I have this thing about New Year’s Resolutions which comes from a few years of working the front desk in a gym. Every January, I’d watch as a new crop of random people would come, pat themselves on the back for coming*, show up for a few weeks, dwindle, show up again armed this time with excuses for why they missed the week before, and then be completely defeated by the time Valentine’s Day and its omnipresent boxes of chocolate showed up.

This parade happened with depressing regularity each year. The worst part was the inevitable week in early February when a bunch of people who had been around for the first couple of weeks in January would show up and give me their guilt-laden excuses for missing their workouts, as though their presence or absence meant anything to me beyond a few more towels to throw in the laundry. The Giving Of The Excuse To The Desk Clerk was usually the death knell of the Resolution. By Valentine’s Day, the gym would be back to its usual crop of regulars.

I always got the feeling the ones who delivered excuses to me wanted me to care. Perhaps they were hoping something I said in my role as Desk Clerk and Towel Bitch could help alleviate what sometimes looked to be a crushing mound of guilt. Truth is, however, that I never know what to say to someone who, having never previously worked out a day in her/his life, comes up with a goal like “go to the gym five times a week” and then fails to live up to it. I mean, “that obviously wasn’t going to work out” doesn’t seem helpful. And “how about shooting for a realistic goal next time, Sparky,” probably isn’t the best thing to say to someone who is already beating themselves up underperforming.**

I think that starting something big, like changing a routine, is probably best not done at the beginning of the year. For one thing, the people I was watching at the gym constantly came up with much higher, more unrealistic goals for themselves for New Year’s Resolutions than they would bother with any other time of year, thus setting themselves up for all kinds of failure and guilt. I recognize of course that there’s an obvious poetry to the idea of starting fresh every year, but there’s an equally depressing counterpart in realizing, four weeks later, that you’re still roughly the same person you were when number on the calendar was one less than it is now.

I’ve found for me that with new routines, it’s kind of nice *not* to start at the beginning of the year: it takes longer mentally to calculate how long it’s been that I’ve been doing something new, meaning that I’m less likely to bother calculating how long the change has been in effect.**** The upshot of not knowing how long I’ve been at something is that I never expect anything to change, until one day I wake up and some unknown quantity of weeks sweating through Jillian Michaels videos has produced noticeable shoulder muscles. At that moment, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. (Like shoulder muscles. Seriously. SO COOL.) Meanwhile, if I have a routine for a week or two and then quit it, I don’t have the weight of a New Year’s Resolution to make me feel like I’ve somehow failed myself.

The point here is that I don’t generally like the whole New Year’s Resolution thing (when taken seriously, that is) because of the guilt people seem to feel when they (inevitably, perhaps) shatter it. I think most of us live with way too much guilt in our lives to need any more added through something like breaking a Resolution. Consequently, I make Resolutions that won’t bug me when I end up breaking them.

With much ado, then, allow me to present this year’s New Year’s Resolution: I hereby resolve to spend less time listening to Radiohead’s song “Like Spinning Plates [Live]” – having listened to it over 100 times since I bought it last May, I think I should give it a rest and find something else to obsess over.


*I’m not snarking here at all. I think showing up at the gym and working out deserves a pat on the back, because it’s a damnably difficult routine to get oneself into if one isn’t already working out with some degree of regularity.

**Something I’ve noticed in life: people who have failed to reach a goal tend not to want to hear that they should try shooting for a less ambitious goal in the future. Being told to try for less seems to reinforce the feeling of having failed or something like that, I think.

***Especially in the food/eating/weight/body image category, but that is another post. Or another blog, potentially. But not one that I’ll be writing – that shit is HARD.

****For those of you who didn’t know, sloth is probably my most commonly committed of the deadly sins.