Saturday, January 9, 2010

What's your New Year's Solution?

Mummers kickin' it Philly New Year style.
The thing about New Year’s day is, unless you are heading to Philadelphia for the annual Mummer’s Parade, there isn’t much left to do, what with Hanukkah and Christmas under your belt — and around your hips, thighs and abdomen. Nothing much to do except update your New Year’s resolution list.
So there you sit with your hand in a bowl of leftover onion dip, thinking about your life. And once you start dwelling, there’s no end to the remorse you feel over all the obvious bad things you do.
Time to make some new friends?
You secretly smoke. You eat chunks of real butter. You curse at the dog. Regular exercise means brushing in a circular motion twice a day after meals. Your best friend lives in a bottle and his name is Bud Weiser.
And now, just because the clock has struck midnight for the 366th consecutive day, you decide you’ve had it with your unhealthy lifestyle. Again.
Well, before you crush your last pack of Marlboro’s or pay the MasterCard bill for that Wii Fit you charged in a moment of desperation, I have to tell you something very important: DON’T DO IT!
That’s right. This year, I’m urging the public at large not to make a bunch of noble resolutions they will fail to keep.
First of all, take a look at the word “resolution.” Break it down, as your high school algebra teacher would say.
Re-solution. Sounds to me like solving a lifetime of mistakes again and again, year after year.
And the reason that we make New Year’s resolutions each and every year?
Do I see a hand in the back of the room? Yes, you there, with the light bulb over your head.
That’s right. We haven’t been using the correct dictionary.
So now that we’ve broken it down, let’s look it up. I’m using Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
“Resolution: noun; 1. the act or process of reducing to simpler form, as the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.”
Ah HA! It seems we’ve been approaching this New Year’s resolution thing all wrong by asking, “What bad unhealthy habits can I break this year?”
The obvious answer is: none of them. If making resolutions every year worked, we’d all be living a clean, sober, bad-habit-free life. We’d all be rich, due to our bountiful savings accounts. We’d have rippling abs, low cholesterol, and be working part-time as a volunteer at the local homeless shelter.
If only we’d looked it up sooner in Webster’s Ninth, we’d have known that to have a happier new year, all we have to do is reduce our lives to a simpler form.
Consider the stressors that lead us to overeating, overdrinking, oversmoking, overworking, oversleeping, underexercising and generally underachieving, especially when there’s something good on HBO. It’s really not the basics of life that lead to our frustrations — working or parenting or being married or being single. It’s the complications that get us.
We smoke because we think it calms our nerves. And our nerves are shot because we haven’t figured out how to simplify our lives. We drink too much because the buzz feels better than the burn we endure after working out. We settle in and watch others' lives pass before our eyes on the latest reality TV series because, frankly, we’re too tired to have a live of our own. After clocking out, stoking the home fires, and scrambling after the loose ends du jour, we're lucky to make it up to bed before falling asleep on the couch.
We eat too much because it’s the only productive thing we can do when life feels overwhelming. We don’t need better eating habits. We’re all familiar with how to right our toppled food pyramids. We just need to be underwhelmed.
Workaholics know, deep down, that the only thing really gained by overworking are more reasons to overwork, leaving less time to enjoy the life you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
And often, we oversleep when we’ve spent half the night staring at the ceiling, counting our worries like sheep. So enough with the worries already.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this year should be the last year anyone will have to labor over which resolutions to make, keep and break. I urge you to start this New Year by getting your hand out of that bowl of onion dip in a hurry. It’s time to find your New Year’s Solution.
If it’s a kinder, gentler, simpler life you need, then figure out what you can do to simplify your life this year.
I should start by cleaning out all the closets in my house. Then, I’d have a place to put all the stuff that piles up everywhere which makes me feel overwhelmed by how messy things are in my world. That’s not just a metaphor. But I know that endless clutter isn’t the underlying reason for my other bad habits.
By definition, all I have to do is make it simple, once and for all.
So, here’s my five-step solution to reduce stress and guilt in 2010, which should do it, once and for all:
1. Prioritize my daily to-do list, making sure I never again lose sight of who and what is most important to me.
2. Hug the ones I love every chance I get.
3. Be honest. About everything. Especially to myself.
4. When things feel overwhelming, take a deep breath and say out loud: “In the scheme of things, this is not a big deal. I can handle anything.” Then, go and handle it.
5. Lay off the onion dip.
Now it's your turn; what's YOUR New Year's Solution?