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TRUE CONFESSIONS

December 29, 2011
by

I have to make a confession.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Eve.

In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I hate New Year’s Eve.

I hate it hate it hate it!!!!!

When I was little, I hated New Year’s Eve because the grownups were clearly waiting for the kids to go to sleep so they could do something special. They put on their fancy clothes, set out special cocktail napkins, and, as the doorbell began to ring, the kids were sent to bed. I felt excluded and disappointed.

By the time I was allowed to stay up until midnight, the thrill had mysteriously faded for my parents. They weren’t dressing up in their fancy clothes, there were no cocktail napkins laid out, and I could tell they were counting the minutes until the clock struck 12 so they could go to sleep. I remember one year in particular, they went to bed before the ball dropped.Still searching for the magic of the New Year’s Eve moment, I went into the basement with my cat and at the strike of 12 I blew a horn and threw confetti up in the air. As I swept up the confetti before I went to bed, I felt excluded and disappointed.

As a young adult, New Year’s Eve became all about the midnight kiss. We gathered at a friend’s house whose parents had gone out for the night.  Dressed up in our fancy clothes, we furtively sipped Champagne and hoped that a boy would be in close proximity as the ball dropped and he would kiss us as we entered the New Year. It was all about being chosen. I felt excluded and disappointed.

Now as an adult, firmly planted in my mid-50s, I watch others revel and drunkenly clink glasses while waiting for the ball to drop. I listen to the chorus of “Happy New Year” and am surprised to find the old feelings of disappointment and alienation filling my belly. Why would that be? I am no longer excluded from the festivities, I am of legal drinking age, and I have a wonderful someone to kiss me at the stroke of midnight.

I think part of it is the hypocrisy that is associated with New Year’s Eve. I hate that everyone says “Happy New Year,” when in reality most everyone is focused on what is NOT happy about their lives, hence the self-flagellating tradition of the New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year!

As the ball drops, people find comfort in knowing they are part of a community of people who have made New Year’s resolutions. There is hope and a sense of inclusion and yet, more often than not, the resolutions are unrealistic. It won’t be long before they drop the ball of implementing those impossible promises and are, perhaps, left feeling… excluded and disappointed.

Where is the “happy” in focusing on our failures and weaknesses? Where is the “happy” in a collective consciousness of “I am a loser”? Where is the happy in only acknowledging what didn’t work last year and setting unattainable goals for what will make the next year happier than last year was? And where is the new or the happy about people selling products that capitalize on our despondency or desperate annual pursuit of perfection?

Please don’t misinterpret me. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to have goals or objectives for changing our lives for the better. Nor am I saying there is no room for self-improvement; most of us can find ways to take better care of ourselves.  I need to floss more. I know it, my dentist knows it, and now you know it.

But what I am objecting to is the oppressive and negative nature of the New Year’s resolution mindset.

I understand the temptation to use the calendar to define beginnings and endings. It’s part of our culture, after all, to use birthdays and anniversaries as structural tools. So it makes sense to use a momentous date like the New Year to put a new foot forward, so to speak.  But what if we started from a more positive place and focused on what worked well during the previous year and identified things we want to continue to do or expand upon because they worked?

What if we chose resolutions that were less punitive and more attainable; or got really crazy and resolved to do a few things to make another person’s life better? My hunch is that with a few of those types of adjustments to the resolution ritual, there would be less money lining the pockets of the Jillian Michaels and Jenny Craigs of the world, and less depressed people in March when the momentum of the unattainable resolution has predictably waned. I may be way off the mark here, but I think the current system is broken and it wouldn’t be that difficult to resolve.

Here are a few tips:  Feel free to add your own suggestions!

  • Steer clear of all or nothing goals. Remember there is a middle ground in making behavioral and attitudinal changes.
  • Start small. You can always increase your goal later on… no, you don’t have to wait until next December 31to set a new goal.
  • Choose measurable goals and objectives with positive reinforcements along the way.
  • Create resolutions that are health-focused and not weight focused.
  • Co-resolute (I just made up that word) with a friend or a group. This lessens the chance of feeling disappointed or excluded. (OK, maybe I’m projecting my own personal issues in this one).
  • Remember what is wonderful and amazing about you!

 

  • Floss  🙂

See you next year!

Warmly,
Dr. Deah

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2011 10:49 am

    What excellent observations on the negativity surrounding resolutions. Personally, I prefer to pick a goal of something I want to achieve in the following year. I may not make it, but I have always taken steps to achieve that goal and when I reflect upon the year passed, I can see the progress I made in pursuit of that goal.

