I’m not making New Year’s resolutions because I don’t want more goals to work on. I hope that’s a mark of wisdom rather than surrender—as in, “Let me pour my energy into activities where I have a shot at succeeding and let lost causes stay lost.”
I regret this approach somewhat, as there are so many things I’m not currently doing that sound like good ideas to me. Study the brain for the hell of it. Take more hikes. Adopt a sea turtle. Hit some open mics and practice my jokes. Paint. Train for a marathon. But all these are ultimately exercises in futility, at least at this stage.
I’d be lying if I said I weren’t tempted to set the bar low and make a ton of easily doable resolutions, just for a cheap sense of accomplishment. My engrained assumption—and when I say “engrained,” I’m talking bone marrow-level—is that my personal worth is equivalent to the number of things I accomplish. Not necessarily the quality or difficulty of the accomplished things, but simply how many things are in the out box by year’s end. Or, ultimately, life’s end.
Were I to give in to this temptation, my 2018 resolutions could conceivably look like this: Drink enough coffee and/or beer to drown a hippo and/or herd of hippos. Refrain from tax evasion. Tie my shoes each day. And I bet you all my deer pelts that, by December, I’d be a drunk with heart palpitations who is squared up with Uncle Sam and who never loses his shoes. Done and done and done.
I imagine the surface of my consciousness is a huge grooved rock, like something glaciers slid over during the last ice age. Some of the grooves are just a couple of inches deep. They could be filled in with sediment in a relatively short amount of time, rendering them undetectable on the rock’s smooth surface. Like, one summer during high school, I took up tennis. I’m not sure why since nothing about me, neither before that summer nor after, screamed, “TENNIS!” But I took regular lessons and played as much as I could. A little further along the path of life, though, I let tennis go and haven’t picked up a racquet since. The tennis groove in my brain, worn in especially by my regular lessons, was just not deep enough at the point I quit to keep me from quitting. And since I quit, the groove has filled in. I’d rather take a nap than play tennis.
Other grooves are actually canyons, and only a cataclysmic geo-mental event could ever change them. Here’s a dumb example, but one that succinctly illustrates my point: I hate flossing my teeth. However, I’ve done it every night now for as long as I can remember. Much to my dentist’s delight, that consciousness groove is a deep one. On the very rare occasion where I skip my nightly flossing session, I find myself emotionally, mentally and even physically bothered. “Physically” in the sense that, if I don’t floss and realize my mistake once I’m already under the covers, I just might actually get out of bed, go to the bathroom and floss. Even if I were halfway to dreamland and flossing would mean starting the falling asleep process all over again.
I don’t want to create new grooves in my consciousness anymore. I don’t want any new resolutions, new goals, new endeavors, new dreams, even if they’re in some way entirely beneficial for every member of the human race. I’ve got my hands full working on the good grooves I’ve been working on for years and for decades now, and I’ll tell you the truth: I want the good canyons in my brain to be so wide and so deep that I can’t see across and I can’t see what’s way down there at the bottom.
That is to say, I’ve figured something out: To be really good at a few things over the course of my entire life means not to be any kind of good at all at a lot of other things, even things to which I’d say, “Hell yes!” if certain factors, mainly mortality, weren’t considerations.
I’m a husband and a dad and a writer. Here are three things that could legitimately occupy me for each minute of the rest of my life (and there are actually a couple of other things thrown in there, too). New Year’s resolutions (or Presidents Day resolutions or Valentine’s Day resolutions or Arbor Day resolutions …) on top of the things that already occupy me would only serve to diminish my ability to be the best husband, dad and writer I can be. I want to be better, and eventually the best, at what I already am. And believe me, I have a long, long way to go. Be it so resolved: My work is cut out for me as it is.
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, “Animal Heart,” is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.