The New Year is a time to take stock of your life and ponder important questions, such as, “What have I accomplished?” “What are my goals?” and “Is my hair colour fooling anyone?” It is also a time to make resolutions, which, frankly, none of us ever have enough self-control to keep.
“Speak for yourself, mate,” I hear you say. “I have plenty of self-control. I once went on a daylong bus tour during which the driver allowed only one rest stop.” In that case, I salute you. You have something in common with G Gordon Liddy, a political operative who proved his willpower at a dinner party
by holding his hand over an open flame.
His friends were impressed and even his enemies thought it was a good start.
But what about the rest of us who don’t have the willpower to endure flames licking at our skin—or even to do yard work in direct sunlight? Should we feel bad because we never succeed in keeping a New Year’s resolution? Of course we should! Feeling bad about our failings is what separates us from the brute beasts. This is why you never get a note from your cat saying that she feels “just terrible” about the stain in the family room and hopes that you can meet sometime for lunch. You will never see a dog taking a small gift to the neighbours after waking them up with a bout of barking.
You may envy the dog’s happy, guiltfree life. But on the other hand, have you seen what dogs have to eat?
If you want to feel better about yourself, next year make a New Year’s resolution you can keep.
Tell yourself, “This year I will not lie to the commission investigating AWB kickbacks to Iraq.” The more specific your resolution, the better. Vow that you will not finance the destabilisation of a Central American republic or sell weapons to Islamic extremists in the Philippines. Then every day when you open your garage and see that it is empty of rocket launchers, you can take satisfaction in being a pillar of strength when it comes to keeping resolutions.
Whatever you do, don’t make a resolution in an area in which you might actually be tempted.
A lot of us began this new year with a resolution to lose weight. That was a mistake, because the temptation to eat is everywhere in this country. Food marketing is so intense that schools have policies on kids’ tuckshop and cut lunches.
I have a friend, whom we shall call Veronica, who has a weakness for potato crisps. She opened a bag the other day, determined to maintain her trim and youthful figure by eating only one chip.
After consuming a couple of handfuls, she realised that the situation was out of control.
Then she did something heroic. She took the remaining chips and flushed them down a toilet. I will leave you with this picture of Veronica standing in a victorious pose in the bathroom. No purpose would be served by picturing her husband, later that same evening, toiling to unclog the blocked toilet.
And although her husband may disagree, there was wisdom in Veronica’s action. Part of victory seems to come from putting as much distance as possible between you and temptation. You could paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer to say, “Lead us away from temptation.” It may be impressive to see how close you can get to the flame, but there is less need for aloe vera and vitamin E cream if you fly in the other direction.