December has flounced off, flashing fattened ankles as tree skirts lift up and away. You wave goodbye. Have a nice eleven months away! The fudge was awesome, you call, not sure it heard you. December only seems to listen half the time, but wow. It can party. As soon as you hear the door catch, there’s a knock. It’s January and it’s not amused.
Mouth tight, clipboard clutched, pencil aflame, it barges inside with a gym bag. You offer it a seat. It smirks. First, let’s make a list of your faults, short-comings, and nasty habits. Oddly, you feel energized by the scrutiny. With the new month’s help, you’ll stop smoking banana cream pies. This year will be the best yet because you and January have put your noggins together. Vows are made. You might be legally married in a half-dozen states.
Flicking the wheel on a lighter starts an engine. The flame mounts and it’s kind of beautiful. What a nice way to destroy a lovely cigarette. I pulled a Camel Light out of the hardpack box and tapped the end on the bathroom counter. The window was cracked to entice smoke outside. I looked at myself in the mirror.
It would be the last time I’d see myself with a cigarette dangling from my face. I lit the end and watched as I went through the motions. I inhaled. I exhaled smoke rings because I could. Blowing rings was one of my tricks, like wiggling my ears. I did it really well. I loved to smoke.
It was my wedding day and I had a gift for the groom. To create the gift, I had to destroy it. Paper and tobacco melted away and then, when the filter was reached, I crushed the rest into an ashtray and exhaled smoke for the last time. It wasn’t New Year’s Day. It wasn’t a decision made in the shadow of January’s glare after December’s sensory overload. It was a Saturday in September, made in my parent’s bathroom in their house, alone. I didn’t announce it to anyone. I didn’t tell my future husband my intention.
We were married. We danced to 1996′s hottest hits, we ate cake tastefully with no smashing, and went on our honeymoon. I was surrounded by blissful distractions and disbelief at what we had pulled off. A wedding! A cigarette would have been a nice way to wrap up, to punctuate some of the finer moments in an exclamation point but I didn’t. We drove over mountains and down into valleys, stopping in small tourist trap towns looking for souvenirs. In the car, we discussed children, our new jobs, how the wedding went, but we never talked about nicotine and black, black lungs.
I talked about smoking by not smoking. I quit smoking by not smoking.
Resolutions are made with noble intentions, with an eye on betterment. But waiting for a time of betterment based on a calendar page pretty much guarantees failure. January turns into February and then suddenly it’s August. There’s nothing fresh about that except the newly-sharpened pencils in your child’s backpack as he heads to school. One slip up and there goes 2014! What a dumb year because you are eating chocolate while playing online games and you swore in January you wouldn’t. There’s always next year.
No. There’s only now. When tempted to resolve, don’t do it. Resolve to not resolve.
But if you feel incomplete without shining your halo in January, resolve that any new day in the coming year is a gift wide open, ready to be the square circled in red: The day you changed. You can’t forget it, even if you’re not a woman in a big white dress down front.