Saturday, December 31, 2005

New starts

I've never liked making New Year's resolutions. I am usually more inspired to make positive changes in my life in September, which has always felt more like the start of a new year to me. Or in the spring, during Lent.

But I always had a twisted relationship to Lent, also. When I was growing up, we "went to the Catholic Church"-- our family was one of those holidays-only church going ones, although I did make both my first communion and confirmation there, and in elementary school kids were excused early on Wednesday afternoons for "religious ed." We Catholics could pile into school buses and head off to the church while the Protestants and Jews stayed back in study halls. (The 60's where a strange time.) But the practice of giving something up for Lent followed me into adulthood; people who I never suspected were Catholic suddenly stopped eating chocolate or having fries with their cheeseburgers. It was probably an offshoot of turning away from the Catholic Church, but I found this somewhat ridiculous. What exactly is the point of not eating M&Ms for a month and then gorging yourself on them on Easter morning? I know it's supposed to show discipline, that you're willing to go without in the name of your faith, but... M&Ms, people. Should we talk about Ramadan again?

I had one friend who would give up something bad for him, but give it up for good. Lent was just the impetus to letting it go. I don't even think he was Catholic, but he liked the timing because it allowed him to have the company of other sufferers, even if their reasons were very different. (Don't ask me which I think were more heartfelt.) One year he gave up using extra salt, another drinking caffeine, etc. I admired that, and eventually started doing the same (not eating red meat started that way.) Eventually, though, I decided that doing something positive was just as valuable - instead of giving up chocolate, why not vow to exercise three times a week instead of two? Doing something positive seemed much more personally powerful than avoiding doing something negative. Keep it up for 40 days, and you're in a routine, and maybe don't go back.

(This is similar to how I gave up smoking - I was going away for the weekend with a guy who wanted me to not smoke while I was with him, so I didn't. On Monday when I got back, I decided not to buy another pack and just see how long I could go. It's been over 4 and a half years.)

For the past few years, my New Year's resolutions have been very similar: eat less, weigh less, write more, have more sex. Okay, those last two are just a cutesy way of saying to proactively pursue getting published, and find a good, healthy relationship. That last, one, though, shouldn't be a resolution, because you can't make it happen - it's more like a birthday wish that you would make with eyes closed, just before you puff out the candles.


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