December 8, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Three and out

By |2018-03-21T19:03:50+01:00December 30th, 2014|"American Girl"|
The shorter the days, the more expansive the resolutions.

t the end of each year I get excited about what lies ahead. It’s a fresh start. I hope to do things better. I make resolutions.

Their staying power is another story. As a friend told me laughing, “I make the same one every year, and every year I break it within the first few months.”

My own failed resolutions — more in the “I will” category — are typical.

One year they were practical: get to work on time, read unopened books, learn to play the musical instrument hidden in the closet. Another year they were in the “mind” category, as in resolving to meditate every morning, keep a gratitude journal, and focus on the positive aspects of my life.

The mental and practical resolutions had about the same lifetime: three months.

Which begs the question, why bother?

Why? Because they confer a marvelous sense of mission when life is otherwise mundane, dark, and boring.

January days in New York City are cold and short. If it’s not snowing, it’s icy or there’s freezing rain. It’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home. It’s a challenge just mustering the energy to get out of bed.

Can I do anything about this? Of course I can’t. That’s where resolutions fit in. They’re psychological boosters to get you through the darkest days. If the year is a big blank slate, resolutions are something to write on.

A solid resolution requires planning and benchmarks. A goal to lose weight means signing up for gym membership, buying running shoes and workout gear (the same with planning a diet, taking classes or hiring a personal trainer).

Does any of this matter deeply? Of course it doesn’t. But believing it does, down to color of the stripe on your sneakers and the imagined expression of admiration on the faces of your friends, can give you the lift you need to keep going until spring.

I suspect the average lifespan of a resolution has less to do with character and personal resolve and more to do with sunlight.

On January 1 at my latitude there’s a mere 9 hours and 20 minutes of daylight; the sun sets at 4:40 in the afternoon. By April, the month in which resolutions wilt and die, there are 13 hours of daylight and the sun sets at 7:30. Don’t underestimate the power of four hours.

In spring, sunlight takes over from gritty resolve as a motivating force. Life seems somehow easier. The idea of improving things feels less urgent. We’re great the way we are! Let’s get together and have fun!

So make some resolutions. Get rid of the guilt. Resolutions are a good trick to get through winter, and they work.

Mine? I’m thinking about learning Spanish but I can’t decide if I should take a class or buy a book and work with my Latina friends.

If not Spanish, maybe I should study photography — I could go to the local community center or join a photography group. Buying a new lens for my camera might help. I now need to examine these options to decide what’s best.

In truth, I’m just hoping that whatever I decide will keep me busy until the sun and longer days make everything I mulled over in winter darkness beside the point.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.