Diet and gym ads are ramping up this week, in preparation for the short burst of business and the sustaining influx of money they’re about to get in the brand-new year. They’re getting ready for what Sarah calls The Resolutionists — the crowds of people who tell themselves every year that this will be the year they lose the weight, who pay their Weight Watchers and gym membership fees up front, and whose interest and resolve peters out after weeks or months when they get weary of punishing themselves. It’s such a good deal for the weight-loss industry, which after all thrives on such perseverative behavior, that I had to check Wikipedia to make sure that the New Year’s resolution “tradition” wasn’t made up in the last few decades, a la De Beers and the “traditional” diamond engagement ring.
I don’t want anyone supporting the diet industry, and god knows we’re all trying to break out of the “set unrealistic goals, fail to meet unrealistic goals, self-flagellate for failure, repeat until death” cycle. But I do kind of like the idea of New Year’s resolutions, as a promise to yourself to be better to yourself. No reason why it has to be New Year’s, but why not? It’s as good a time as any to make the commitment to be gentler with yourself, or more nourishing, or to stop standing in your own way.
That’s all that the people who resolve to lose weight are trying to do, after all. It’s just that they think they can’t really start until they earn it through weight loss. It all sounds awfully familiar, no?
So I invite you to revisit your Fantasy of Being Thin, and resolve to make that fantasy happen without the weight-loss step. Just skip that part — you don’t need it. All it will do is ensure that you constantly feel like a failure, and that you never get around to resolving anything more fun. Resolve to stop waiting until you’re thin — or until you’re an acceptable person, in whatever way that means to you — to date more, or dance more, or take up martial arts, or learn a musical instrument, or wear cute clothes, or finish that novel (ahem, Kate). Resolve to remember that you don’t become greater by waiting until you get smaller. In fact, you don’t become greater by waiting at all.
Personally, I’ve worked pretty hard not to have a personal Fantasy of Being Thin, but all I’ve really done is reinscribed it — now it’s a Fantasy of When I Have My Shit Together. What I seem to be waiting for, more than anything else, is to be the kind of person who can always keep the house clean, who never leaves clothes on the floor, who does the dishes immediately after dinner. You can see how it’s just the FoBT in a different dress — it’s still about docility and control. I’m much more creatively productive at other people’s houses, because I don’t have to be constantly faced with evidence of my failure to Have My Shit Together. So here is my resolution: I will not wait until my environment is flawlessly clean before I can do art. I won’t let the presence of dirty dishes, or my disinclination to do them right now, paralyze me like it has in the past. Being neat and organized are not prerequisites for anything I want to do.
What’s not going to stand in YOUR way this year? What are you going to do for yourself when you give up waiting?