READY: I think I'll just borrow someone else's resolutions

Mary Ready Ready or Not

It’s only the second day into the New Year. Have you broken your resolutions yet? Did the leftover chocolate cheesecake or that pack of cigarettes call your name? And you answered?

It’s an old story. Every Dec. 31, we try to improve the quality of our lives by confronting those issues which kept us from achieving happiness in the past. Before long, 91 percent of the 75 percent of Americans who have made New Year’s resolutions will give up within the first 17 days after making them. That’s why I no longer make self-improvement proclamations. Especially when it comes to the TOP TEN most people list when they’re trying to “do better.”

Here they are in reverse order:

10. To be more spiritual (whatever that means)

9. Get out of debt

8. Be more organized

7. Spend less time on the internet

6. Spend more time with the family

5. Be a better person (How vague is that?)

4. Quit drinking

3. Quit smoking

2. Get more exercise

1. Lose weight

According to resolution-keeping experts, success is more likely if the goals are small and specific, such as “volunteer to help my child’s teacher as a room mother on Tuesdays,” instead of the imprecise “Give more of myself.” Instead of “be more spiritual,” resolve to read a chapter a day in the Bible, or begin each morning with an intercessory prayer for someone.

If you can’t resist making resolutions even knowing they’re doomed to failure, maybe it would be better to adopt easier ones: gain thirty pounds, watch more T.V., read fewer books, avoid exercise, procrastinate more, spend more time whining, and stop going to church.

Yeah, me neither. I can’t do any of that without a lot of guilt, and who needs more guilt?

So, maybe I’ll adopt someone else’s resolutions. In 2016, I could pursue the goals made by a journalist in 17th century London. In his Dec. 31, 1661 column, Samuel Pepys wrote that he intended to eat more red meat and pastry, give up drinking, stop throwing up in other people’s beds, attend more hangings of public officials, hear more violin music, stop publishing obituaries for still-living enemies, and refrain from beating his servants.

I’m reasonably sure I can make good on most of Pepys’ promises. It’ll be hard to give up beating my servants, but I think I can do it. I’ve never once thrown up in someone else’s bed, and I don’t drink anyway. Since I like a good steak, pastry, and violins, that will be easy. However, I’m an excellent obituary writer, and I’d greatly enjoy writing farewells for several obnoxious, but still breathing, acquaintances. I’m sorely tempted. So, I’d best be vigilant. Besides, I imagine Mr. Algarin would check behind me to make sure the subject had, indeed, shuffled off this mortal coil. Finally, I promise if a disgraced city or county official is scheduled for public hanging, I’ll gladly be there.

As far as keeping promises to oneself, I’m reminded of the poet Robert Browning’s question: “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” On the same note, the Apostle Paul said, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize …” Browning and St. Paul weren’t talking about quitting smoking or losing weight, but you get the idea.

Since resolutions are 91 percent doomed to failure, I speak as one who has failed year after year to achieve the discipline necessary to see good intentions bear fruit. We’re all sincere enough, but we live in a world of instant gratification. Instant meals, instant beverages, instant global news, and instant almost-everything-else. It’s hard to drop those pounds or lay down that cigarette when we don’t see immediate results. Therefore, I have repeatedly put off my plans to stop procrastinating.

So, until I can come to terms with the good, old-fashioned effort necessary to keep my promises, I just might borrow the rather quirky ones made by another long- dead columnist. He won’t mind, and I’m sure all my servants are going to be greatly relieved when I stop beating them.

I’ll let you know how I did on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.