January 05, 2008

List 'em down kids!

Something Like Life
Jan. 4, 2008

‘SO what’s your New Year’s resolution?” my ex-classmate H. jokingly inquired. We hadn’t seen each other in a while as she had been working abroad for a time, and I bumped into her—of all places—at the mall just a couple of days before New Year’s Eve. We immediately sat down for cups of coffee to catch up with the latest chismis about our former schoolmates.

Amid the screams and peals of laughter reminiscing over stupid college antics, we had some discussion if we still needed to make New Year’s resolutions and why people no longer made them.

In true skeptic’s fashion, I retorted, “Uso pa ba ’yon [Is it still in fashion]?” I don’t remember making any more New Year’s resolutions after I became an adult, and New Year’s Eve took on another meaning—lots of panic eating, binge drinking and partying on the beach with friends.

H. still believes in the concept—and that people no longer make resolutions out of plain laziness. I think people no longer make them because we’ve all become cynics and our own worst critics. We know we won’t follow through with our New Year’s goals, anyway.

Unfazed with my negativity, and with total seriousness, H. said she wanted to adopt a “more healthy” routine this year. To start exercising and eat more vegetables. She said she was going to go back to the gym and use the exercise machines at least thrice a week, instead of wasting her monthly gym membership fees. (Well, I told her she was an idiot for not using her gym membership, especially since New York gyms charge the most humongous fees! Hellow?!)

Anyway, I said I could use some more gym time myself, as per the latest mounting on the weighing scale showed me the impact on my gorgeous figure of the pints of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, a few shovelfuls of molten chocolate lava cakes, and recent bites of lechon macau and cochinillo.

But I know myself. I’m not quite the person who would stick to some commitment I’ve made (especially under duress and because a friend was just egging me on to come up with a resolution), even though I know I could probably push through with it if I really wanted to.

I’m also quite the contrarian. I’d probably violate my New Year’s resolution just to show myself I could do so, and then challenge myself to renew my commitment. Of course, more often than not, the violation stays and old habits are readopted out of laziness and convenience.

But H. was persuasive. She said a New Year’s resolution wasn’t “some kind of torture” one inflicts on oneself. To commit to goals that we know we can never accomplish and adopt certain behaviors which are beyond our limitations. Most of the time, she said, this is the mistake people make when they make their New Year’s goals, and that’s why they fail so miserably in accomplishing them, and then become disappointed with themselves for failing.

It’s more about changing one bad habit over time and choosing to be a better and improved version of oneself, she stressed. A New Year’s resolution gives us a chance to make ourselves over.

She insisted that the resolution doesn’t even have to be a big one. As most people’s experiences show, the more complicated the commitment you make (e.g. stop smoking completely), the more likely you will break your resolution. It can be as simple as resolving to start one’s day with a prayer, making up your bed before leaving home or, yes, even going to the gym twice a week.

We both theorized that the key to making sure one would stick to his or her New Year’s resolution is to make it as specific as possible and totally measurable. Like instead of resolving to quit smoking, it has to be more exact like cutting down from two packs of cigarettes a day to just a pack a day. (I went cold turkey, too, when I stopped smoking a decade ago, but then I wasn’t really a heavy smoker to begin with. I just think for some people, their bodies need time to adjust to the reduction in nicotine intake before they finally cut it off.)

Okay, so let me humor H. and come up with my list. If I believed in making New Year’s resolutions, these are the things I will resolve to do:

Practice yoga more regularly, like twice a week. Since my latest trip to my doctor showed a slightly elevated diastolic, maybe it’s time I adopt a more regular de-stressing exercise routine.

Set aside a travel fund. With the peso stronger against the dollar these days, traveling abroad has become more affordable. So saving up to be able to go on just one gigantic dream vacation abroad is something I’d want to do. Tuscany, here I come!

Clean out the attic. Throw out all my college stuff. (C’mon, some people even keep their grade-school mementos!)

I should give away clothes, shoes and bags I no longer need. Either use all the geegaws I’ve purchased in my travels abroad, or gift them to somebody.

Organize my stock of photos over the years into albums and boxes.

Get a glaucoma exam. The eye condition runs in my family and I’m at the age where it can start. Better start monitoring it now.

And finally…

Redecorate my bedroom. I’ve been trying to do this for a couple of years already with not much success, primarily because I have no talent whatsoever in interior decorating. Never mind that I have a lot of fabulous finds from the flea markets I frequent, I just cannot organize all of them into an aesthetic and pleasing fashion worthy of my hours of watching Clean House and Extreme Makeover. I need a place that can really be a sanctuary so I can shut myself away from whatever’s happening in the real world. No TV allowed.

In theory, they all sound good, but the hard part, of course, is actually doing them. And thus, we still come to the same question: Do we still need New Year’s resolutions to beat back our bad habits, or give us more impetus to reach a goal that we have been trying to accomplish for years?

It works for H. Perhaps it’s worth a try.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of BusinessMirror. Main photo from BusinessMirror. The rest, the author's)

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