As I sat down to make New Year’s resolutions a few days ago, I realized that the usual suspects for this operation – intemperance, impatience, cattiness, career, cardio – were banding together in self-defense, fending me off with their collective flabby triceps. What? They cried in protest. Leave us alone! How are we the problem?
I saw their point.
The project of making New Year’s resolutions rests on the premise that the obstacles to our goodness and happiness are under our control. Yet as we emerge from the whirling tornado of bad news known as 2016 – the first year in my lifetime to be so universally reviled, though if anyone was around for 1982, that really sucked for me personally, and as my daughter points out, our much-whined-about bad year was a Caribbean booze cruise compared to your average twelve months in the 17th century – we are bruised, disillusioned and disheartened. It is hardly time to renounce whatever guilty pleasures we have left. In fact, it may be the opposite, as in the case of a friend who hadn’t had a drink since the turn of the century – he resolved on Election Day to go on a four-year bender. Another friend who constantly worries about her reckless love of Coke Zero – she drank two at lunch the other day.
You can relax, dear little vices. You are safe for now.
In short, though I believe I called in my last column for like-minded comrades to stop weeping and get off the couch, these are tough times for self-improvement. Perhaps we should return to the couch and devote our spiritual energy to fantasizing about a better world, because from here, 2017 looks like another shit-show. Can you even wait for Inauguration Day? I know I can’t.
Instead of resolutions, I have started a list of wishes and dreams I can, unfortunately, do very little to bring about. Feel free to add your own!
Somehow Donald Trump will go away
No more beloved celebrities or family pets will die before their time
No more cruel disappointments in love or work
Health crises all manageable
Weather inexplicably begins to return to normal, even at risk of puffing up climate change deniers
Somehow Donald Trump will go away
Horrible maniacs in Syria and elsewhere come to their senses
Racism, bigotry, hunger, and firearms vanish from the face of the earth
Drugs legalized, U.S. police force begins LSD micro dosing, peace and justice bloom
College tuitions down
Urban water supply up
Women worldwide awarded control of their bodies
Somehow Donald Trump will go away (and take Mike Pence with him, while he’s at it)
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, speaking of beloved celebrities who died before their time and gun control. So get that list you made on Sunday. If you really think it will make you feel better to use your gym membership, stop cursing at your children, plant a vegetable garden, submit your poetry to online journals, park legally, reduce your carbon footprint, organize your cabinets and throw away everything in your house that does not bring you joy (I will probably have to write a whole other column on this topic, because I swear to God I’m going to do it or die trying), anyway, if there are do-able things on your list that are really going to brighten your days, go ahead and put your nose to the grindstone. Or if you resolved to try to play whatever small part you can in service of the ideals above, I admire you and wish you Godspeed.
Otherwise, ease up on yourself. Unless you are a thieving white supremacist who sells drugs to middle schoolers and actively opposes Planned Parenthood, there’s nothing you are doing that is really making anything that much worse.
P.S. To Faithful Readers
While I realize that “don’t be so hard on yourself” is a theme I have been promoting relentlessly since the 1980s, it may be the only worthwhile insight I have ever had. Or it could be that producing rationalizations and excuses for lax morality and bad behavior is my true calling. In any case, I’m not going to worry about it right now for the reasons just stated. Maybe I’ll have a new idea in 2017. Stay tuned!