Resolution Breakers

Every morning I walk past Snap Fitness, a small workout facility on the street leading to Schiller Park. As is always the case, after the first of the year it was decidedly more crowded than normal, with lots of people using the treadmills. Over the last few days, however, the usage has definitely declined. It’s not clear whether the new users have given up entirely already–that usually doesn’t happen until we get closer to the end of January–but the trend is unmistakable.

What causes people to make resolutions with the best of intentions, and then let them slide away? In thinking about it this morning, I think there are four main causes:

Temptation — As the Dairy Queen sign above reflects, temptation probably plays the biggest role in causing people to break their resolutions. If you’ve resolved to “eat healthier” and you’ve got to drive past a DQ every day on your way to work, or some well-meaning person in the office brings in assorted doughnuts every Friday, it’s going to be just that more difficult to stick to your resolution. In fact, if you think about it, it really should be a federal law that every Dairy Queen in the country must close during the month of January.

Discouragement — Discouragement clearly also plays an important role. Let’s say, for example, that you have resolved to exercise every day by taking a brisk walk. If you then experience a few days of ultra-cold weather or freezing rain, and you therefore logically decide to refrain from following through on that resolution, by day three or four you might figure that you’ve blown it already, and what’s the point? I would guess that the shutdown orders issued in March 2020 drove the last nail into the coffin of multiple 2020 New Year’s resolutions.

Perceived Futility — TV commercials and pop-up ads suggest that people can change their lives on a dime, melt away that stubborn belly fat, and become the person of their dreams by drinking a special concoction or using a particular exercise machine for only minutes a day. If you believe that and find that two weeks of work at the gym don’t seem to be having an effect on the bathroom scales, you may just decide it’s hopeless.

Evil Forces That Simply Conspire Against You To Crush Your Best Intentions — A good example of this situation is if you are a Cleveland Browns fan who resolves to adopt a more positive and cheerful attitude about life.

My Friends And Family Resolution

I’ve thought a bit about what my New Year’s resolution for 2020 should be, and I’ve decided it really is pretty simple:  my resolution is to try to make it to the end of 2020 without irretrievably alienating any of my friends or family.

This may sound like an easy resolution to keep, but I don’t think it is — not really.  In fact, I think 2020 is going to be one of the toughest years, ever, to get through while keeping your coterie of friends, family, and colleagues intact.  That’s because, in this already absurdly super-heated political environment, we’re moving into a year where there will be a presidential campaign, a presidential election, and, apparently, an impeachment trial — all percolating at the same time.  Many of my friends and family members, of all political stripes, feel very passionately about each of those events in isolation.  When you put them all together you’ve got what is probably the most combustible combination of political events in American history.

One year that might be comparable is 1864, when a presidential election took place in the midst of a Civil War, when even the Union, alone, was bitterly divided.  But even 1864 might not really be a good comparator, because in those days the candidates and the country as a whole didn’t need to run a gauntlet of caucuses, primaries, debates, and 24-hour news coverage.  Unfortunately, we’ll be subjected to all of those things.

Our current circumstances have produced the kind of fervent environment where one ill-chosen word or ill-advised joke could damage feelings beyond repair, end a friendship that has endured for decades, or cause family members to vow never to talk to each other or interact again.  I don’t want that to happen.  I like and respect all of my family members and friends, and I’d like to end 2020 without experiencing any regrets that some stupid blog post, social media comment, or argument after a few adult beverages wrecked things.  So this year will be a year of walking on eggshells, with all things dealing with the presidential election off-limits for me.  Call me a wimp if you want.

This is my own, self-imposed pledge.  I’m not going to shush my friends or try to keep them from expressing their strongly held views in strongly phrased ways.  But as for me, I value my friends and family more than I value my need to engage in political debates.


Completing Copperfield

Over the weekend, I finished Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Three month, and 882 pages — 882! — of tiny, eye-squinting type later, I completed “Mas’r Davy’s” journey from birth to a happy adult life.

the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield-charles-dickens-first-edition-rare-originalI can’t say it was an easy read, because it really wasn’t, but I’m glad I did it.  It’s pretty clear that reading for enjoyment back in Dickens’ era was a lot different from leisure reading in our modern world.  Following the twists and turns of David Copperfield’s life — which apparently has a lot of autobiographical elements of Dicken’s own life in it — required a significant amount of focus and attention to detail to follow the different characters and the arc of the plots and subplots, and it wasn’t always easy to accept, or understand, the motivations of the characters living in a long-ago time.  David Copperfield is definitely not a “beach read.”

