New year, same person

Well, by the time this gets into print, it will be really 2020 and folks will be all into their resolutions and big plans for changes, improvements, upgrades, new lives, and maybe some post-holiday napping. It’s natural. We always treat the start of a new year as an occasion to try new things and make life changes, but the irony is that, for all that effort, we’re still us, no matter what changes we try for.

That’s not to say people can’t change or shouldn’t, but I sometimes wonder if we get caught up in the ever-present urge to change just for the sake of change. In our current excuse for a society, we tend to worship the new, the young, the hip, the fresh — and have little to no regard or respect for the old or the current. But there’s an old saying I tend to live by: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

To put it more simply, before you jump into some radical change or new life, stop for a second and examine the current situation. Why do you want to make a change? Will it make you happier? Will it make you healthier? Will it make you a better person? Will it improve the world around you? Or are you just bored and want to spice things up?

Years ago, my wife and I used to belong to a gym and we tended to go pretty regularly all winter. Once spring, summer, and fall set in, we both preferred to be outdoors, she running, me on my bikes and skateboards, or both of us walking.

Each January, the gym filled up for a couple weeks with folks I referred to as “resolutionists.” You know them. The folks who join a gym to get in shape, lose weight, and feel better. They come in with a sort of grim but determined look on their faces and gamely try to make it into a habit that sticks all year. The vast majority were long gone by February first and the leftovers usually either succeeded or left by March.

I applaud their intentions but, like most people who make new year’s resolutions, they approached things the wrong way. They say you have to do something for 21 days straight to change it from an intention to a habit.

I never tested that theory, but I suppose it makes sense. But on the trip from intention to habit, I have noticed that many bumps appear on your path. Those bumps are real life. I have a feeling that’s where people make the biggest mistakes in trying to go from one place to another.

If you join a gym with the intention of going several times a week, but you also have a full-time job, a family, and a spouse you like to see with some regularity, then something has to give elsewhere to make it possible to find gym time.

If you need to change your eating habits to one less likely to land you in the cardiac unit for a triple bypass, but your family has a frequent flier plan to every fast-food chain on Route 20, you’re going to have a problem.

If you want to keep you living space cleaner but you share it with three cats and four children under the age of 2 and your partner is allergic to using a vacuum cleaner — well, you get the picture.

I guess what I’m getting at is that, if you really want or need to make a change in your life, chances are you can find a way to do it. But you also need to give yourself a break along the way.

One of the recurring memes I see on social media these days is to remember the need for self-care while you’re caring for others. That’s good advice, no matter how trite it might seem.

As we move into 2020, think long and hard about where you want to be at this time next year. And make sure that destination is reasonable, possible, and ultimately helpful for you. If so, chances are you’ll make it. I wish you luck.

And as for me? Well, I don’t do resolutions. I just kind of stick with general ideas. In 2020, I want to write and paint more, ride my bikes a bit more, as long as my body can take it, and continue to remain sane and happy.

And in between, I have four grandchildren under the age of 2 who need a lot of supervision, so they don’t take over the world before they’re ready.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been writing for The Enterprise for more than 25 years. He says it never gets any easier.