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January is the time when we look backward and forward, assessing our hopes, strengths and dreams for a better future. That’s why we make New Year’s resolutions to improve our physical and behavioral habits in order to resolve our cravings with the reality of health and happiness.
Unfortunately, few of us continue working through our resolution although we may lose a few pounds or make up with someone we’ve angered. So life goes on much as it did before. Maybe we should work on that.
First, we must be honest about what we can and will do. Is it really possible for us to lose 40 pounds within a few months without alienating our entire family? Can we or will we keep still about our hunger pains and not irritate the others by withholding gravy, whipped cream and cookies from their diets? If not, I say we should give up that resolution.
After all, this is our problem, not theirs, and we shouldn’t make it theirs. And that’s the hard part, not being able to share our burden without whining or depriving others. In this case, being sensitive to others’ feelings is a large part of the effort.
Next, we should examine our motives in resolving to do certain things. Or not. Is it health or just plain vanity that’s driving our desire to lose weight? When we confide in someone, are we passing on information, or just trying to improve our image in another’s eyes? Is it us or them at the center of the universe?
Relationships need evaluation, too. Is our marriage at a standstill, or toxic for us or our children? Is it possible to salvage the loving feelings we had in our courting days? Or is it even desirable? Can we forgive infidelity or stop our own bad behavior for a greater good? Are we being selfish or blind?
And our dealings with friends should stand the scrutiny. Are we going along with behaviors we don’t approve of in order to please someone, or are we standing up for what we know is right? Are there alternatives to confrontation or major conflict?
Are we being parents to our kids, or just caretakers? Do we really listen when they talk to us, or just wait impatiently for them to finish? Do we offer helpful suggestions or advice, or insist they get results our way, without question? Do we demand impossible things of them in order to show what great parents we are, how smart and clever our kids are?
At work, do we seek out ways to compromise or demand our own way? Do we spend time helping out the new guy, or flattering the boss? Do we do the best work we can without adding up the costs of the effort? Do we seek praise from others, or from our own conscience?
Wow. If we actually do all this assessing, it might take until next January! But if we just think about the parts that really need fixing, we can give up making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, we can lives for a satisfying day and a genuinely Happy New Year ahead. Let’s drink to that.
(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †