Finding Fault With New Years Resolutions

(I should tell you up front that the inspiration for this post came from a column I write for The Chronicle Star Facebook page. I churn those out weekly and this one got really got me thinking. I might repeat some things here I wrote there. So if you read both, don’t be surprised if this seems a little familiar.)

The holiday decorations are coming down, the strings of lights are being rolled up, and the torn wrapping paper remnants have all been thrown away. The stores are still playing Christmas songs but candy canes and holiday gift sets are now half priced. We’ve met our yearly family quota and now have at least half a years worth of stories to tell about how wonderful or fucked up they are to tell. The cookies were eaten (or thrown away) and leftovers stacked in the fridge. Christmas/Yule/Whatever You Celebrate is now officially over.

But wait, Dear Reader, that’s not all. When it comes to winter holidays, we aren’t out of the forest just yet.

In just a few days from this post, we will usher in the beginning of a brand new year. As we get ready to say goodbye to 2018, there is no doubt in my mind we are going to be seeing a lot of New Year’s Resolutions pop up on our social media feeds.

#NewYearNewMe is going to be everywhere telling us how this is going to be the year they turn their lives around and lose that 20 lbs or get that good job, or finally settle down and marry the right one. We read all these promises as to how the people we know are going to change for the better in the upcoming year. Just wait and see! It’s going to actually happen this time! It doesn’t matter if it’s the same resolution that’s been made ten years in a row. This year it’s going to happen.

And while I support anyone who wants to change and better themselves, I can’t help but roll my eyes a little at some of these resolutions. Maybe I’m a little cynical but it seems that very rarely do New Year’s resolutions actually work.

Because, to me, here is where resolutions are usually split. You have the people who make them and post them so they can feel they belong to the crowd. And you have people who really want to make a change.

The first group are the ones that make my roll my eyes. They are the obnoxious #NewYearNewMe crowd that fill your social media timeline. Deep down they don’t really care about changing themselves, they only want to be part of the fab. They are the same people who go extra crazy over anything at that is the hot thing at the moment. I see these people as those crazy fans you see in old clips of The Beatles. What ever the crowd is doing, they are doing too.

For them, the problem comes in when it’s time to actually put in the work. When it starts being less about internet cool points and being part of the herd and more about real life hard work, the dedication to reach those goals drops hard and fast, like flies under a bug zapper.

When no one online cares anymore or is too busy in their own lives to take part in a congratulatory circlejerk, most people simply stop. They take their resolutions, hang then on a shelf, and replace them instead with expertly crafted excuses. They spend more time and spirit to crafting up stories about why they quit than they ever did to their original pursuit. These people never wanted the “New Me” they talked about in their goals. They wanted to cash in on the fad of the moment by taking part of something. Not of changing themselves.

And I can kind of understand why. Changing yourself is scary. Changing things about yourself is hard. More than that, releasing that there are things that need to be changed is even harder. Sticking to a regime change in your life that takes your bad habits and throws them out the window is super difficult. Change is hard. It is uncomfortable. And more often than not, it’s lonely. So when we go to the internet to look for companionship or support and don’t find it, it makes it that much easier to just give up.

The other group of people who make new years resolutions are the few that actually mean it. They are the ones that know how hard it is and put in the work anyway. They are the ones still plugging away and busting their asses in March, April, even all the way into November and December of the year.  Those are the people who are serious about making a “New Me”. They are the people who have not just the dedication but also the discipline to accomplish the goals they set.

And that’s some really freaking hard work. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Forcing yourself to have discipline is one of the most strenuous things we have to do as adults. Being lazy is easy. Being lazy feels good. It’s comfortable to sit back and let things continue the way they always have been. That is what makes the difference when it comes to resolutions. Resolutions require work. If you aren’t actively working on them, they no longer manner.

That’s why, personally, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t fall into the #NewYearNewMe hype. Not because I have commitment issues. I mean, I might have some commitment issues. I had a hell of a time committing to this blog and I’m pretty sure there are half a dozen unfinished books laying around here. But I usually stick around to thinks I want to accomplish. My reason for not joining in on the resolution train is that I don’t do change well. And dedicating myself to change so much wouldn’t be something that would be good for me mentally. I wouldn’t be able to mean it. I wouldn’t be able to fully dive in. So I would in up just giving lip service to the act of change without actually doing that. And honestly, I’d rather not do it at all than half-ass it.

Real change comes from within. And until I’m ready to accept that, I don’t want to be one of those people just spouting off plans online so I can get likes and shares. Changes should be done for yourself, not for people scrolling by.

Diverging

I had set the alarm to go off thirty minutes earlier that morning.  I’ve never been one to sleep hard, so I chose a light twinkling sound that would be just enough to wake me up. I gathered the clothes I had laid out beside my side of the bed the night before.