    There’s absolutely no reason to “fix” something about yourself, unless you know it’s causing you harm, in which case, that change isn’t a negative, it’s a positive. Focus on making your life better by improving those areas that you want to improve because you want to improve yourself. Losing weight for the sake of losing weight doesn’t improve anything. Even if you could succeed and sustain the weight loss, nothing has changed but the substance of your body. That doesn’t bring extra joy or extra peace to your life. Maybe it makes you feel better, but it won’t improve who you are as a person.

    There’s so much positive stuff you can focus on in the New Year that the whole negativity thing should be an afterthought.

    Thanks for putting all of this in perspective, Deah.

    Peace,
    Shannon

    • December 29, 2011 3:28 pm

      Thank you Shannon! And I hope you are exactly where you want to be and doing whatever makes you happiest as the ball drops!

  2. L.J. Utter permalink
    December 29, 2011 12:23 pm

    Two simple resolutions: Eat more veggies and grains, and support local businesses. I see all these tasty recipes for veggies and I’m dying to try quinoa. I love to cook, so it’s just doing it. I also see all these little restaurants and businesses and would love to wander in. But, if I eat at Applebee’s or don’t play with brown rice til April, I’m not going to beat myself up.
    I wish I could say I was doing something fun for New Year’s, but it’s the one night a year I am mandated to work. Whatever anyone else is or isn’t doing, have a good time at it 🙂

    • December 29, 2011 3:27 pm

      L.J. now of course I am filled with curiosity about what kind of work you do! Your attitude of self-acceptance is refreshing. Not beating oneself up is a goal that many of us probably could practice!

      • L.J. Utter permalink
        December 29, 2011 4:43 pm

        Probation, Deah. I make sure people on house arrest are where they are supposed to be. The amusing thing is we have to work Saturday to ensure this “drinking holiday” is supervised. My DUI alcoholics call it “amateur night” LOL

        • December 29, 2011 4:57 pm

          GOT IT! Well, the work you are doing is super important! Thank you for the sacrifice, really, you are making it safer for a bunch of folks out on the roads!!!

  3. Mulberry permalink
    December 29, 2011 1:00 pm

    I don’t think it’s focusing on being a loser so much as it is a time of redemption. A time of hope where you (theoretically anyway) CAN make things better if you so choose. It beats saying, “Another year shot to hell” and leaving it at that.
    What’s your opinion of Jewish New Year? You know, where you spend a week apologizing for whatever bad things you did the previous year and resolve to do better the next year.
    Is there a collective push to set unattainable goals specifically at New Year’s? I don’t think so. You’re an adult, you set whatever goals you choose, or don’t set them at all if you choose not to.

    • December 29, 2011 3:24 pm

      Mulberry, you pose several thought provoking questions. Re: Jewish New Years, I used to love going to my temple’s band aid ceremony on the New Year. The Rabbi handed out band aids to the entire congregation and you turned to a friend or family member and apologized for something you did wrong and gave the person a band aid and the person would say, I forgive you.” It was a lovely ritual about social interaction and taking personal responsibility for how your actions impacted others. I see a qualitative difference between that type of resolution and the ones most people are asked to take on by the Oprah magazines. In my piece I believe I clarified that there are ways to use resolution time for personal growth and for altruistic actions, and I’m not uncomfortable with that. But as you perfectly stated, it is about choice and I suppose I am more in the mindset that each day is an opportunity to resolve to be a better human being as opposed to this more artificial Hallmark opportunity to be a thinner, prettier, more perfect looking/acting person.

  4. vesta44 permalink
    December 29, 2011 1:21 pm

    Odd woman out here – I never had New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because, from the time I was a child, I saw people make them, only to fail at keeping them. Failure is not something at which I wanted to be successful (if that makes sense), so I never made those resolutions.
    Don’t get me wrong, there have been things about my life I have wanted to change, and I have done so, but not by making a resolution. I’ve looked at what I wanted to change, what it would take to attain that change, and then worked toward it in small increments. And all the while, it wasn’t set in stone (so to speak) that this was a change that had to be made and I had to be successful in making or I would be a failure.
    And I certainly didn’t miss the partying on New Year’s Eve. I like my sleep too much to want to stay up just to watch the ball drop (now if Holmes on Homes is on, that’s another story, I’ll miss sleep to watch him in action).

    • December 29, 2011 3:30 pm

      Vesta, sounds like your astuteness as a kid has worked in your favor! And I love Holmes on Homes! 😀 I’ll bring the popcorn!

  5. December 29, 2011 3:40 pm

    I made no resolutions for 2011 and have actually made the most change in my inner thinking. It’s been a wonderful feeling realizing that! Instead of using 2011 to lose weight and get into shape (that standard resolution I felt forced to make) I ended 2011 no longer worried about how I look or not being accepted for not being thin enough. I thank the Health At Every Size movement for that!

