I opened our Christmas present from my brother-in-law and his wife … and started to laugh.
“Brad, Rena,” I told them, “you guys have to open our gift now.”
They did – and soon joined the laughter. Somehow, in a fit of holiday inspiration, we’d gotten each other the same board game.
“Good taste!” we agreed.
Somehow, it seems a fitting way to enter the new year.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Eve festivities. It’s not really my kind of holiday – I don’t drink, I’m not a huge party-goer, I already stay up past midnight, and the whole year-in-review business, while kind of fun, reminds me too much of work.
But the core of it all – and you knew this was coming – are the resolutions.
Those famous, impossible resolutions.
A lot of us make them. Almost none of us keep them. I’ve seen one set of statistics that suggests a 90 percent failure rate; frankly, I suspect that’s on the low side.
We keep doing it, of course. After all, it’s a new year, a turn of the calendar, a roll of Father Time’s odometer. Perfect time for a fresh start, right?
Until it isn’t.
So why do we blow it so badly?
OK, some of it might be the natural collision of willpower with won’t power. But I think there’s something more.
I think we overestimate our foresight.
I’ve known my brother-in-law for 14 years. We’ve got a good idea of each other’s characters, our likes and dislikes, a little bit of personal history. Armed with all that, we still couldn’t predict that we’d wind up with matching gifts.
If I can’t even anticipate that, how the heck do I go about predicting what I’ll most need to do for an entire year?
Like a lot of generals, we fight the last war. At this point last year, I had decided that my main goal was going to be to write for myself a bit more, maybe even get something published. A worthy enough goal, certainly within my abilities.
Since I’m writing it in this column, you can guess what the result was. And I don’t mean a No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
But the thing is, the year was far from wasted.
This was the year of a new home, a new family. This was the year Heather and I became guardians for her young aunt Missy, a role that’s led me to be a combination parent, big brother, and friend. It’s a year where I got to enjoy the role of “Uncle Scott” to my infant nieces and nephew; a time where I continued to write in the midst of an often topsy-turvy industry; even a time where I got to be part of one of the best shows the Longmont Theatre Company has ever produced (he said modestly). I celebrated at a relative’s wedding and then cried at her husband’s funeral before the year was out.
Almost none of that could have been anticipated on Dec. 31, 2010.
It’s said that every general fights the last war. I think we do the same with our lives. We think next year will be last year with minor revisions. Sometimes it’s true. More often, there’s surprises.
And in the face of that, all our resolutions and plans go out the window.
Mind you, it’s not a useless thing to set goals. But the best resolutions are those made every morning, not every year. They’re the ones where you can look at the day ahead, look at the life that faces you, and decide “This will be the best day it can be.” And then do your best to make it so.
A year is a long span. As you cross it, remember that each day is a gift.
And no one else will unwrap one quite like it.