The Resolving Door

by Gretchen

resolving door

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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.

13 Responses to “The Resolving Door”

  1. Deb January 2, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    I’m actually almost sad after reading this but don’t actually know why which kind of defeats the point I think.

  2. Amy January 2, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    I know you are opposed to new year’s resolutions. I agree it’s silly to wait until a date on a calendar to decide to do something for yourself, improve yourself, change in some way. However, I still love new year’s resolutions. I love January, I love the clean slate, the newness of a year, the possibilities. I don’t think seeking personal change betterment throughout the year and making resolutions at the turn of the year are mutually exclusive, a person can do both, quite happily.

  3. Lindsay January 2, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    That’s exactly how I quit smoking (well, minus the getting married part), and I’ve used it as a metaphor for so many other things I needed/wanted/had to accomplish since. I get it. You do it by doing it, not by resolving to do it. It’s the action, not the decision. I like this post a lot.

  4. Daria January 2, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    Every day is a new day to change yourself. I agree. Starting a slate clean with a new number at the end when we write our checks seems to help with that focus too. It’s sticking with it when you fall off the wagon to change it the next day rather than lapsing into complacence until the next January rolls around that’s harder for many. Me included!

    I love the fresh beginnings and the clean cold air that invigorates in January. It’s harder to feel fresh and clean and motivated in the heat of summer, why is that I wonder?

    I’m proud of you for stopping smoking. Way to go!

  5. Leigh Kramer January 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Yes! Good for you, Gretchen. In most cases, when I’ve wanted to make a change, I simply had to start that moment or as soon as possible. I woke up the day after my 21st birthday with my head pounding and lungs screaming at me and that’s the day I quit smoking. No grand announcement. I just did it and sometimes it was hard and other times I didn’t think anything about it. Next week will mark 13 years, which is kind of amazing.

  6. Lori Lavender Luz January 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    There’s only Now.

    Yes, this. I’m starting to get it, more deeply every time half-listening December gives way to unamused January.

  7. Sarah January 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    I have never done resolutions before and I don’t intend to start now. Two years ago on my birthday I did a vision board, and once it wasn’t relevant anymore I did another. Now I am doing one for the new year, but not for resolutions, for the encouragement that it gives me and how it reminds me of the things that I want so that I can focus on what I need to do to get there.

    I love this post, it is discouraging in it’s own rite, but also encouraging. It tell me to not only do things because it’s a new year, but to give each day it’s own chance and that is lovely. Thank you.

  8. JoAnn January 2, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Gretchen, this is an awesome post, as always! You’ve truly captured my feelings about New Year’s Resolutions and why I NEVER make them. The changes I make are always prompted by the feelings inside, and like your story, are not tied to a date on the calendar. I see where I need to make a change, and I change it. There really is only now.

    I love this post!

  9. Laura January 2, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    I’m not big on January 1 being a big resolution day either – life is too short to feel that only 1 day out of the year was the right time to be the best you. I do tend to think of goals for the year, but they are much more broad and not generally individually based. There’s also something about New Years Resolutions being so public. For me, they aren’t so “out there”…

  10. Diana Trautwein January 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Love the tone of this, and the admonition, too. Problem is: just doing it is where I get hung out to dry, far too often. Yes, I continue to try.

  11. Amber January 2, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    “No. There’s only now. When tempted to resolve, don’t do it. Resolve to not resolve.”

    Good gravy, I LOVE this and so needed to read it.

  12. Amber January 3, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    The turn of the civil calendar gives me pause and I will quietly think of things in my head that maybe I want to do. Mostly, I have to make resolutions every day. Otherwise I feel like a constant failure. My big resolutions that I may speak about usually begin with Ash Wednesday.

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