Why I'm not making New Year's resolutions

I hate New Year’s Eve. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the obvious—the night itself. All through my twenties and into my thirties I felt the pressure to have fabulous plans. In my mind this involved managing to wear a sequin-covered dress without looking like a majorette, attending an exclusive party where I’d rub elbows with John Legend and Beyoncé, sharing a midnight kiss with my soulmate, and drinking champagne until sunrise without even the hint of a hangover. As the night grew near and no such party invitations arrived, I’d grow a little panicky; texting friends I hadn’t spoken to in months to casually inquire whether they needed a plus one to the Rainbow Room. Inevitably I’d end up in jeans instead of sequins, trying to keep my feet from sticking to the floor in a neighborhood bar crowded with people getting drunk on overpriced cocktails, all of whom seemed to be having a better time than me. Every year I’d feel disappointed that once again the magic of New Year’s Eve had eluded me. Right then and there I’d promise myself that next year was going to be different.

Which brings me to the second reason I hate New Year’s: resolutions. New year, new you! Fresh start! Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Ugh.

See, I don’t need a special day set aside to make resolutions. I make them every damn day. Sometimes every hour. My stream of consciousness is filled with constant promises to myself to exercise more. Be sweeter to my husband. Be more present for my son. Make more money. Give more time to the causes I believe in. Eat more kale. Look less tired all the time. I tell myself that if I can just do all these things, I can finally relax and enjoy life because there will be nothing left to improve.

In the past I found comfort in this endless chain of resolutions. Each one carried the promise of becoming the person I always wanted to be. Surely this time I’d found the exercise routine/relationship/apartment/job that would make me stop wishing I was better. Even now as I’ve gotten to a point my life where I’m mostly happy with who I am, I can’t avoid the nagging narrative of self-improvement. Like the tiniest papercut that won’t heal, it sticks with me. Just when I think I’ve finally shaken it loose I’ll hear a faint whisper in my ear, “Should, should, should.”

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I should be doing more. Even moments of well-deserved peace and relaxation only come after a battle to shut down the “to-do” and “to-be” list part of my brain. White space makes me uncomfortable—aren’t I supposed to be somewhere? Doing something?  

The other day I sat waiting to meet with someone who never showed up.

“So sorry!” she wrote me later. “I completely forgot.”  

“I hate you,” I wanted to reply. “And please can you teach me how to do that?”

Because I don’t miss appointments. I don’t forget birthdays. I don’t overdraw accounts. All this information is constantly buzzing around in my head, unfortunately often at 3am. Should, should, should.

The worst part is that I get no credit for the things I do accomplish. I am generally healthy, happy, and successful. Yet the bar keeps moving. I have only to achieve a goal when a new one appears. No time for celebration or reflection, back to work!  Of course, the really crazy thing here is that I am the one moving the bar. I’m doing this to myself.

This year, then, no resolutions. In all honestly, I stopped making them at New Year’s long ago. But this year, no resolutions, period. No daily glance in the mirror thinking “I should really do something about those dark circles.” No guilty email checking during dinner, thinking I might have missed something. No new gym membership or kale-based diet. No books about finding inner peace or being a better parent. No five-year plans or long-term visions. This is the year of just being enough.

Happy New Year, everyone.   

 

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