Resolution Revolution


So I made some New Year’s resolutions for 2011. I do that some years. Not every year, but some, with varying degrees of success.

This year I even learned something about it:

The key to being successful with resolutions lies in how you measure and define success.

I believe that wanting to improve is already an improvement- though not enough of an improvement.

Gretchen Rubin’s excellent book The Happiness Project is based on New Year’s resolutions. Umm . . . neurotic and obsessive New Year’s resolutions. I enjoyed the book even though her approach is totally not my style. Early on she says something about how there’s a difference between being depressed and just not being very happy. I read the rest of her book, but also, because of that, I got help. So I owe a little something to Gretchen Rubin.

I read her book at the end of 2009, and for 2010 I came up with six categories that I wanted to improve in. That’s it. No giant lists, no things to check off, just six parts of my life that I wanted to be better. When I got to the end of 2010, five of them were improved.

For the hell of it, in 2011 I did a longer list, in a few different styles. I’m not one who believes that lists must be done a specific way in order for them to work. In fact, I mostly rebel against lists of all types. But I did this list of resolutions for 2011.

Some I did affirmation style: I put out a blog post every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

Others were check-off items: Take a Zumba class. Sell something on eBay.

I reserved the right to get to them when I got to them. This is the first blog I’ve ever done, but I didn’t start it until February 22. I didn’t look at my list of resolutions after the first week of 2011 and lament that I would never be a blogger. I got to it when I could get to it.

I reserved the right to decide I didn’t really want to do them after all. I did two solid months of writing down the Word of the Day before I felt like I could let it go, because I found I just didn’t care that much.

I reserved the right to count any forward momentum a success. One of my resolutions was to finish The Norton Anthology of Literature By Women this year. It’s a book that I’ve been carting around with me since Christmas of 1995 but never opened, and it’s 2390 onion-skin thin pages in eight-point type. I figured out that if I read ten pages a day I would make it. That gave me plenty of room to blow it off- two days a week, in fact.

What happened, surprisingly, is that I was riveted. I couldn’t put the damn thing down (which is saying a lot, because it’s not easy to hold). I was inspired to read more by certain authors than just the excerpts included in the anthology. I downloaded  and polished off Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, sat through two different film versions of Jane Eyre, and was still way the hell ahead.

Until July, at which point I got bogged down in Rebecca West. Her Indissoluble Matrimony, to be exact.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get though that piece. It probably merits more consideration. Perhaps I’ll put that on my list this year. Or not.

Anyway. I eventually plowed through Ms. West and kept on, but I never regained my momentum and now with about 48 hours left in 2011, I’m on page 1615. Seven hundred and seventy-five pages short of my goal.

I consider this a resounding success. That’s 1615 pages more than I would have read in this book this year had I not made the resolution. I refuse to beat myself up for falling short and have no plans to get all jacked up on quadruple espressos to stay up from now until next year to try to finish on time. Though I do intend to finish.

In the past when I’ve done lists of resolutions, I’ve gotten frustrated by what I perceive as lack of progress and just bagged the whole thing and stopped even trying. That old perfect-or-screw-it mentality.

I dunno. Something about getting older is helping me mellow a little bit there. Something about acting as a parent is making me more realistic and optimistic, and more able to recognize small successes (as well as the fact that the world does not revolve around me, and who gives a rat’s ass anyway if I have an extra cookie?).

One of my favorite ways to start on my New Year’s resolutions is to begin them in the old year. A goal for 2009 was to begin a regular meditation practice, so my friend Polly and I went to a Learn to Meditate class in the last week of 2008.

This year- just Wednesday, in fact- I’ve started tracking all my money on a ledger sheet. Pen and paper. I haven’t yet decided if the 2012 resolution will be some new agey affirmation like, “I track all my income and outflow on paper and it brings abundance to me,” or if it will be, simply, “Money.”

But I’ll figure it out. And whatever it ends up being, I’m already ahead.

Meanwhile, the only resolution I have for 2012 so far is this:

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Enjoy the end of your 2011.

I’m Not Trying This At Home

I’m perusing Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Facebook page. I have to back up a moment here and say that I really respect Gretchen Rubin. I bought this book in hardcover last year and loved it, even though I was unable to implement a single suggestion.