I confess that there were times, especially during the middle part of the novel, when I came home after a long day at work and just couldn’t face another encounter with the execrable Uriah Heep or another exposure to the elaborate manners and curious conversational gambits of people in Victorian England — which is one reason why it took me more than two months to finish the book.  (That tells you something, incidentally, about the demand for Dickens’ novels these days; I was able to renew the book multiple times without the library advising that I needed to return it because someone else wanted it.)  And yet the story was interesting enough that I kept at it, and as the novel progressed I found that the momentum of my reading increased because I wanted to see whether the plot ended the way I thought it would.  (It did.)

So now we’ve reached May, and I can check off one of my New Year’s resolutions.  There’s some satisfaction in that, but my next bit of reading is going to be something a little less taxing.  I’ve concluded that I’m not done with Dickens, however — his writing is intriguing, and after a detour into some recent fiction I’m going to tackle Great Expectations.

Reasonably Achievable Resolutions

Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  If so, how’s it going?  According to a social network called Strava, which somehow conducted some research into the topic, most people who make New Year’s resolutions end up breaking them by January 12.  So hang in there: you apparently only have to suffer through a few more days of compliance before you can go back to those old habits.

The Strava research seems to have focused on exercise and dietary resolutions, which are probably the most challenging resolutions of all.  People buy that health club membership and start eating leafy green vegetables for dinner with the best of intentions, but are felled by unrealistic expectations of what will happen.  When those unrealistic expectations aren’t met, they fall off the wagon.  And then, after they fall off the wagon, they figure it’s hopeless to try to change and totally give up.

I think making resolutions makes some sense, and the start of a new year is as good a time as any for some self-reflection and consideration of how a beneficial behavioral change might be in order.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to get more exercise and be more healthy, but why stake your New Year’s resolutions entirely upon goals that experience teaches are incredibly difficult to reach?  Maybe we should start small, and think about little, reasonably achievable resolutions that might just make you a better person and improve your life at the same time.  Consider, for example, this list of 58 New Year’s resolutions that don’t involve dieting or exercise.  It’s not exhaustive and right for everyone, of course, but it may give you ideas for the kind of resolutions that are suitable for you.

This year, I’m going small with my resolutions.  I’m going to clean out my closet and give the clothes that aren’t being used to a charitable organization.  I want to go through what we’ve got stored in the basement and the pantry, figure out whether we’re using it, and donate what’s unneeded to the Goodwill.  I’m going to tackle my emailboxes and iPhone photos, delete what I don’t want to store forever, be happy about the reduced clutter, and see whether that improves my phone battery life.  And while I’ve done a better job of leisure reading this past year, in 2019 I’m going to up the ante by identifying and then reading through to the end at least one really mentally challenging book.

Making goals is a good thing, but reaching those goals is even better.


Killer Yoga And New Year’s Resolutions

Most of us tend to think of Yoga as a New Wave, gentle, and physically safe form of exercise.  The New York Times magazine has an article that reminds us that isn’t always the case.  In fact, yoga can cause serious injury.

The article notes that yoga has been associated with lower back, shoulder, knee, and neck injuries and even more serious problems such as stroke, ruptured Achilles tendons, and nerve and brain damage.  It appears that many of the injuries come from overdoing it, by trying to achieve even more contorted positions, or holding poses for extreme lengths of time, or maintaining a neck-based position on a hardwood floor.  Some of the more extreme forms of “yoga” that are offered these days — like the “hot yoga” classes that one of our good friends takes — are an example of how Americans often try to push the envelope with exercise regimens.  Sometimes, unfortunately, we push through the envelope and cause serious injury and long-term physical damage.

The lessons of yoga injuries are especially pertinent now, with New Year’s Day just behind us and many of us having resolved to lose the weight we gained over the holidays and a bit more, besides.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but easy does it is a good rule of thumb — particularly for those of us who are older and have been desk-bound for years.  Rather than trying to immediately run five miles, or to achieve yoga positions that master yogis can only dream of, why not focus instead on eating and drinking less, cutting back on fatty or calorie-laden foods, and lengthening that morning walk and adding a short evening walk, too?


Saturday Shoveling

I liked UJ’s post about New Year’s resolutions.  I think almost everyone — except for supermodels, movie stars, and the exceptionally rare individual like UJ who has stayed at his same weight since high school — vows to lose weight in the new year.  Health club memberships get sold, treadmills get bought, and two months later the health club is a forgotten option and the tread mill has become an expensive clothes hanger.

