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JIM SHEA January is no time for keeping promises

December 30, 2018

The arrival of a new year always reminds me of a graduation speech.

We’ve all been there.

As the graduates fidget in their seats, checking their phones and thinking about the parties to follow, some geezer or geezerette stands at the podium droning on with advice and encouragement.

Usually it goes something like:

“And as I look out on your bright and shining faces full of promise and tomorrow I think about a beacon on a distant hill that is your destiny beckoning you to follow your dreams. For with you rests the hope for mankind.”

This last line, of course, always creates an additional bit of restiveness in the audience as parents catch each other’s eye and whisper: “God help us.”

Anyway.

New Year’s Day is like a commencement address to ourselves. It is the turning point where we look ahead and fantasize a future in which we will be better, do better, live better.

It is while enveloped in this annual bout of magical thinking that we make our first major mistake of the year. We make resolutions.

The problem with making promises to ourselves at this time of the year — and I believe we may have discussed this in the past — is that we schedule them to begin immediately.

January in the Northeast is not a time to start anything that involves denial or self discipline.

January in the Northeast is a time to focus on one thing and one thing only, getting through the month while remaining connected to our families, our jobs and reality.

The calendar aside, the other reason New Year’s Day resolutions are doomed to failure is that they are always overly ambitious.

Take weight loss.

“I’m going to drop 20 pounds.”

And we all hope you do. But in January? The only people who lose weight in January are those who have the flu. If you insist on making a weight-loss pledge on oh1/oh1/2019 it is probably a good idea to dial it back to something more realistic.

For example: By the end of January, I resolve to still be able to fit into my extra-roomy winter fat clothes.

Another common aspiration made while in the throes of new year’s optimism involves exercise.

Granted, exercise is an admirable pursuit. But look out the window. The wind is blowing, the thermometer is frozen in place, the snow on the sidewalk has turned to boiler-plate ice. Is this an environment to which a rationale human being is going to voluntarily expose himself on a regular basis?

Sure, you can go to a health club for exercise, but that involves doing mindless minutes on a stationary apparatus. In my experience, the level of boredom sustained from walking five miles on a treadmill is as close as one can come to having a grand-mal seizure without actually losing consciousness.

(This soul-sucking tedium also accounts for why all those well-intended Christmas treadmills are functioning primarily as clothes racks by the month’s end.)

The other major resolution people make relates to their personal finances. Unlike the previously mentioned resolutions, this is one that needs to be pursued in January for the obvious reason. After the holiday spending spree, avoiding the modern equivalent of debtors’ prison (bankruptcy) is a priority if you want to continue enjoying the lifestyle to which you and your Visa have become accustomed.

Fortunately, the path leading to a whole new solvent you is straightforward. You apply for a new credit card with a higher limit and lower interest rate, which you then use to pay off that old maxed-out card with the usury rate. Now, that’s the way to start the year off on a positive note.

You would think commencement speakers might mention this.

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist. jimboshea@gmail.com; Twitter: @jimboshea.

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