Resolution: only change what you can

Published 10:43pm Friday, January 3, 2014

The symbolism of turning the calendar from one year to another gives us one of the greatest examples I know of an “out with the old, in with the new” moment. The New Year presents us with a clean piece of paper on which we can write, neatly, anything new and beneficial to our lives.
That new sheet of paper replaces the old one on which we have “doodled” all year and made a mess of the previously clean sheet.
I don’t know how many of you, when in school, would start the new school year with recently bought notebooks.  Remember the Blue Horse notebooks? There would be no unsightly drawing or “doodling” on the notebook and pencils were un-chewed upon with freshly sharpened lead.
In your mind was the commitment to write neatly your name on the outside. Only the best penmanship would suffice. If notes were to be required for the class, they would be taken with great care. No mess. The resolution was to keep it neat.
How long would it take for the unskilled drawing or doodling to begin? At first, there might be a tracing of the Blue Horse. Soon though, I would draw a car or a stick man or an animal of some kind. The best that could be said about my artistic abilities was that there was no ability. By the end of the first week, the commitment to a clean and neat notebook had been thrown out the door.
I’ve had a new car or two. The same commitment to keep it clean and neat applied, just as the commitment to keep the notebook or the house or the yard or the shed or anything else clean and neat.
Remember the television show or the movie The Odd Couple? The two main characters were Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Felix was the neatnik, the one who was always cleaning up and believed that all things had their place.
His battle for cleanliness was constantly fought against the biggest slob in New York City, Oscar. Oscar was a cigar-chomping sportswriter who ate his meals on a tv tray in the living room, getting all sorts of crumbs on the floor and spilling whatever he was drinking, too. It drove Felix crazy, but Oscar could not change who he was.
That brings me to this symbol of looking into a brand, New Year or this crisp and fresh clean sheet of paper. Some people make resolutions to try and change their negative behaviors. Making New Year’s resolutions is part of the tradition of bringing in a new year.
About one-half of Americans will make some sort of New Year’s resolution, most of them of the variety to “quit” doing something. They vow to quit eating so much, to quit those behaviors that are bad for their health. There are also resolutions to “do” something that will enhance their lives.
The only problem is that most of us are stuck with being Felix Unger or Oscar Madison or who we are. I would like to be more like Felix, but I am Oscar all day long. I’m not saying we should not try to improve in needed ways. We should, but a good New Year’s resolution would be to change what you can and be comfortable with what you can’t.

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