and demanding ways. The Journal of the American Medical Association and the website for Retirement Living TV tell you to keep your brain sharp by taxing it with short mental workouts and by learning new things every day.
Watching television actually makes you less smart and reading increases your IQ as does listening to classical music. CAT scans have shown that there is brain shrinkage as we age. There is hope though! Back in 1999, in what was then a groundbreaking study, it was shown that the brain could continually grow new cells, especially in the cerebral cortex (the part of our gray matter responsible for the big decisions and learning about the world). Read Keep Your Brain Alive by Lawrence Katz, Ph.D.
I agree with a guy called Dave who lives in Manchester, N.H. who said in 2006: “To keep the brain sharp and alert, turn off Fox News.”
“In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways,” said Edith Wharton
Resolution No. 8 — Help others
Even though more than 295 billion was made in charitable donations in 2009, the bulk of that was donated to organizations with high overhead. The percentage of trickle-down to the needy was disappointing. Find a way to be hands-on with your giving, not just write a check. Give of yourself, your time and give even when it’s hard to give. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.” (The Bible, Luke 12 verse 48)
Resolution No. 10 — Get organized
I know someone who spent $300 on a two-day seminar on how to get organized. He came away with a box full of binders, folders, Post-It-notes and a humongous calendar. Unfortunately for him that was 2 years ago and he still can’t find where he put that box. Yikes.