Counting down toward another New Year, I resuscitate my abandoned list of Things to Do and run my eye over the so-called resolutions I cheerily, and – yes – resolutely, proclaim year after year. The list is in no way unique; indeed, it comprises the standard jumble of platitudes that are enumerated on anyone’s typical inventory: I resolve to follow a healthier diet, watch my weight, get enough sleep, do more good deeds, etc., etc., etc. As with the case of many such lists, mine mainly catalogues ways to rectify some bad habits. If I feel really brave, I add a few items that might, in the words of prayer, “forgive” some unintentional “trespasses.” Then I follow my usual scenario: I methodically write out my resolutions on a tidy lined index card, place it in my purse, and promptly forget I put it there. That is not to say that I actually forget the resolutions I have written down. In fact, I usually hold to the “easy” ones for several weeks. But gradually, over time, my routines and inbred idiosyncrasies reassert themselves, and the list of good intentions simply ebbs, like a slow but inexorable tide, back into the sea of the familiar and the everyday … until next year, when I attempt to revive it once again.
When my resolve collapses, I chide myself on being lazy and void of a commitment to my ideals. But, then again, maybe it is the very notion of correcting disagreeable habits and righting inadvertent wrongs that is the deterrent. Resolutions that serve only to fix or amend or ameliorate a situation imply that too much of everyday life is, somehow, in need of revision. Revise what? None of us, after all, is perfect. And, therefore, there is no reason why any of us has to be a corrections officer for our lives. Of course, I can and should take a firmer stand regarding how and when ! correct some of the petty habits I have that annoy other people, such as interrupting them when I become overexcited in a discussion. And, I guess I really should eat right more often. But I may simply be taking the wrong approach to creating and following through on a list of resolutions.
Instead, we might, all of us, devise a set of resolutions chosen purely for the sake of enriching our lives and opening up new horizons. Adventures. Invitations to test our wings and try things we may never have attempted before. Like riding on the back of a motorcycle or traveling by balloon.
A friend of mine advises: “Learn something new every day.” That something does not need to be grand or earthshaking. It might, of course, be a resolution to – finally – take the family on a vacation to a place you have all dreamed about but never imagined ever finding the time to visit. But it might also be something as simple and straightforward as trying a new food or learning the meaning of a new word. Even more meaningful might be to mark a slight alteration in an everyday routine. One friend makes a point of taking a different route to work every few weeks to keep herself focused on how the scenery around her hometown changes from month to month and season to season.
In terms of horizons and adventures, I realize that, as I grow older, my own personal expectations have been modified. I acknowledge that I no longer feel the need to be the pioneer of my life, nor even its homesteader; rather, I have recently discovered that I want more and more to be its gardener, caretaker, and minister. Once upon a time I wanted to go everywhere and do everything, and now I find that I prefer staying closer to home, and that’s okay by me. I have quite a number of friends, though, who undoubtedly will travel to and explore the farthest corners of the earth every year of their lives; when we go to their houses, maps and guides are piled high, and their Magic Markers are ready to trace a new route. Instead, I resolve to spend more time in the places I have come to love, and to make the most of my time there, both as a writer and a casual artist – and as a friend to anyone who comes to visit.
Our apartment, which was crowded last summer with the paraphernalia and energies of our two boys at home, is now as quiet as the purr of the cat. David has moved into his own apartment; Peter has started college (and will graduate in the next millennium, with the class of 2001 … will they hum the theme of the Sydney Pollack movie when they receive their diplomas?) One of the more mundane resolutions inspired by this transition was to go through the closets and rid ourselves of everything we and the boys no longer care about. Letting go of things is, in a funny sort of way, almost as hard as letting go of children. Things are familiar, like feathers in a nest. One hopes for no regrets. But, this year, we decided it was time to take stock of what we live with – as well as where we are, where we are going, and what we want from the rest of our lives. We haven’t answered the last three questions to our satisfaction yet. But we resolve to. Soon.