First of all, for you perfectionists, I know I'm 10 days late with this column but I wrote it before I knew my computer was going into the shop. If you want a name for it you might call it How To Make New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep.
Let's begin the New Year with a new outlook: new eyes, new ears, and a new heart. Also it wouldn't hurt if we had new knees, a new shoulder, and Bengay for the sore spots in between.
The tradition of New Year's resolutions goes way back to 153 B.C. when Romans named the first month of their new calendar after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of hallways and school lockers. Janus, like your mother, had eyes in the back of his head. In fact, he had a whole head in the back of his head, enabling him to look both into the future and the past at the same time. Looking into the past, Janus saw all the lies, errors in judgment, promiscuity, and drunkenness that had gone on in the past year. Looking into the future, Janus imagined a world filled with honesty, clear thinking, and sober behavior. So not only was Janus the original schizophrenic, he was also highly delusional.
Naturally, Janus became the symbol for resolutions, and many Romans resolved to do better and used the new year as an opportunity to ask forgiveness from their enemies, delivering gifts of sacred tree branches on New Year's Eve. Later, nuts became more common New Year's gifts, because you had to be nuts to think that your enemies were suddenly going to forgive you after they saw you chasing after them with a tree branch.
For centuries since then, drunken party-goers have been resolving to do things in the coming year that they've never done before. This year, I'd like to help by presenting: A Guide To Making New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep
Step 1 - Set achievable goals. Winning the Megamillions Lotto, for example, is not realistic. But kidnapping the broker who recommended you invest all of your retirement funds with Bernie Madoff and holding him for ransom is possible, if you can be the first to find where he's been hiding for the past two years.
Step 2 - Write your resolutions in specific terms. Instead of "I will lose weight," say "I will lose 20 pounds on this new diet, even if I have to have it liposuctioned off!"
Step 3 - Take large goals and break them down into bite-sized pieces. Rather than promising for the 97th time to go back to school to finish your biology degree, take the first step of visiting the campus and trying to sit through an entire one-hour class on nematode worms.
Step 4 - Find alternative bad behaviors to the bad behaviors you want to change. You'd like to quit smoking but it's the only thing you still do that reminds you of your wild and crazy youth. But dig into your memory reservoir and you'll find plenty of other bad behaviors that can make you feel young. Why not start pushing people in line, again? (Won't that guy in front of you at McDonalds be surprised?) Or the next time someone serves you a side order of broccoli, pick it up and throw it on the floor. You're still bad to the bone.
Step 5 - Above all, aim for things that are truly important to you, not what others expect of you. Sure, all of your friends would like to help you get out of debt. That's because you owe them all money. They're always coming up with stupid little suggestions like, "Frank said he'd hire you to paint his living room. All you gotta do is call him." Do what they suggest and you'll wind up spending January breathing paint fumes and listening to Frank's 80-year-old mother tell you all about her Bingo strategies. If what you really want to do is take a trip to Florida, then it's time to go. Quickly, before Uncle Eddy finds out you borrowed his car.
This year, New Year's Eve almost came on a Blue Moon (the second full moon in a month). We were close enough to having a Blue Moon that I'm going to say we did. Once in a Blue Moon is the perfect opportunity to finally make New Year's resolutions that you can keep. Just begin each promise with the phrase "Once in a Blue Moon." For example:
Once in a Blue Moon I will try not to eat more than my weight in nachos and guacamole before they bring out my entree.
Once in a Blue Moon I will volunteer to help the needy, even though they are my in-laws.
Once in a Blue Moon I will keep my mouth shut to protect the guilty, even though what he did is the funniest story I ever heard, and I can't understand why he'd be so upset that his now ex-girlfriend found out since he wanted to break up with her anyway.
Once in a Blue Moon I will put money into the kids' college account as soon as I've gotten my paycheck, instead of after emptying out all their pockets before the laundry gets done.
Happy New Year! I hope you had as much pleasure making this year's resolutions as you will have breaking them.