Habits and resolutions
This New Year's resolution business is for the birds. What we should have is New Week's resolutions. That way we could acknowledge our failures and come up with something more realistic every few days.
Or, how about New Morning's resolutions? That's what the recovery people would advocate. Today, I will not smoke, drink, gamble, live loosely, eat chocolate or whatever. We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
Is there anything tougher than changing habits? For example, I would pay money to be able to get up at five in the morning, have a cup of coffee and fire on all cylinders until sundown. I know all kinds of old-timers who do this. It should be no problem for me.
So, I tried it. I set my alarm. I got up. I brewed coffee. I watched the sun rise. I got a little work done. And by seven o'clock I flopped on the couch and slept the sleep of the dead until noon.
An entire day, wrecked.
Here I am, half-way to the grave and I haven't yet mastered the art of self-discipline. I can't even get out of bed if there's nothing pressing to get out of bed for -- like, say, a fire.
Fat chance I'll get any New Year's resolutions to stick.
Most smokers I know have absolutely no problem getting out of bed in the morning. They pop up at 6:30, eager to step outside for that first smoke. And they don't go back to bed, either. They keep puffing away all day.
Maybe instead of trying to eradicate all bad habits, we adults who struggle with self-discipline should cap and trade.
For example, in order for me to get out of bed in the morning, which would be a good habit, I could get really hooked on Marlboros, which would be a bad habit, and then I definitely would get out of bed early in the morning if for no other reason than to have that first smoke.
To keep things under control, I would put a cap on the bad habits I allow myself, but would feel free to trade one bad habit for another.
When I got sick of smelling like smoke, I could take up heavy drinking. Or maybe card playing. But only one bad habit at a time.
Or, I could just go back to sleeping in. In fact, it would probably be easier just to continue sleeping in and cap it right there.
That was easy.
Yes, adulthood is sure different that I thought it would be as a kid. As a kid, I assumed that all adults were wise, rational and in complete control of themselves.
When I was a kid, I assumed that if adults puffed on cigarettes, it must be because cigarettes made them better people. If grown-ups sipped whiskey, it must be because whiskey imparted mysterious special powers.
Only slowly did I catch on that the more compulsive the behavior of the grown-ups, the more likely it was to be labeled "adult" and hidden from the children.
Adult beverages. Adult situations. Adult language. Adult gaming. Adult book stores.
Is it any wonder when I got to Arizona and saw billboards for "Adult Living Communities," I assumed they were nudist colonies?
I mean, I called five of the numbers before somebody finally informed me that the only qualification to be an "Adult Living Community" is that you must have a minimum of fifteen shuffleboard courts on the property.
And everybody wears clothes. For which we should all be thankful, it turns out.
In fact, if you stop wearing clothes at the "Adult Living Community," they cart you off to " Adult Active Care Community" and slap a radio transmitter on your ankle so they can track you down if you escape.
No, these adult situations aren't all fun and games.
Or maybe they are. During activities time at the Adult Active Care Community, they bring out the beach balls and the parachutes and the tempura paints and the Elmer's glue and the glitter and the Homecoming crowns and make the adults act like children. And they love it!
It is a confusing world, this crazy world of adulthood with its many compulsions, lies and contradictions.
It is a world that will never submit to idealistic New Year's resolutions, either. The older I get, the more it seems that the best we adults can hope for to get through the day without ending up on America's Most Wanted.
Just don't tell that to the kids.