01 January 2009

Beginning again

We design -- and live by -- arbitrary lines of demarcation. Once a year I'm one year older. At least that marker actually marks something, my date of birth. So do anniversary celebrations and remembrances of historical events. Rarely, however, do those three boundaries (and countless others) get anywhere near the attention the year change does.

Thousands gather in New York's Times Square to watch the ball drop and respond with euphoric, frenzied glee when it does. Millions stay up in living rooms and bars around the world until midnight's arrival to stand as witness to the old year's exit and the new year's entrance. Countless people let this transition dictate their behaviour -- I'll start the diet, I'll take exercise seriously at the first of the year, probably the most prevelently made "deal." (So, after Thanksgiving and until then I won't move and I'll eat everything I can get my hands on is the other part of the deal, by the way.)

Why do we do it, resolve -- oftentimes with overly optomistic intentions? What is different about January 1st? Why is it a more desirable beginning date than, say, May 13th? And, how many people actually awaken on January 1st feeling different (hangovers aside) or better or more ready? We need permission, it seems, to change ourselves and our behaviours and we need time to think about it, to get ready, anticipating that cultural event out there in the future. And, then we begin, but to large extent don't follow through for more than a few weeks, one speed bump knocking us off our pace, bringing our change to an end.

We we really believe this is the only or the best time to make choices about how we are going to live our lives? Do we really believe that if we make a mistake there's nothing we can do about it, except wait until next year to try again? Do we really want to change anything at all about ourselves or is the New Year resolution hype just that, something we're supposed to do the week after Christmas?

I was going to make the bed first thing everyday this year. Does it count as failure when toda of all days the chore isn't finished until after lunch rather than first thing or should I admit defeat and reschedule the resolution for 2010?

I think I'll just enjoy the "lately" made bed today and start over tomorrow. I realize that the cycle of night-to-day is another sort of arbitrary line of demarcation we all observe, but at least if I choose this one the bedroom will be presentable early more often than not. Maybe.

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