Amy Roberts: Resolutions and rocks are both uphill battles
I have an old-fashioned “word of the day” paper calendar, and every morning I tear off a sheet to discover a new word. They are almost always the type of words you only hear if you watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and I almost always have to study the definition. “Gesellschaft,” “feldenkrais,” “scherenschnitte” — I can’t spell them without cheating and I certainly can’t pronounce them correctly, but thanks to my calendar, I can define them — at least for one day. For the most part, I learn 365 new words each year, and forget about 360 of them. They aren’t exactly commonly used in casual conversation.
But on December 31st, I flipped the page of my calendar and saw a word that so perfectly summed up what I was about to do, I committed it to memory. The word was “Sisyphean,” and given that I was about to set my resolutions for 2019, it was ironically appropriate.
“Sisyphean” is derived from Greek mythology. As the story goes, the king Sisyphus annoyed the gods and was condemned for all eternity to roll a massive boulder up a hill. No matter how hard he tried, he inevitably failed to get to the top. The heavy rock would always roll down the hill and he’d be forced to start over, with nothing to show for his efforts.
To use it in a sentence, “My attempts at keeping a New Year’s resolution are Sisyphean.”
For decades I have set them with good intentions, only to ultimately watch them all roll downhill, oftentimes before the last chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” was over.
Throughout the years I’ve vowed to not swear as much, give up sugar, not be chronically late to everything, minimize my screen time, reduce my urge to laugh when I see someone fall, spend less money, stop biting my fingernails, limit how often I write “LOL” at the end of my texts — the list is fairly extensive. My success rate however is not. And in 2019, I don’t want my goals to be Sisyphean.
I gave some thought as to why this has long been my MO and came to the evidence-based conclusion that bad habits are hard to break. Perhaps instead I’d have more success attempting to create or further develop more constructive attributes, rather than write a cease and desist letter to the destructive ones. So this year, I’m not looking to correct my vices. Rather I’m pledging to form meaningful and positive habits that will hopefully make up for my less-than-flattering traits.
As such, I am walking into 2019 with a clear mind and an open heart. I will thank those who have wronged me, because I’ve learned a lesson. I will appreciate anyone who has hurt me, because it made me stronger. I will no longer keep score; those who owe me will have a zero balance. I will no longer cling to mistakes just because I spent a lot of time making them. I will not experience life at an arm’s length or feel its sensations secondhand. I will not shy away from the depth of my feeling or the intensity of my hope. I will assume good intent and set my default mode to forgiveness.
I know that a new year does not automatically equate to a new or better version of myself and none of this magically begins with the flip of my calendar. But by flipping my focus and setting goals to develop habits rather than drop them, I give myself permission to keep trying and not feel a sense of failure when the rock backslides a little bit.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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