I’ve often thought our shift from one year to another is as meaningless as the concept of “up” and “down” in outer space. Time is a human construct.
But with the use of calendars based upon astronomical movements we can precisely mark the point of one year advancing to another. And that demarcation often compels us to make self-promises, or resolutions.
Resolutions seem rather binding, like contracts. I know I’m not alone in feeling guilty for breaking resolutions over the years—you know, the difficult ones that might actually improve us as human beings.
I recall one year in which I vowed to take my Beagle dog “Parker” on a walk EVERY day; and failed miserably. I’ll never forget his disappointed look on those afternoons when I used the “tomorrow we’ll go out” ploy. “Parker” had a very expressive face, and it would be more accurate to say his look was pure “disgust.”
Or, there was the “I’ll read a good book every month” goal that saw me stranded in the middle of a few mountain climbing epics; or, wiling away hours perusing the internet for YouTube outdoor videos.
Resolutions to write a novel have been broken so many times that I’ve forgotten what I originally intended to write about.
For every car I’ve ever owned, and there’s been quite a few, I’ve vowed to improve my understanding of its mechanical functions. Today, when I open the hood of my car, I am no less bewildered than if I were looking at a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) of the human brain. I close the hood and unashamedly drive to the auto shop.
Resolutions are too easy to break. No one is going to come after us if we renege, like one of those super-strict Jesuit priests; or the old-fashioned piano teacher who brandishes a ruler.
One day, exuberantly cutting through the lock on the refrigerator with industrial-sized bolt cutters, we can shrug and say: “I’m not on that diet anymore.”
I’m not sure what the national average is for smokers trying to quit, but my “quit” resolutions numbered about 15.
Desperate to end my addiction, I contemplated taking a round-the-world trip in a commercial airline because smoking onboard is prohibited. I couldn’t afford it, however, so I finally went “cold turkey.” But in the process, with severe mood swings, I nearly lost some friends and definitely alienated my dog.
That’s why I like the term “aspiration.” It’s a hope, a dream, a wish, not an iron-clad pledge. It’s fuzzier and more amorphous. Thus, we can mold and bend it. It doesn’t have a time dictate like a New Year’s resolution. We can think about it for many years and work on it, bit by bit, if we want.
For me, the longer I plot and scheme about doing something, the greater chance I will end up actually doing it. Some would call this procrastination. They’ll say: “The longer you put it off, the less chance you’ll get around to it.”
I disagree. When I constantly badger myself over periods of time, the objective begins to take shape. And once I can see it’s outlines, I’m spurred onward. Usually.
Realistic expectations: But then, some folks have greater expectations of themselves than others. That’s the rub – setting realistic expectations.
Younger friends talk about hiking the 24-mile Crow Pass trail in under eight hours. I settle with the idea of finishing the hike, period. Some folks I know ski off steep Tincan Mountain in Turnagain Pass. I’m good just snowshoeing or skiing on the gentle terrain of Center Ridge in the middle of Tincan Valley.
But whether aspiring, resolving, hoping, dreaming, wishing, plotting, scheming, I think the integral idea is to work toward making our lives better, or more importantly, making others’ lives better.
My mom said helping and improving the lives of others is our chief mission in this life. With her music teaching for nearly 50 years, she didn’t have to make an annual resolution to achieve that aim.
I once made a resolution that I would cook my wife dinner more often. The trouble is she doesn’t like steak.
I think somewhere along the line she made a resolution for me: that I would take her out to dinner more often. That’s something I can stick with.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and ECHO News team member who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired Birchwood ABC school teacher. To reach Frank, email: firstname.lastname@example.org