I think more people would be in better shape if they just did the basic chores around the house the old-fashioned way.  Rake the leaves with a rake, instead of using a leaf blower.  Mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds, rather than hiring a service.  And, when it snows, shovel your driveway and walkways instead of hiring a guy with a snowblower.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve gotten a lot of snow recently.  Today I set out to shovel our driveway, and I think it was a pretty good workout.  To begin with, it was overcast and cold outside, maybe 20 degrees.  There were about six inches of snow on the driveway.  We’d been driving over it to get to the garage, so most of the snow had been pulverized into a hard layer of compressed snow and ice.  The only effective way to remove it was to use a flat-edged regular shovel and try to jimmy under the edge of the snow/ice layer and then flip it up, uncovering the asphalt beneath.  It was slow going, and with all of the chipping and carrying of ice chunks to the side of the driveway it didn’t take long to get warm and then break a sweat.  At the base of the driveway, where some salt from the road had mixed with the snow, there was a thick, heavy, churned mass of slush that adhered to the shovel when you scooped it up and then tried to dump it on the side.  Repeatedly scooping, shaking, and tapping shovels full of damp slush will definitely get your heartbeat going.  The calorie count website says that shoveling snow for an hour burns 408 calories, about equivalent to one and a half Snickers bars.

When you do something like shoveling, it is of course important to have some good music on the Ipod to help you through your chore.  Today I used my “Empty Nest” playlist, which consists solely of songs I’ve heard since Russell went off to college.  It was an inspired selection.  I’m A Ram by Gov’t Mule and Reptilia by the Strokes, for example, are songs well suited to hacking away at ice and snow on a frigid day.

Belated Happy New Year

Well Happy New Year everyone ! It has been 10 days since I’ve been on the blog and there is lot’s to discuss. For starters I thought it would be a good idea to post the top ten New Year’s resolutions for those of you out there that still make New Year’s resolutions.

1 – Lose Weight – I have to say I don’t need to worry about this one – I’ve always weighed in at approximately 139 lbs since I was in high school.

2 – Manage Debt – No problem with this one – other than my house payment I don’t carry any debt. I have paid cash for my last three cars which on average I’ve driven for 10 years.

3 – Save More Money – I suppose we all can probably do more of this, but how much money is too much money. My rationale on this one is put back enough money to be comfortable, but be sure to spend enough to enjoy life’s ride cause you don’t know when it’s gonna end.

4 – Get a Better Job – I sort of experienced a forced retirement back in April of 2009 after having worked for Nationwide Insurance for 26 years, but I have to say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to enjoy the warm summer weather and worked part-time as a host at my favorite restaurant, Windward Passage. In October 2009 I was asked back to Nationwide Insurance as a consultant through March 31, 2010 making more than I did when I worked there …. ahhhh …… the perfect job working six months out of the year. Doesn’t get any better than that !

5 – Get a Better Education – I have a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Marketing, but I have thought about taking a course or two online …. I’m still thinking about it ! What would I take ? At Windward we have a Mexican contingent that works in the kitchen and I would like to know what it is that they are talking about so I might brush up on my Spanish.

6 – Drink Less Alcohol – As Ben Franklin recommended moderation – I usually limit myself to two drinks except when I am watching the Buckeye games with my friends and when I’m on the Booze Cruise with my family – lets face it, you gotta drink when your around your family, especially the nieces and the nephews.

7 – Quit Smoking – I tried smoking cigarettes a couple of times when I was younger, but didn’t like the taste in my mouth the next morning.

8 – Reduce Stress Overall – To do this I heard something quite a few years ago that works for me and that is to live a simple life. Of course there are things like your health that you can’t control, but if I can’t control it then I don’t worry about it.

9 – Volunteer to Help Others – I definitely need to do more of this when I semi-retire again on March 31. I participated in a program that Nationwide Insurance sponsored in which employees tutored young children at Windsor School in downtown Columbus. What a truly rewarding experience this was !

10 – Take a Trip – I have a friend who does business overseas and I want to get back to Europe again in 2010. Last time we went to Amsterdam we had a blast. So much to do and see. Then we took a high speed rail to Paris, which if your a people watcher like I am is a great city to go to.

So what is my New Year’s Resolution for 2010 – most of my friends want me to get a computer which I still don’t have at home. My excuse is that if I had one at home I would be on it all the time and I don’t want that to happen. I like going to the library to use the computer where they limit your usage time to five hours. You would be surprised how many times I’ve hit the five hour limit.