Well, it’s been almost two full months since the new year started. How have those resolutions been working out for you? (My apologies to those who consider the term “working out” an obscenity because you had decided to make doing so one of your resolutions but have found that fighting with yourself to keep at it has been more than enough exercise). If you’re like me, they haven’t worked out at all because you didn’t make any. Maybe it’s because we’re smart enough (or just brave enough to admit) that choosing to make a change in our habits/lifestyles/job/relationships/financial situations/fill in the blank with whatever part of your life you believe needs improvement just because the calendar says it’s the first day of a new year is about as wise as those of us who live in Wisconsin choosing to wear shorts and a T-shirt for a picnic in the park just because the calendar says it’s the first day of spring. Sure, we can fantasize about how we would like things, but it doesn’t take much time for the cold, harsh reality of where we are to send us running back to the warmth and comfort of where we really want to be. Nature can be a real mother, can’t it?
I guess I have come to realize that truly wanting to make a change and being disciplined to do so takes more than flipping over a calendar and thinking, “Well, I guess it’s time to drop 50 pounds.” It takes a lot more than a specific date to cause you to alter behavior that is, in all likelihood, a part of your nature. Or at least the part of you that has come to believe it is your nature. Because whether you are prone to having high blood pressure because it is hereditary or whether you have convinced yourself that your high blood pressure is just a natural result of your high-pressured life, that condition has, over time and out of habit, become a part of who you are. And changing that takes time, discipline, effort and, most importantly, something – either an incident, an epiphany, a new understanding, a source of determination, an Oprah-esque “ah hah” moment – that gives you that much needed whack upside the head and shouts “HEY, YOU WITH THE MOUTH! IT’S TIME TO STOP YOUR YAPPING ALREADY. WHY DON’T YOU TAKE A BIG CUP OF SHUT THE HELL UP AND START DOING SOMETHING NOW?!” And believe me, there is not much yelling, even the motivational kind, going on the day after New Year’s Eve. Not if it was a good one anyway… The fact is, the whole “new year, new you” campaign that fitness centers and health food companies promote every January is about as successful in getting someone to do something she may not really want to as handing a teenager a shovel after a snowfall and expecting him to do something productive with it unless you add “or else I get the car keys and you get to take the bus to school all next week.”
I have subscribed to the Tony Robbins theory that people need to “get disturbed” before they make a change. That disturbing thing could be a health scare, getting a credit card bill in the mail and realizing that even the minimum payments are beyond what you can afford, rummaging through your over-stuffed closet and finding your junior prom dress stuffed behind your parachute pants and Mork suspenders, or looking into the mirror and thinking “OMG, I am starting to look like the human version of the puppet, Madame!” (If you’re too young to know who Madame is, then congratulations, you probably don’t have that problem. But make sure to “Google” her so you know how to recognize the warning signs.). I also subscribe to the theory that the mere fact that the calendar says it’s January 1st is not enough to get someone disturbed…unless that someone has woken up not knowing how he got home from last night’s party or out of the clothes he was wearing or in any of the pictures he ended up being tagged in on Facebook the next day. Disturbing epiphanies can happen at any time of the year. And the sooner you start doing something about them, the better chance you will have of making the change you want. Put it off until after the holidays because that’s the “best time”, and there’s a good chance that it won’t happen at all.
Which leads me to the next thing…Maybe that change, whatever it is, isn’t really something that’s going to happen anyway. Let’s face it; if we’re not internally motivated to do what it takes to change a habit and to make that changed behavior a part of who we are, there aren’t enough January firsts in a lifetime that will cause us to do it.
Robin Williams plays former psychologist Cozy Carlisle the movie “Dead Again,” and when Kenneth Branaugh’s character mentions the fact that he’s going to try to quit smoking, Carlisle comments, “Someone is either a smoker or a non-smoker. There’s no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that. If you’re a non-smoker, you’ll know.”
So maybe that should be the goal. Find out who you are and be that. Life is too short to spend time beating yourself up for trying to make yourself into someone who is not genuinely you. Maybe powdered sugar donuts really are your best friends. Or maybe you drink an entire pot of coffee by yourself…by 9:00 am…and then make yourself another pot just in case that wasn’t enough. Maybe you are someone who has made Facebook her main news source and only social outlet. Maybe, thanks to Netflix, you have gotten to know sitcom families better than your own. Perhaps you’re just a powdered sugar donut-eating, over-caffeinated, Facebook-stalking Netflix addict. The question is, does this make you happy or disturbed? If you’re happy, then, as the song goes, don’t worry.
If you’re disturbed, then resolve yourself to do something about it. Start today. Resist the urge to help yourself to that donut, tempting as licking that powdery goodness off your fingers is. Instead of turning on Netflix, play a game with your kids tonight. Walk away from Facebook and tackle one of your “someday when I have time” projects this afternoon. I am not Catholic nor do I feel the need to give up something for Lent regardless (I am more for adopting a good habit this time of year rather than giving up a bad), but if that will help you get started, pick something now and quit it for awhile. Make February 19 the first day of your new year – the day you find out who you are – and be that.
And speaking of…I guess it’s time for me to be a blogger and get this thing posted so I can get on with my morning. That second pot of coffee won’t make itself, you know.