Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolution Time

Tis that time of year. Time for reflecting on the year gone by. Time for looking ahead to the next. The holiday malaise is lifting and we are becoming acutely aware of the consequences of all our merriment. A prick of conscience is perfectly natural in our retrospection; as is a renewed desire to better ourselves with the dawn of a new year approaching.

It’s become customary, and unfortunately cliché, to make resolutions. Things we’d like to change or areas we’d like to improve upon in the coming year. Resolution by definition is a formal expression of intention or the act of resolving upon an action. In this case the medical definition of resolution may be more apt, the subsidence of a pathological state. That is the halting of any unhealthy, abnormal or ineffective condition.

According to several polls some of the most common resolutions are: lose weight, quit smoking, get out of debt, get in better shape, drink less alcohol, save money, get a better education, manage stress, travel more, find a better job and help others. Those seem to fit the bill, most stemming from self-reproach with an eye toward self-improvement.

Why is it then that so many resolutions tumble for you like Boy George and the Culture Club?

Cavett Robert said “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”

My point is not to attack anyone’s character (I’ll let you do that to yourself) but to illustrate that we often make resolutions in a moment of excitement or reflection and that moment fades. We are still however, left with the original condition that prompted the resolution. So what then?

For those who truly wish to change they make public their resolutions. Basically it’s not a real resolution until you write it down and tell someone. Keeping your resolutions private indicates a lack of sincere desire to change. Oh and facebook doesn’t count. Most are only “friends” in the academic sense. I mean real people you actually see and talk to. Also I don’t want to read 300 “Time to get back in the gym” status updates nor do I wish to follow your weight fluctuation all year long. After a month of horking fistfuls of fudge and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ I know it’s time you got back in the gym; and 97% of your facebook “friends” don’t care about the 2 lbs. you lost last week. Posts of that nature don’t impact you no matter how many “Super job!” comments you get.

Involving your friends and family is a good first step towards keeping your commitment after the initial feelings dissipate. Sadly though this is not enough because of a growing culture of political correctness that has mutated and spread into every aspect of our lives.

I recently had lunch with a good friend of mine; he told me his wife had said that he was “losing his filter”. To which I replied “Good, more people should.”

We’ve all become so conscious of how we’ll be perceived and so frightened to possibly offend someone that we’ve filtered ourselves to what borders on dishonesty. Sure, as my wife constantly reminds me, you don’t have to say everything you think; but when did speaking plainly become such a sin?

Years ago serving a mission in Jamaica, when I first arrived, children would refer to me as “the fat one” when trying to differentiate me from my companion. They meant no offense; they were just trying to establish that out of the two white American young men in white shirts and ties they were talking about the pudgy guy. Later, having shed a few lbs. and while serving with a pale-faced Idahoan, I was referred to as “the brown one”. They were simply calling it as they saw it. I’ll admit that it took some getting used to but ultimately I prefer that type of communication to the hypersensitive over-analytical cowplop we deal with in the U.S. of A.

Furthermore it is this type of self-censorship that is hampering our ability to foster a support system that would enable us to take steps toward self-mastery. If we could be open and honest with each other we could affect real change.

For instance, my weight has fluctuated for as long as I can remember. I’ll lose weight and then inevitably regain it. I’ll have to resolve once more to step up my exercise and watch what I eat. Each time I lose weight I’m nearly overwhelmed with “Hey, have you lost weight?” or “Wow, you’ve lost weight. You look great.” Of course this feels good and was earned through hard work and sacrifice. But where were these people when I was all porked out?

In my lifetime I’ve had just one person come up to me and say, “Boy, you look like you’ve put on a few. You’ve been hitting it pretty hard haven’t ya big fella?” I consider him to be a good friend and a really funny guy but most people that know him just consider him to be a loud mouth insensitive jerk.

Who’s more of a real friend though? The person who says “You’ve lost weight, you look fantastic!” or the person who tells you that fifth apple fritter might be a bad idea considering you need help to tie your shoes.

Old Bill Shakespeare said, “It’s not enough to speak, but to speak true.” If you are serious about change then you’ve got confide in those who care about you and license them to speak true. It might hurt a little in the short term but there is no growth without pain. In the long term it will be for your good.

No doubt my wife is reading this and thinking of the last time I told her to speak up when I was overdoing it. She is now recalling the subsequent scolded puppy dog look I gave her when she suggested that I return the handful of cookies to the pantry from whence I’d thieved them. Trust me it’s not as easy as I’m making it sound. You’ve got to see it as help and not a hindrance.

While we’re licensing friends and loved ones we might as well license everyone to share what they think and not consider it a personal affront. Just view it as their opinion and who knows, maybe upon further consideration, you might even find out that they are right. (That paragraph could be a blog unto itself)

Now I fully realize that ‘lose weight’ and ‘get in shape’ will once again top my list of resolutions and that writing this is opening myself up to cynics and smart alecs alike taking pot shots at my pot belly. To them I say bring it on, let’s see who cares about me the most. At the very least my facebook wall should be full of some pretty good fat jokes.

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