The Heck With Resolutions

One of my New Year’s resolutions should be not to ever write a column about New Year’s resolutions. The one’s I’ve read throughout my years have been as predictable as they’ve been boring.

They start out telling you that most people don’t follow through on their resolutions, and that if you really want to make one, you should set realistic goals. And they often advise you to be a better person instead of focusing on external goals like making more money or buying a better car.

And yes, we should all be thinner, wiser with our money, and nicer to other people. And don’t forget to quit smoking and to eat more vegetables and to join the gym this year. Otherwise, in your golden years, you’re going to be fat, sick and a few feet short of the pearly gates.

Here’s what I want to say about all of that: I’m not buying into it this year. We Americans are constantly being pushed into self improvement initiatives. Thanks to the Puritans, whose work habits and ethics remain the foundation on which this country was built, we’re always going to be one nice gesture short of sainthood, one pound heavier than a super model, and have one cigarette too many to live to be one hundred.

My resolution this year is to just live. Life is not a personality contest nor should we be expected to perform miracles to improve everyone else’s lives. It’s okay to just breathe once in a while, mutter unkind words to yourself about the driver who cut you off, eat microwave popcorn once in awhile and say no to other people’s unreasonable demands.

People tend to be incredibly hard on themselves. We face examples everyday of people who have a bigger car, a better deal, a nicer house, a Gucci purse. And too many of us chide ourselves for having missed some proverbial boat.

In a society where niceness and selflessness are valued above all, the nicer people get all the attention. We haven’t been taught to value people for their strength or their gumption, so determined, hardier people often get the raw deal.

I love those people who bake cookies for their friends in need, or drop off gourmet casseroles to neighbors who are sick, but if that’s not you, that’s okay. You keep doing you, knowing that your value as a human being is not determined by how many bake sales you contributed to.

I’m not suggesting that we all stop being kind, good and healthy people who set reasonable goals for the future, but I am suggesting that we all lighten up a little. Don’t so much as march into 2019 as glide into it, with a goal of being a little nicer to yourself. If you’re still alive and are loved by your friends and family, you’ve done a whole lot right in your life. I promise you that.

I have a story to tell you that I read once and all these years later it still makes an impression on me:

A yacht owner chartered his boat to groups of people somewhere in the Caribbean. The boat slept twenty, and sometimes two different groups of ten would charter the boat at the same time.

One trip, the boat was chartered by a group of Americans and a group of people from France. The two groups hadn’t met before and they didn’t mingle much with one another during the trip.

Every morning, the French people would sleep in late. They’d arise slowly in late morning, and then sit on the ship’s deck drinking espressos, picking at bread and cheese, and enjoying the morning sun. They’d then chat until late afternoon and then maybe go for a swim or sunbathe until dinner.

They ate dinner late. And then they’d drink and talk until the wee hours of the morning, counting the stars above in the dark night sky.

So what about the Americans on the boat? Do you think they relaxed and just enjoyed the moments?

No, they did not. They awoke very early every morning and laced up their sneakers. If they weren’t near land, they’d walk the deck of the boat to keep up their exercise routine. If they were docked, they’d go on long ambitious hikes, returning to the boat in time for lunch.

They worked on crossword puzzles too improve their mental capacity, said no to cream in their coffee to avoid the calories and went to bed early at night. They had lists of sights they wanted to see at the stops they made, and they built organized itineraries so they wouldn’t miss anything.

There was no spontaneity on the part of the Americans at all. Every moment was perfectly planned, and often centered on self-improvement. They wanted to be healthy, organized, in control and self-directed every minute of the day.

I realize the success of America itself can be credited to our ambitious can-do attitude and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact.

But what I’m trying to say is that as you glide into 2019, try to be a little French. Okay?