Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Take Your New Year's Resolutions and Shove 'Em

My writing has been rather lackluster of late. My excuse: I haven't been myself in 2013.

Or, rather, I have been EXACTLY myself.

I have been the same old me (with a bonus cough and recurring dizziness).

While curled up under a blanket and sipping hot mint tea, I have pondered this accepted belief that a new year is supposed to usher in an era of self-improvement. I have read numerous blog posts in which people outline their plans to become stronger, healthier, more organized, more interesting, less weighty.

Frankly, I have found myself annoyed by them all. I feel like I'm reading dispatches from an island where women are trapped and indoctrinated in the religion of Women's Service Magazine Bull Shit.

I have not read one thing that doesn't sound like it came from a brainstorming session for the January issue of MarieClaireGlamourFamilyCircleRedbookRealSimple.

I wish I could be more supportive of this type of self-improvement, but I'm not. I know women are looking for something, seeking ways to feel better, and that's great. But these sorts of goals seem built to make women feel badly about themselves. Period. And they also seem built to fail.

Yes, she sure does look like an enormous cow here.
This isn't to say that I didn't have some vague notions of self-improvement for 2013, notions that involved eating nothing and working out two hours a day. You can call this the Tracy Anderson Method of Hating Yourself. (Tracy Anderson is the trainer who freaked out when Gwyneth Paltrow gained weight for her role in Country Strong.)

There was a lot of talk about 2013 being THE YEAR that things get better. That talk was all about self-preservation. I had to find some way to get through the end of 2012.

Now 2013 is here.

But, alas, I have been sick for almost the entirety of the year so far and I feel like I've done nothing to improve myself or my life. In fact, I have engaged in behavior that is decidedly EXACTLY what I was doing in years past. I'm sitting here thinking, "Did you not learn your lesson about this?"

Apparently not.

I recently read this article on NPR and the title spoke to me: You Can't See It But You'll Be a Different Person in 10 Years.

There's nothing like the beginning of a new year to make you look back. Plus, this year I'm turning 40. So when I saw the title of that article, I thought about who I was the year I turned 30.

At the beginning of that year, I still lived in Louisiana and I was a reporter at a newspaper. Remember newspapers?

I was married. I had a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old.

I wonder if, in January of 2003, I had any idea that by the summer I'd be moving to a new city for a new job. I don't think I did.

I couldn't see it, but I would be a different person in ten years.

(Also, my father-in-law said to me that the 30s were the hardest years, and - damn - was he ever right about that.)

With hindsight, it is easy to see that I have changed in a lot of ways over ten years. I'm still basically me with the same smart ass personality, but I've found reserves of strength that I didn't know I had. I've also adopted all sorts of ways to protect myself that might not be all that beneficial in the long run. I recognize my tendency to keep people at arm's length. I question things I accepted easily ten years ago. I no longer believe certain things I used to believe and I don't think there's any way to go back. It's like those wood cut-outs that seem like random shapes and then you realize the space in between reads "Jesus." You can't unsee it.

(Actually, my journey is probably more like the opposite of that.)

Anyway, I wonder what lies ahead in 2013. I do feel that I have come to the end of an era. But I refuse to set myself up for a lot of women's magazine bull shit. I refuse to say I'm going to lose 10 pounds and run a marathon. I refuse to say I'm going to organize the garage. I refuse to say I'm going to write a novel or a screenplay. I refuse to say I'm going vegan or giving up booze.

If I was going to make a new year's resolution, it would simply be this: I'm going to give myself a break from setting up expectations and being disappointed in myself.

I think you should give yourself one, too.


9 comments:

  1. I so agree with you ... It pisses me off when the diet commercials start and all the crap about a new you ! I just want the old me back at this point ....the one that wasnt bitter, broke and reclusive lol

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    1. Exactly! I have this vision of myself from five years ago and I miss her. I'm sure she wasn't as great as I think, but I was at a great point in life. Employed, in shape, hopeful about romance and the future. I'd like that person back.
      The diet commercials I really hate are the ones where the "before" version of the person is talking to the "after" version, crying and saying thank you. (Maybe Medfast?) Those commercials freak me out!

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    2. I saw that commercial. Very creepy. I imagined a Family Guy spoof in which Fat Peter is talking to Thin Peter, teary-eyed and emotional, as in the commercial. Then they slam into each other and start making out.

      I should perhaps stop watching so much TV.

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  2. "I'm going to give myself a break from setting up expectations and being disappointed in myself."

    I. love. this. It's funny how we act as if a new year wipes everything clean. Just yesterday you were taking shots on NYE and now you magically have some drive change up your life??? Please. January 1st felt the same as December 31st (with the addition of a hangover). Focus on lifestyle choices if you really are unhappy, and don't be so hard on yourself!

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  3. I just said to a friend on Monday who was down down down on herself. "Give yourself a break, life is hard, everyone has a different kind of hard, but in a nutshell, its hard"

    its a miracle any of us made it to 2013.

    "I'm going to give myself a break from setting up expectations and being disappointed in myself."

    Love. Love. Like. Love. This.

    In your honor, I am sick, of you being sick.

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  4. Can we still cuss like the British though? I really, really liked that resolution.

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  5. Passport, Amy. If you have a resolution (which I agree you probably shouldn't, because I'm not sure they are helpful) you should get a passport. You said you might. Even if you don't go anywhere in 2013, it would mean you could, right? I think that's quite a liberating thought.

    I gave up smoking one New Year. But only because I smoked SO MUCH during those holidays I made myself bored of smoking. 1998. Since then I have smoked two cigarettes I think, both at funerals, which hardly counts.

    Jack

    PS I'm British but I don't think I curse much differently to you guys. Or do I? Buggering arse wank, I have no idea. ;)

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    1. I love the passport idea! I think I'll make that my one and only resolution.

      See, this is why I want to curse like the British. "Buggering arse wank" is absolutely charming.

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