The third week of January, and it seems about the right time to check in on how any New Year’s resolutions might be going. Me? Since you ask, I no longer make them. That is, I don’t necessarily make them at any particular time of year, put anything on paper, or announce anything to anyone. At my age (and if it’s true that you’re only as old as you feel, then I am 109), if I tell myself “I’m not doing that anymore” or “I will do this more often,” I tend to follow through without making a big deal out of it. I no longer make a point of trying to fool myself about much, even if that’s what I end up allowing to happen — if you follow my drift. We’re very clever with ourselves.
A case in point: this guy I knew from rehab a few months ago was smoking weed and selling joints to other guys in the program in exchange for use of their EBT or food-stamps card. He told me, “After the holidays I’m going to quit smoking pot; it’s making me forget everything.” I saw him two days ago on the number seven bus. I said hello and he peered at me with rabbity, bloodshot eyes. He didn’t remember me, he said, though we had shared an apartment for some weeks. As for his resolution? I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it, his eyes told me. Anyway, I resolved to stop gambling, and I don’t have a ranch.
That’s another one: easy resolutions, like mine, to stop gambling. I’ve never gotten any sort of kick — well, not longer than, say, 20 minutes — out of gambling. Even if I’m winning (and I’ve been fairly lucky in my limited experiences), I get bored very quickly. As an aside, I do find other compulsive or obsessive gamblers fairly interesting, such as the time, a million years ago, when I was playing in a country/Top 40 band in Las Vegas. Our set began at 2 a.m., and we played until 6 in the morning for a few rows of deuce cocktail tables full of alcoholic insomniacs and a revolving carousel in the middle of the lounge with one-armed bandits full of flashing lights instead of painted ponies and unicorns. What looked to be haggard and pale dentists with two days’ growth of beard and Western-style shirts came into view, working the slots and rotating past the stage slowly, their eyes like pinwheels, fixed and desperate. Next to them would be dental assistants or middle-aged female public school cafeteria workers, trailer housewives, or tollbooth attendants (I’m just guessing) with the same casino pallor, cigarettes at the edges of their lips, all of them in a mesmeric fugue state going round and round while we played “Proud Mary” or “Please Release Me.”
Other easy resolutions might be to do more of something you enjoy or less of something that makes you feel crappy. This is something Catholic schoolchildren catch on to early at the start of the Lent season. I see nothing wrong with this. In the case of the second thing, doing less, I resolved years ago to throw fewer tantrums. I always felt lousy afterward, anyway, and found that alternative behavior offered less wear-and-tear. I could then reward myself for the new behavior by doing more of something I enjoy, justifying it under the heading of self-esteem, being my own best friend or whatever popular self-help phrase was in vogue at the time. If the thing I enjoyed was, say, chocolate or booze or masturbation, I would just be set up for another cycle of workable resolutions.
As I said, I no longer officially resolve to do or not do anything as of a certain time of year. I did get the one-day-at-a-time thing down in rehab, though some days I’m more successful at it than others. Fooling myself any more than necessary (i.e., telling myself I’ll live to be, say, 80) seems alternately insulting to the part of me that I assume to be so stupid or so pointless in that I’ve gotten quite a bit sorrier but wiser when it comes to pulling the wool over my own eyes. (I must reread this bit immediately because I suspect there is some sense in it.)
This year my son resolved to drink less soda and more juice or water. This is an acceptable kind of resolution in that failure does not have grievous consequences. That is why my resolve to be a better person is not a 2011 thing. It’s more of a whatever-day-it-is-today kind of thing, and failure isn’t permanent.