Commentary 31 Dec 2007 10:56 am
Here is my final print column of 2007, published Dec. 27.
It may not be on a par with rude questions like “How old are you?” or “When are you two having a baby?” but this time of year, many people pester one another about New Year’s resolutions.
Did you make one? What is it? Why’d you pick that? And later, how’s it going?
For many years, I’ve had a knee-jerk answer: To be more tolerant and less judgmental. It sounds lofty and usually squelches further inquiries, because while the asker ponders tolerant and judgmental, I slip away.
The United States government has a stake in New Year’s resolutions, which is why it has a page about them on its Web site. (The Associated Press insists that “Web site” is two words, with the first capitalized. Maybe my 2008 resolution should be to ignore that dictate, follow the other 99.9 percent of the world, and write it as one word, lowercase.)
The government sinisterly figures if we’re busy chasing our resolutions we’ll have less time to question what it’s doing destroying interrogation tapes, taking one giant step backward by rejecting computer touch-screen voting, and prying into our phone and library records.
Maybe that’s not the reason, but just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, as some paranoid person said right before disappearing in the middle of the night.
Anyway, usa.gov lists 13 popular New Year’s resolutions: Lose weight, pay off debt, save money, get a better job, get fit, eat right, get a better education, drink less alcohol, quit smoking now, reduce stress overall, reduce stress at work, take a trip and volunteer to help others.
All of the above will probably involve spending money, which spurs the economy to grow, which makes everybody happy, and happy people are less likely to question what the government is doing destroying interrogation tapes, taking one giant step backward … well, you know.
The site also offers information on each topic. Under “reduce stress at work,” for example, you can read how the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health created “an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from industry, labor, and academia” to research and report on job stress and mental health. It’s a potent remedy for insomnia, and remember: A well-rested worker is a less-stressed worker.
Ironically, if you click on “get a better job,” you go to a page that states, “America’s Job Bank ended operations on July 1, 2007.” Really, what else need be said?
Click on “save money” and you connect to a brochure that explains 66 ways to do just that. Most of the tips are pretty good, but a few — like how you can save “hundreds of dollars a year” by comparing gasoline prices at different stations and shopping at lower-priced food stores — inspire a slap to the head and a Homer Simpson style “D’oh!”
A separate link promises “3 Steps to Keep Your Resolutions”: be committed, be prepared for setbacks and track your progress. If you keep clicking on various links, you’ll find the best advice of all, courtesy of the American Psychiatric Association: “The most important point to consider when deciding on your resolutions is to decide if you are truly willing to make the change in your life. Deciding to make the change just to have a resolution will not keep you motivated to attain your goal.”
In other words, change comes from inside, not outside. So all those products promising a slimmer, more sculpted body or that you can stop smoking now are worthless if you don’t want to do it.
Making a change just because the calendar says it’s time or because you worry you won’t have an answer when people ask about your resolutions is a surefire way to fail.
Or maybe that’s just me being less tolerant and more judgmental. Which is OK — I still have four more days. *
* Now that it is New Year’s Eve, I have to make a choice. Maybe this will be the year that I finally make good on my promise (threat?) to write a novel.