You know how when you’re trying to walk quietly but it sounds like you have tap shoes on your feet? That was my struggle as I walked down the hall. I held my breath as I passed doors with sleeping children behind them.

It wasn’t until I was in the living room that I allowed myself to breathe. I quickly pulled on pants and slipped shoes on my feet. The dog lifted his head from his pillow, decided I wasn’t worth moving for and went back to sleep.  I grabbed my purse and keys from beside the door and quietly locked the door behind me.

I walked to my car in the dark. The day was more than a handful of minutes away. If I could get out of the driveway and on the road before anyone in the house realized I was gone, I’d be okay.

The car was unlocked and started easy. The shifter was stiff as I slid it into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I popped it up into drive and just like that, after all that quietness, I was gone…

To Wal-Mart.

Wait, you thought this was the story of me leaving my family and running off to be a free woman?

Oh no, this is not that story.


This is the story of waking up early to go to Wal-Mart to get cleaning supplies and some cash for yet again another school fee.

Why didn’t I just go to an ATM and get the cleaning spray later, you ask? Because my dumb bank, Bank of ABunchofFuckingIdiots, doesn’t have an ATM in my backassward town.8d1 

And when it comes to service fees I get possessed by Red Forman from That 70s Show. I will go out of my way to keep the $3 ATM fee for trying to get my own money. I shouldn’t have to pay for my own money! Or pay extra for a company to accept my payment online!

 


Now that my rant is over. I’ll be honest with you.

While driving in the dark and quiet of the predawn hours, the idea of leaving did dance in my head. I was a little dazed by how easy the idea came to me and how easy it would have been to execute. I could have just taken the car and all the shit in my purse and just keep going.  I have a phone with Google directions on it, I could have just gone anywhere. In the three-mile trek to the local superstore, my life could have totally changed.

In my life, I’ve seen a number of women who have done this very thing. They’ve uprooted themselves from their lives and just…fucking left. Like just up and, POOF, gone.

Not all of them did it with a car on a dark road. Some did it with a bottle of pills. Some did it with hookups from Craigslist. Some even did it with nothing more than their own ego. They decided one day to separate themselves from their families. And more times than not, they never came back.

And the longer you think about it and the more you tilt your head to change your view, blame becomes hard to stick on them. Being a mother is hard. It’s really fucking hard.

You take your life and you use it, for however many years it takes, to help guide someone else into theirs. You’re on call continuously. Personal time is almost nonexistent. Hell for the first nine months, your body isn’t even yours anymore. Then they spend the next forever coming into the bathroom when you’re trying to pee. The definition of personal time gets changed a whole lot.

The definition of responsibility gets changed too. Because suddenly, you are responsible for so much more than yourself and your path. Mothers are often solely responsible for the upbringing and strategic planning of that upbringing. We sign forms and check temperatures, change diapers and administer medicine. We are the boo boo kissers and the nose wipers. We encourage, discipline, maintain and inspire. And we are expected to do that all the time, as needed, every day.

So the fantasy of wandering out of frame or driving off into the sunset is a real thing. And I for one don’t feel guilty about it.

I would never leave my family. I don’t need to justify my love for them by telling you here that I love them. I would do anything for them. And in a lot of ways, I have. I lost myself in them. I’ve forgotten myself for them. I’ve taken every “right” path even when I didn’t want to or knew it would do me harm. And that’s okay. That’s what my role is. I know what my job requirements are.

But there’s still the feeling sometimes that I’d like to get away. Runaway to somewhere no one knows me by the name of “Mom” and start over. The desire to be wholly independent is sometimes palpable. The hand I got dealt in life had me being a caregiver at a young age. It’s not surprising that by now, three decades into being alive, I want to taste the lightness of being free from caregiving. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. Everyone needs a break.

But life doesn’t afford us those breaks often. And when it does, it pretty much always feels too foreign to enjoy. That’s why the fantasy of taking off and walking away is so tantalizing. It’s our little taste of escape, that when tempered correctly, hurts no one. It’s an indulgence we need to try to keep our wits about us. And with the weight we have to carry constantly, we need that help.


In the life that lies on the other side of the left-hand turn I never take, I am a professional writer. Maybe for VICE, maybe for Rolling Stone. I live in a small apartment with a pug named Deadpool. I have no children, I fill out no school forms, I have no husband. I’m happy, but it’s in a differently shaped way.

Making up the world Alternate Angela lives in does not mean I don’t love where Actual Angela is. I very much do. This life is hard and sometimes unfair. But I don’t want it to be anything but what it is.

No one has better summed up these feelings than everyone’s favorite red haired country singer, Reba McEntire. (And if she isn’t yours, go listen to “Fancy” until she is).

lyriccca