New Year’s Resolutions
By John Gray
It’s amusing how we kid ourselves about who we are. I mean, just because we are forced to go out and buy a new calendar, we assume this thing with dates and pictures of light houses or cute kittens has some magical power that will enable us to turn a page and suddenly be something we’re not. A man who’s smoked for 22 years will now quit because it’s January and he’s decided it’s time to make stopping a priority. A woman who lives and dies for chocolate covered raisins while watching “Project Runway” will now make it her personal project to drop 30 pounds because it’s on her ‘list’. I’m talking, of course, about New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t believe in them. Not really. I mean if you want to quit smoking, lose weight or go to church more, I don’t think you’ll do it because it’s January in upstate New York. I think something has to happen inside that is just between you and the inner you that nobody gets to know except you. A little conversation where something clicks or snaps or pops and you say, “enough.” Then it happens.
I was a very chubby bunny growing up, a good 50 pounds overweight. I liked candy, had zero will power and my newspaper route took me right by Kay’s corner store in South Troy where the penny candy was actually a penny. Yeah, I’m that old! Moses and I were classmates. Anyway, I went through my adolescence a little (as mom’s like to say in an effort not to hurt your feelings) ‘husky’. Then the summer after my senior year of high school I lost almost all the weight. I told my friends and family that I just decided to live a healthier lifestyle and that’s how it happened, but that was a load of baloney. Do you want to know why I was so successful? Girls. I wanted to kiss one and for some odd reason all the cute ones were kissing all the skinny guys. Go figure. I never went to a prom in high school because I never had a girlfriend. Sure, I had girls who were friends and I could make them laugh, but I could never make them swoon. Not carrying all that extra baggage. So one day while walking home with a half-pound bag of M&Ms, I just stopped, looked at the candy, and threw it into the weeds. Three months later I was a whole lot smaller.
I did a little research on the Internet and found the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions are: quit smoking, lose weight, quit drinking, go back to school, spend more time with family, go to church more, pay off debt, get a new job, travel moreand watch Fox 23 news. Okay, I made that last one up. Let’s take them one by one.
The toughest has to be the first, since nicotine is an addiction. I’ve never smoked, so I don’t know how hard it must be, but I would tell anyone who smokes to take a small wallet size picture of their youngest child or grandchild and tape it to the side of the cigarette pack. Every time you reach for them think of the years you will miss with that child.
To lose weight you have to do it for you. I’m struggling now to lose 20 extra pounds that showed up without invitation when I turned 40. My trick: keep junk food out of the house. Lord knows I’m too lazy to go out in the cold and drive to the store to buy ice cream at 10 o’clock at night.
Drinking alcohol can also be an addiction. My only advice there is to avoid putting yourself in situations where there’s drinking going on. For some people, that may mean getting a new set of friends. Oh, and if your old friends can’t understand why you can’t drink with them then they weren’t very good friends in the first place.
Going back to school is the easiest. As the folks at Nike would say, “Just do it.” Get online, pick a college and enroll. Start small, maybe just one course. It may take time, but most worthwhile things do.
The ‘family thing’ is tougher than it sounds because you have to make your loved ones a priority. That means opening your planner, picking some dates and telling your siblings or children or whomever, “On this day I want us to spend some time together. It’s important to me. Please make time for me.” Humbling, yes, but also rewarding. My two brothers and I used to travel to a Boston Red Sox game every summer and then just stopped. Shame on us. You know, no matter how old we’ve become, when you put three brothers alone in the car it’s like 1975 all over again. That’s on my list for 2008.
Going to church is a personal thing for each of us, but I will say (at the risk of God sending down a bolt of lightening) that being close to God has little to do with brick and mortar and stained glass windows. You can become more spiritual while sitting on a CDTA bus on the way to work. You just have to open your heart. That said, it’s hard to beat the sound of a good church choir on Sunday morning.
Paying off debt takes sacrifice. I once did a news story that looked at what the average person spends a year on silly things like that cup of coffee on the way to work or the Snickers bar out of the vending machine. Thousands of dollars, my friend! Start with the small stuff and big things can happen.
Of course, reducing debt is easier if you make more money, which explains why so many of us want a new job. My only advice there is this: if you are serious, get serious. People complain about their jobs all the time, but don’t take action. Polish up the resume, get on job sites, network with people and tell them you are itching for a change. The phone just may ring
As far as travel goes, hey, book a flight. Can’t afford that? Get in the car and go to Montreal, Vermont or the Big Apple. Who’s stopping you?
The one resolution I wish was on everyone’s list is three simple words: no more gossip. People love to talk trash about others and it’s hurtful – to the person you are gossiping about and to yourself. You are better than that. I remember once running home when I was 15 to tell my mom about some kid in the neighborhood who was arrested for some stupid thing he did. She could hear the glee in my voice and said, “Stop.” She continued, “John I know his mother and father and this is a terrible thing. Every time something like this happens I thank God it’s not one of my children. It’s not something to spread around. It’s sad.” I felt like two cents, but she was right.
As we begin 2008, maybe we should put away our list of things we want to stop doing and write a list filled with those we should. I will hold the door for a stranger every day. When I hear some juicy dirt about someone at work I’ll keep it to myself so the chain of gossip ends with me. I will cut some slack to the guy zipping in and out of traffic and not lean on the car horn, because maybe he just learned his kid is in the emergency room and he’s racing to be there. I will watch less TV and try to read one book every other month, because it’s good for my brain. If I have to have the potato nuggets or French fries with my meal I will order the small size and offer some to my co-workers to minimize the damage. I will at least once this year make my kids lie on their backs in the grass and look at the clouds on a pretty day and see if they can spot shapes. I will hug my friends more for no good reason. I will go to the doctor at least once, because one of my male friends punched me in the nose because I gave him a hug for no good reason. And last, but not least, I will buy those Red Sox tickets so it can be 1975 again.
Well, that’s my list. I wish you luck with yours my friend. All of us have our bag of M&Ms. Sometimes we need them and that’s okay. But maybe this is the year you can throw them away.
John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writer at the Troy Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org