The Happiness Project made me realize I was seriously depressed. The irony is not lost on me. She mentions early on in the book how there’s a difference between just not being happy and actually being depressed and honestly, that was what spurred me to get help. I owe a large debt to Gretchen Rubin for that.

I was then able to accept about myself that I simply do not have the capacity to manage and track my life to the degree that Gretchen does in her book. The Happiness Project is full of ideas that I like to daydream about, in no small part because they always make me very tired at the energy they would require were I to actually carry them out, and then I get a bonus nap.

Anyway, she put up a request for her readers to list suggestions of April Fool’s Day jokes that she could play on her daughters. I was happy to see this because I have been wondering the same thing: What can I do for April Fool’s Day, that won’t lead to a trip to the emergency room or the need for any other type of intervention from the authorities?

Then I started to read the suggestions from her fans. It became clear to me that her readers share a lot in common with her, namely being pretty organized and capable of staying on top of things in great detail (defined here as something more than being able to locate all your children and not leaving the house without wearing pants). Here are some of their suggestions for April Fool’s Day jokes, and why they won’t work in my house.

-Glue their toilet paper together
Umm, they wouldn’t notice. We regularly are without toilet paper for days at a time in their bathroom before they tell me. I do not know what they use instead of it.

-Put towels in the sleeves of the jackets – just enough so they can’t get their hands through! This would involve 1)knowing which sweatshirt of their Dad’s they plan on swiping that morning when I make them wear a jacket, 2) finding it and 3) being allowed to use dirty towels.

-Fold the top sheet of their bed in two and put the cover as usual. They will not be able to get into bed. This implies that we make the beds and that they have both a sheet AND a cover of some sort.

-Crumble a biscuit into their bed. Wouldn’t notice (see above).

-Put a sign on their backs without them knowing that says “Hug Me”. We’re really more of a “kick me” family.

-Mix up all their morning ritual stuff – toothbrush in the shower, shampoo where the blow drier belongs, etc. This assumes that these items actually have a place that they are regularly returned to. This would be erroneous. This could only lead to the blow dryer going in the shower and electrocuting somebody.

-Pour cheerios and milk the night before and freeze it!! They won’t eat Cheerios!! On the off chance that there is both a breakfast cereal they will eat AND milk, there probably won’t be room in the freezer, and it will be the day they want toast anyway.

-Super glue coins to the sidewalk.
Yeah, if my sidewalk were made of WOOD. And they hadn’t stolen all my change. And let the dog eat the Super Glue.

-Hide three items in the house labeled 1, 2, and 4 and tell them you will take them for ice cream when they find ALL of them. I don’t even understand this. What happens when I pull a joke I don’t understand? Do they then explain it to me? It sounds like it just costs me ice cream.

-My best was waking my kids up 15 minutes early and telling them i was 30 minutes late HURRY! I work nights, for God’s sake. 15 minutes is a damn lot to ask.

-The best one I ever did on my KIDS was that I told them that the lawn mower was broken, and the homeowner’s association was about to fine us, and so I needed them to cut the lawn. I gave them each a pair of scissors and a ruler and said, “Make it about 1-1/2 inches.” My sons (twins–maybe 7 years old at the time) grabbed the scissors and began chopping away with glee. My daughter (11?) said, “MOM! My FRIENDS will SEE me!” and I replied, “Well, start in the backyard then!”…I let them go for 5 minutes, and then said, “APRIL FOOLS!” BWA HA HA HA HAAAAA! Okay this woman is my HERO. This is quite possibly my favorite kid practical joke ever. Unfortunately, my “lawn” is so small you actually could cut it with a pair of scissors, in about ten minutes. Here’s what would happen if I tried this. I would first have to find the scissors, which, even though we have at least six pairs in our house, are never where I think they should be. This would take at least half an hour. Then I would set the kids out there, cutting away with the scissors, go pour myself a cup of tea and completely forget that I was in the middle of an April Fool’s joke, and they would be done cutting the “lawn” before I finished my tea. Oh, and we don’t have a home owner’s association, and if we did they would have mandated martial law on our property by now.

-The principal at my kids’ school agreed to write me a letter that says our school is changing to 12 month school years and summer holidays will be ending after only a few weeks. Definite potential. But I think our principal hates me because when he called me that one time about how #4 had paid a boy to run into a tree, I laughed.

-Tell them you are pregnant! None of us would believe this. We all know better.

Best twelve bucks CC ever spent.