By CAROLE VASTA FOLLEY
There is no “s” on the above title because this is no New Year call to action nor a reminder to write down your goals. Truth be told, this motivational list-making is no longer fun or, more to the point, I would rather drag a dried up, pointy-needled Christmas tree through my house and wrestle it out the front door by myself than write one more useless, unheeded intention. One that is part of a bigger list which will resurface months later only to flagrantly mock me in its rose-colored ambition. Did I really write down I would exercise every single day? And stop putting a half a cup of half and half in my coffee? No wonder I drink champagne on New Year’s Eve, how else would I write such tropes of unbridled fancy? Besides, finding the neglected list in May – don’t ask me how it got under the couch – only cements its worthlessness. By then it’s the fifth month of 12. I’ve already failed. Might as well wait until next year to give it another faux-go.
When the same resolutions appear every year, I propose it’s time to either jump ship or make the list solely for comedic purposes. For instance, writing the seemingly direct but deceptively dangerous goal, “Lose weight,” after eating a board foot of yule log followed by a chaser of eggnog, is nothing but hilarious. You know, funny in that dark comedy kind of way, when you can’t distinguish if you’re laughing or crying. Sometimes, I’d listen to new-age advice and write a more positive intention like, “Eat healthy.” But that was only followed by months of rationalization. I mean, aren’t garlic mashed potatoes a vegetable?
I find resolutions to be dour little things that, although well intentioned, turn out to be ways we use our yearning, creative minds against our better selves. I might as well write down the truth, “I probably won’t exercise as much as I hope. After all, I’ve never met an ab exercise I like and, let’s face it, weights are heavy.”
Don’t get me wrong, writing resolutions is a noble endeavor, and if it worked, I’d be all for it. But, what if, rather than making resolutions, the concept of resolution itself was something that empowered us and lit our path forward? In the late 14th century the Latin “resolutionem” meant “the process of reducing things into simpler forms,” stemming from “resolvere”, meaning “to loosen.”
In our complex world of non-stop communication via these miraculous phones we carry around like totems to the gods of convenience and accessibility, “simple” has become a thought misused. Like, it is “simple” to click on a mouse to connect to a link that brings me to a site where there is every movie I didn’t know I wanted to see, along with reviews, related news, free trials, and, oh yeah, a coupon for 10 percent off printer ink. It’s far from simple and often overwhelming.
Or “simple” being a bit we wear on our wrist that tracks our activities, logs each morsel of food, and reminds us to move. That takes simplicity out of the equation all together. Previously, I just moved. Now, it’s something to do.
If we truly reduce things to simpler forms, might the old resolutions of achievement, from trying to break bad habits to artificially starting new ones, instead become less complex possibilities of ease. Simple might be taking a deep breath or a walk, the connection of a smile, the deep-hearted appreciation of all we already have. Could we “loosen” the grip of time being something we need to manage and untether ourselves from the obligation to be all things to all people. Simple might mean we see the bigger picture and know the game of life isn’t ever to get it all done as there’s always more.
I, for one, am comforted by the concept of “resolutionem”, an earnest determination to reduce to simpler forms. It can resolve the haggard New Year’s resolution, transforming it into a heralding of simplicity, ease, and ultimately, what the New Year needs, peace.
Carole Vasta Folley is a Vermont award-winning playwright and columnist. Contact her at carolevf.com.