  6. December 29, 2011 4:44 pm

    I’ll toast to that! 😉

  7. December 29, 2011 6:22 pm

    I don’t make resolutions; I make plans. If they don’t get completed, so be it; however, they always get put into action. Like, 2012, I’ve resolved, will be my Year of Language Learning. I’ve been meaning to start learning Spanish for career reasons, but I also want to try and learn more Hebrew, or Korean. (The Korean alphabet is actually refreshingly logical once you memorize it.) I’ll put those plans into action – I’ve already ordered a Spanish book and am trying to make plans with a mate to go to a class. If I make headway, it’s icing on the cake.

    • December 29, 2011 6:34 pm

      새해 복 많이 받으세요
      Feliz Año Nuevo
      Shana Tova

      CC, I don’t know if you read my blog in which I talk about how if I had one super power it would be to know every language possible. There are few things as important as being able to communicate with other people, in my opinion anyway, and knowing languages is like having the secret key to sharing feelings, knowledge, jokes, opinions, etc. Enjoy your year!!!

  8. lifeonfats permalink
    December 29, 2011 6:45 pm

    For the last several years, my resolution was to NOT make resolutions. I find that I am happier, mentally and physically, for doing that.

    That still isn’t going to stop me from celebrating though. This year though, it’s going to be a combination of gambling at the slots, eating at Denny’s, and watching our local fireworks at midnight. Remember, you don’t have to dress up with a date and drink champagne to ring in the New Year.,That’s another thing that bugs me about the holiday—that if you’re not part of a couple, you’re pretty much a loser. Screw that!!!

  9. December 29, 2011 6:58 pm

    YES YES YES YES YES!! And lucky you to live someplace where they have fireworks! That sounds like a treat!

  10. Heather permalink
    December 29, 2011 7:41 pm

    I loved the video song of Bing Crosby and Bette Middler! Wow, that was beautiful! That shall be my goal. I really really need to apply that motto. Thank you!

    • December 30, 2011 2:14 pm

      😀 So happy you enjoyed it. Bette Midler always a Zaftig fave of mine!

  11. December 30, 2011 12:12 am

    I like to give myself a gift each year instead of making resolutions. I don’t mean material things, necessarily, but gifts of the spirit. A couple of years ago, I gave myself voice lessons and singing has become even more of a joy in my life. Last year, I gave myself permission to avoid a particular person in my life who did not seem to want me to feel good about myself. I have not decided what my gift(s) to myself will be this year, but I know it/they will be great. Now that I think about it, if I were going to make a resolution, it might be to give myself more gifts of the spirit.

    • December 30, 2011 2:15 pm

      Fall, being able to do that for yourself is, well…it’s a gift! 😉 Thanks for sharing those ideas, they are inspirational and also give me some ideas of what I can look at during the upcoming year!

  12. December 30, 2011 2:08 pm

    I’ve practiced Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism since 1968 and New Years is the big holiday in the Japanese tradition–a chance to start fresh, so there’s a lot of house cleaning and paying off of debts before the end of the year. I fondly remember my first new year as a Buddhist in 1969 because I still had a lot of magical thinking around how the whole practice worked. We all chanted together at the Buddhist temple at midnight as the year changed.

    All of us newbies were encouraged to make a list of goals for the new year in anticipation that simply making the list and chanting at midnight would magically make it happen. I still have the list, and wondrously some of the friends I was with that night are still alive and close friends.

    Some of the the things the 19-year-old girl I was then put on her list are things I now would not wish on my worst enemy (e.g. at 5’5″ I wanted to weigh 114 pounds–don’t know where I got the number, maybe from a movie magazine, but I have a friend who is 5’5″ and struggles with a chronic illness trying to keep her weight up to 120, she looks fragile and NOW I would not trade my robust 270 pound frame for hers). I wish I could tell that 19-year-old self that her goals would sort themselves out. Nowadays, I still chant the new year in at midnight, but I expect the universe to know where I need to go, and I do my part by making the causes to get those effects.

    • December 30, 2011 8:34 pm

      I love hearing about the road from 19-now. My son is 19 and I frequently have to hold my tongue when I know how much change is still in store for him! Thanks so much for reading and replying to my post! It really means a great deal to me.

  13. December 30, 2011 7:26 pm

    I work pretty much every new years eve so I’m not one of the idiots out there on the road drunk. So unless I get slammed into the next dimension by one of said idiots out on the road drunk, I’ll be back next year to keep pissing people off. And I will not be making weight loss resolutions.

    • December 30, 2011 7:27 pm

      I am, however, making a resolution to keep trying to find a new line of work because I am completely and utterly over taking care of other people. Maybe that sounds horrible and selfish but I think I’ve done my time!

  14. December 30, 2011 8:35 pm

    Doesn’t sound selfish to me, it sounds like selfcareish! I look forward to the next year of reading your thoughts and powerful opinions!

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