Do you have New Year’s resolutions for 2021? Chris Dupuy reflects on resolutions from previous years and how this year’s list has been shaped by the events of 2020.
How does one approach New Year’s Resolutions in the midst of a global pandemic?
That was the question I found myself asking the other day. I’ve gotten out of the habit in recent years, but there was a time not long ago when my New Year’s Eve routine included the exercise of sitting down and writing out my resolutions for the upcoming year.
I always made a point of starting my list early in the day, so that an evening spent getting shitfaced wouldn’t cloud my decision-making. Looking back, it feels more than a bit ironic that among the first resolutions I would jot down every year was my commitment to spend less time shitfaced the following year.
In addition to my earnest commitment to a life of cleaner living in the New Year, the list was typically populated with a series of run-of-the-mill promises, the order changing depending on the year—lose weight, exercise more, start writing again, stop procrastinating, more time with family, less work travel, etc.
It was a fairly standard list for a (relatively) normal guy during (relatively) normal times. But as 2020 draws to its welcome close, times are anything but normal, and I don’t recall ever feeling less normal than I do in the midst of what has become a global shitshow. Therefore, it stands to reason that my 2020/2021 list should not be “normal” either.
That shouldn’t be too difficult, since several of the usual suspects already have checkmarks next to them as December 31st approaches.
Thanks to the hastily assembled gym in my garage and COVID-19 forcing me to work from home, I’m able to exercise more regularly than ever (yet, frustratingly, in what can only be described as “very 2020,” I find myself steadily gaining weight, like some modern-day, suburban Sisyphus). The prolonged time at home, while a boon to family bonding, has left me feeling increasingly stir crazy (close quarters, anyone?) and ready to leap back into the occasional business trip. Of course, such plans will remain on hold until it is determined we’ve returned to a world where crashing is the only known health risk associated with boarding a plane.
And I stopped getting shitfaced some years back, have mostly ceased procrastinating, and finally started writing again. Such truths tell me the “normal” stuff of bygone years no longer applies anyway.
Someone (I want to say Churchill, but it may have been my Uber driver a couple weeks back) once said, “those who ignore history are destined to repeat it,” or words to that effect, which when applied to the year 2020 scares the bejesus out of me. So, in the interest of attempting to rescue myself from the Groundhog’s Day malaise of this bizarro-world existence I find myself trapped in, here’s the best I can come up with to start my New Year off right:
- Spend less time trapped within the confines of my own head. How this one never made my list in the old days is baffling to me. Regardless, when I am truly able to escape my endless internal chatter and think clearly, it occurs to me that most of the negative anxiety that comes my way in this life typically occurs when I’m lamenting something that’s already happened, or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. Another nasty side effect of the global pandemic has been the voices between my ears morphing into a veritable Greek Chorus, ready to debate and belabor even the smallest spark of thought or memory.
Which leads me to …
- Stay present. Even during these near-apocalyptic times, there are sunrises and sunsets, moments of joy and love—puppies and kittens, for goodness’ sake. Shame on me if I let another year pass without breathing in and experiencing every natural wonder and positive vibe that I’m fortunate enough to stumble upon on a daily basis.
- Keep taking walks. What began as a must, to simply maintain my sanity when the country was ordered indoors, has morphed into the most valuable time I spend every day. Whether it’s gaining a refreshed perspective on a challenge from the workplace or smiling as I recall a time when the kids did something funny to make me laugh when they were little, there’s something about strolling the neighborhood that allows pounds of unwanted pressure to be released from my overactive noggin.
- Watch one video of an old (pre-1990, kids) sporting event weekly. Yes, I’m a chronic nostalgist, but during that dark time when televised sports were all but removed from my life, the wonders of YouTube and the treasure trove of archived sporting events from my past became a lifeline in my desperate battle to stay entertained/distracted. Everything from the earliest Super Bowls to grainy reruns of Battle of the Network Stars (who knew Gabe Kaplan was an athlete?) can be found if you dig deep enough, and it sure beats the heck out of today’s over-politicized, social media-driven world of sports.
- Continue supporting local businesses. Nothing against Starbucks (it serves its purpose, particularly in airports), but if given time and opportunity, I vow to never willingly bypass one of our local coffee shops for some impersonal chain ever again. The literal highlight of many a day for me these past several months has been masking up and wading into a little human connection with the folks working the makeshift walk-up and takeout windows around town. Give me Bear Coast Coffee down at the San Clemente Pier over McDonald’s every single time when it comes to setting the right tone for my morning. A vaccine won’t make up for all that our business-owner neighbors have lost in 2020, and they’ll need our unwavering support for quite some time when we finally come out the other side of this mess.
- Cherish those closest to me. I laughed when I first heard the term “social distancing” all those months ago. I joked that there were few people more socially distant than I and relished the idea of a world where my standoffishness would become the accepted (mandated?) norm. Now, ten months later, I can only shake my head and say “funny, not funny” as I sit alone in my office—again. If I write down the names of my ten closest friends on a piece of paper, there isn’t one of them I’ve seen in person in 2020. And I miss them. Zoom, text, email, or phone all you want, but nothing matches how perfect it is to sit in silence next to someone with whom you are so comfortable that you feel no pressure to force conversation. There are far too many of us around the world today who prepare to head into 2021 having said goodbye to a friend or loved one without knowing that the last time we touched that person would, in fact, be the last time.
There was no handbook or owner’s manual to turn to when it came to navigating all that’s been thrown at us in 2020. But the whole concept of impermanence sure has taken on a life of its own, hasn’t it? Starting in 2021, I resolve to go spend time with someone that matters to me, even (especially?) when I’m tired or don’t feel like it. And I’ll let my handshake or embrace linger a couple seconds longer than I used to, creepiness factor be damned.
Because I absolutely refuse to allow the memories of 2020 to fade into the past without taking a lesson or two with me into 2021.
Happy New Year.