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I am well aware that New Year’s resolutions are frowned upon as unrealistic and silly, a futile exercise executed by optimistic, uncomplicated people. I know logically that personal growth is not something to be dictated by an arbitrary turn of the calendar. I know that I don’t keep them; I often don’t even remember what exactly I resolved. But I enjoy the exercise, so sue me.
I’m Marsha Lederman and I write about the arts from Vancouver. I am very into fresh starts, self-improvement and long walks on the beach. (That last one is a joke. Although I do, in fact, enjoy a good beach walk.) I am also a big rule-follower. So New Year’s resolutions are a natural for me.
Even if – okay, when – I fall off the resolution wagon, I firmly believe that we benefit from this aspirational pursuit. I think we should look at our resolutions more like a guide than something we succeeded or failed at. And instead of focusing entirely on the desired outcome, ask ourselves and really consider, what does my resolution say about what I want for my life?
As I said – and I confess this with some embarrassment – I don’t always remember my resolutions. (I know; perhaps I should resolve to write them down somewhere.) But some have stuck with me.
Every year since I don’t know when, I have made the same two resolutions or versions thereof: This will be the year that I get in shape and get out of debt. These are not uncommon goals.
In addition, one year I resolved to read a poem every day. Another year (or was it the same year?) I resolved to try a new restaurant on my local main street every week. One year I resolved to make a recipe from each of the cookbooks that line my shelves. Then there was the year I vowed to read at least one article every day from outside my usual Globe and Mail-New York Times-New Yorker-Washington Post media bubble.
Here’s another embarrassing, if not at all surprising, confession. Each of these resolutions – and these are just the ones I can remember – went bust.
The daily poetry reading fell off after about six weeks; my kid decided shortly after I made the restaurant resolution that he didn’t like eating out any more; I do not have the bandwidth to attempt a recipe with instructions that continue onto a second page. And who has the time to read The Economist or Sports Illustrated when there are already-purchased subscriptions to justify?
I do not, however, consider these unfulfilled resolutions a failure. Each of them taught me something about myself and led to some sort of shift, if not always transformational change. Even if I didn’t read a poem every day, I did read more poetry that year (and since), clearly something for which I was yearning. On the cookbook front, I have gone from a being completely inept to a sometimes competent preparer of simple meals, which every now and then are declared not disgusting by my 11 year old. Even if my son and I never got to all those restaurants, I recognized a desire to support local businesses and I go out of my way to shop locally. Or pick up takeout on the way home – when I’m not making those recipes.
Recently, a friend of mine told me she was not going to make a resolution for 2020 per se, but that she wanted to have a theme for the year: connection. For instance, going to the theatre or an art gallery with friends and sitting down afterward over a meal and good wine to discuss what we had seen. Great idea, right? As a result of this conversation, I made January plans with her then and there. (Unfortunately, in this case my contribution to her connection theme means I have agreed to accompany her for a New Year’s swim at English Bay. I can assure you there will be no long walk on the beach after that activity.)
The year ahead is going to be a busy one for me, with a major project and some kid-related stuff on the horizon. What I am going to need more than anything is time. So I hereby resolve to waste less of it. This is a loose resolution – not quantifiable like “I will bike to work four times a week” or “I will read 25 novels this year.” But I think it’s an admirable pursuit.
I should clarify that using my time well does not always equal being productive. For instance, I think taking five on the couch for a snuggle with the kid and the cat is an excellent use of time, always.
What it does mean is less time loafing on my phone, endlessly scrolling. Less time on social media. Because even if I’m spending only (“only”) an hour a day on Twitter, that’s seven hours I could have used in the week to go to the gym, or cook some healthy, economical meals.
Because in 2020, in addition to making better use of my time, I am going to get in shape. And get out of debt.
What else we’re thinking about:
Yes, this is within my media bubble, but I would and will read anything by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker. Her timely piece on the baffling cultural phenomenon of Cats is a must-read. And I loved her recent essay on how cosmetic procedures have created a single, cyborgian look.
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