I have a troubled relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I used to be into resolutions because I used to believe that I could change my life. One year I vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations. Then I read my journal from the previous year. It seems the year before I had also vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations, so not only had I failed to nail that, at some point I became so intimidated by the situation of trying to do something about it, that I blocked it out altogether.
I am all for goal setting, but for me it always seems to be a way of pointing to exactly where I am not headed, like I’m Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club trying to get through customs with drugs so I look in the direction the drugs aren’t hidden to fake them out. Last year I forced The Husband and I to set goals for the coming year. Having probably not looked at them since, The Husband recently looked at his just last week only to realize he had achieved all of them with the exception of getting a “big comfy chair,” a situation that can be quickly remedied by the next sale at H.D. Buttercup. Meanwhile I am too afraid to look at mine. I know what I failed to achieve cannot be remedied by a sale, except to anesthetize my sense of failure with a new pair of shoes.
Not that my life in the last year turned out poorly – far from it. My life had many more ups than downs including travel, a new home and many, many great times spent with friends. I drank great wine. I made and ate great food. I discovered I could cook an amazing pork shoulder. But in terms of the things I wanted to achieve, I’m don’t think I hit one. Are my goals too high? Do I not work hard enough? Do I even care if I still managed to travel and drink and eat with friends?
So as the end of the year approached and I found myself in the normal holiday fugue of constant cooking, I realized the one resolution that I could get behind this year that seemed not just desirable but actually somewhat achievable, was:
I hate wasting food. We like to cook. We like to have people over. There are always leftovers. We’re doing a better job at not having to throw leftovers out and that makes me happy. We can do better. I am learning to throw things in the freezer before I have to throw them in the trash. I am expanding my concept of when I think a food has gone off and trying to go by how it smells and tastes instead. I am also finding ways to re-purpose leftovers. The last day of the braised pork shoulder when thrown in the Cuisinart made excellent pork rillettes for toast points. Chicken can become soup. You can make risotto with farro if that’s all you have and leftover risotto becomes arancini. Friends and I have been growing comfortable bringing leftovers to each other’s houses, whether it’s a leftover side dish to add to dinner or a potluck of fantastic after Thanksgiving appetizers and cheeses.
Last night I looked in the fridge at the delicious food we had bought for New Year’s and thought, “I am not going to throw away this salami or bread or cheese because of a date on the calendar.” I’m tired of starting the new year with a list of things I tell myself I can’t eat, things I’m going to deprive myself of. Enough. When I’m good my weight never fluctuates as low as I would like, but when I’m bad it never fluctuates as high as it should, either. I should take that as what it is – a win. Who am I trying to be a size zero for? No one I give a whit of a fuck about cares. Not being a size zero has ever gotten in my way of traveling or reading a book or going to an art museum or making myself laugh or smiling at something clever my cats did.
Exercise? Pfft! I can already tell you I’m not going to have a lot of time. “But you need to make time.” Fuck you. I’ll make time for things that matter and that I enjoy and on the days that is a regimented exercise program I will do that. What I will make time to do is waste less gas. That means walking to the grocery store, the post office, the neighborhood restaurants and movie theaters. Being outside. Talking to neighbors.
That leaves me with one last thing to waste less of and that is time. This one is trickier. I like to think I’m already beginning by wasting less time with resolutions I either can’t or won’t or shouldn’t care to achieve. I’d like to find more time to be a tourist in my own town and check out the exhibits or shows that are often gone before I hear that they were here and awesome. I’d like to find more time to write things like this, things that I’m not getting paid to write and yet make me feel like just as much of a “legitimate” writer, sometimes moreso. In a world where our time is always feeling increasingly, irretrievably crunched, how do we do this? Maybe instead of making goals, I need to write a list of activities that are priorities so I know which ones matter when I feel pressed for time. Maybe I need to make sure that I do two of them a day or find one thing that wastes my time a week to eliminate. “Wasting less time” also means saying “No” to the things that I know won’t make me happy.
And sometimes I think what I need is to also redefine what “wasting time” is. Is staring out the window, looking at the sun falling on trees a “waste of time?” Is having a cup of coffee without paying bills or reading emails while I’m doing it? Is it “wrong” to binge watch a season of a TV show without being in bed with a fever? The guilt I feel over not doing a laundry list of things that include both laundry and making more lists would say, “Yes.” But why? Why deny myself something that makes me happy, that supports the hard work of others, and that gives my brain a break from the voices that tell me what I should be doing and why I’ve already failed. It only wastes more time thinking that time has been wasted. And that’s time I need to smile at something clever my cats did.