Two television commentators argued the pros and cons of making New Year’s Resolutions. Finally, one shrugged and said, “The practice of making yearly resolutions wasn’t one of our better ideas.” Really? Our idea? We take too much credit.
At the beginning of each year, the Babylonians made promises to their gods to do better, and began by returning borrowed objects and repaying their debts.
The Romans began each year by making promises to the two-faced god Janus. It wasn’t that Janus was fickle; he had the two-faced ability to see the past (the old year) and learn from it to move more clearly into the future (the new year).
And this one—for fans of Camelot—is from the Medieval era. The knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry.
The practice of evaluating our lives at the end of one year as we begin a new year isn’t something modern thinkers can claim. Somewhere along the line, though, the themes of New Year Resolutions have focused more on quitting some habits, creating better ones, and making general plans of things we’ll do day after day…until we forget or decide we need to do something else. Generally speaking, modern lists of resolutions are popular water-cooler topics that have less shelf life than milk.
Many years before her dementia, I asked my mom if she was going to have a New Year’s Resolution. She said it was pretty much the same every year: she resolved to wake up each morning, say a prayer, take a deep breath, and face the day ready to do the best she could do with whatever happened.
As British author and screenwriter David Nicholls said, “This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today.” I don’t think either my mother or Nicholls was referring to a New Year’s Resolution, but to every day of life.