Open Thread: New Years Resolutions

I don't really like New Years Resolutions. I don't mean that I don't like following them, I mean that I don't like setting them. I don't like thinking about them. I don't like the entire exercise: I feel like I have to sit down and come up with something I do badly so that I can then resolve to do better. It's such a negative process for me. And then there's the fact that 99% of my "resolutions" are things that I was already trying to work on anyway only now it's somehow official because it's January 1st. It just seems strange and arbitrary and upsetting, so I'd already resolved not to do any this year.

Then I saw this quote in the Believing in Ourselves daily calendar:

I made no resolutions for the new year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning, and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.

Anaïs Nin, novelist and diarist

Oh my god. Anaïs Nin (who I had never heard of before, so I'm learning something already today) totally clarified for me why I don't like New Years Resolutions.

I don't like New Years Resolutions because I'm already doing them every moment of every day for my entire life. I'm constantly judging myself based on the feedback I receive from the people around me: am I too loud, too introverted, too pushy, too big, too smile-y, not smile-y enough? I hold myself to an impossible standard of work ethic -- I need to be a more productive employee, a better wife, a kinder daughter, I need to blog more, write more, answer more emails, read more, review more. I need to take better care of my body, carve out more time for yoga and bike riding. I want to start another deconstruction, maybe two, maybe a dozen. My to-do list is easily a hundred items long. And when I stop and smell the roses and play video games instead or watch TV, it's always to the backdrop of a tiny little voice of blame: you should be doing something else right now.

This is normal for me, and -- I suspect -- normal for a lot of other people. There's a constant chatter in my brain of things-to-do, behavior-to-fix, changes-to-make. It's not debilitating for me in any sense; it's just the background noise of a socialization that asks for perfection. And because of this -- because I am already doing my darndest to be perfect -- New Years Resolutions seem like a laughable exercise. Make a decision to do something better? When am I not doing that??

So when someone asks you this year what YOUR New Years Resolution is going to be, feel free to give them this Anaïs Nin quote. And then tell them to go look her up on Wikipedia, because she is absolutely fascinating. Among other things, she is "hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica". I'll bet you didn't know that, 'cause I didn't.



Kit Whitfield said...

Among other things, she is "hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica". I'll bet you didn't know that, 'cause I didn't.

Er - I did. She's a pretty good writer. Catholic in her tastes, sophisticated in her style.

As to resolutions ... well, I've only kept several resolutions at once successfully, and that was when I was in the process of a program of self-care anyway.

I find the most helpful way to make a resolution is to resolve to do something I'd really like to have finished, but might sacrifice doing because it'd only be me who benefitted. So, for instance, I once resolved that I'd actually get around to hanging some pictures I loved on the wall of my study. Doing it made my life nicer, but it was easy to put off, and making a resolution helped.

A big resolution based on self-criticism like 'I smoke too much' or 'I drink too much' or 'All ladies think that they weigh too much' (to lift from Ogden Nash's 'Curl Up and Diet') isn't very likely to stick because self-criticism is exhausting. I've actually been most successful at losing weight when I reformulated the whole thing in my mind to make it positive: my mantra was 'You need to eat.' I just made sure that I planned my meals and focused them around healthy things that I could describe to myself as giving my body good things rather than denying it bad ones. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I think a lot of new year resolutions fail precisely because they're based on dreary self-hatred that we're used to tolerating, but if we can work out ways of making a resolution that feels like being nice to ourselves, I think it might stand a better chance.

Ana Mardoll said...

Er - I did. She's a pretty good writer. Catholic in her tastes, sophisticated in her style.

LOL, yeah, that was me being silly, because I knew that SOMEONE here would know. We've got such an eclectic group. :D

Michael Mock said...

Yep. I'm all in favor for pausing to self-assess, but I already know perfectly well what I'm trying to accomplish and how likely those things are to actually get done.

cjmr said...

The one thing I'm trying to do, although I started several weeks ago, is get myself back down to the bare minimum of caffeine I need to consume to not suffer constant headaches. I wasn't expecting trying to do so would leave me so damned exhausted all the time, though. I must be getting older or something...

Amaryllis said...

It sounds kind of silly, but my resolution, once again, is to get more sleep. I think I might have an easier time with all the rest of it if I were less tired all the time.

It's just hard, sometimes, to give up that quiet time late at night in favor of having tomorrow morning get here even sooner.

So my mantra will have to be, "You need to rest." Close the book, log off the computer, get up out of the comfy chair and go to bed.

Good night!

Will Wildman said...

I like my boss's system, as he recently explained to us: he too hates the standard resolution format, the denial and the criticism and et cetera, and so instead selects in each year a thing that he thinks will enrich his life and resolves to integrate it as much as possible. For 2012 he has decided he needs to appreciate cheese, and so has obtained a huge book about the production of cheese, intends to learn everything he can, and then for the rest of the year will sample various types and learn about cheese criticism and connoiseurdom and so forth. Previous years' enrichment resolutions included wine and jazz. (I assumed he had been a jazz fanatic for his entire life, based on his ridiculous knowledge in the field and his adoration for its every form, but apparently it's only been three years.)

I think I'm going to try that style of thing out, but I can't decide if I should start with Pacific Asian music or cuisine. I do want to cook more, but I am also still in the process of shedding weight - how hard would it be to find resources to become a master of only the most nutritious and healthful parts of traditional Chinese food?

Loquat said...

Given the number of Chinese restaurants I've seen that offer "steamed, not fried" alternatives, the resources are definitely out there. You may also find benefit in recipes designed for/inspired by Buddhist monks, since those tend to be light on meats, fats, and other indulgences. (Though I don't know what kind of diet you're aiming for - for all I know you're going Atkins and loading up on animal products.)

If you're at all interested in Szechuan cooking, my sister recommends Fuschia Dunlop - she gave me Land of Plenty for Christmas, and as soon as her January exams are done we're going to get together and do some cooking out of it. You do need to be careful with the Szechuan peppercorns, though, as they contain a mild neurotoxin and will leave your mouth feeling like you just had dental surgery if you eat too much at once.

icecoldblank said...

After years of doing the "diet, quit smoking, exercise more" resolutions, I finally decided to go a different route last year, similar to this method of enrichment rather than punishment. Last year I made a resolution to read 10,000 pages worth of novels, because I love reading and wasn't reading enough... Little did I know that 10,000 pages was really just too easy, I finished that in June.

This year I am resolving to write in a journal every day of 2012, because I think it would be nice to keep better record of how things are going in life. See, it's all about enrichment for me...

storiteller said...

It sounds kind of silly, but my resolution, once again, is to get more sleep. I think I might have an easier time with all the rest of it if I were less tired all the time.

I totally have the same resolution. If there's one horrible thing I do to my body on a regular basis, it's deny it of sleep. I would be horrified if I ate in an equivalent matter because of the impact I know it would have my health, but for some reason, getting only 6 hours of sleep seems okay.

My other resolution is to be more appreciative of the stuff I'm already doing while I'm doing it. I actually just wrote about it on my blog. I actually started it already today. I tried to really look at the scenery as I walked to the gym and stopped reading on the computer while I was eating a piece of cranberry cake so I could really enjoy it.

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