My New Year’s Resolution

I’m not big on New Year’s Eve, or the idea of making resolutions. At least not at the turn of the year. The memory of new shoes and unsullied notebooks at the start of a school year never quite fades. And even though I’m years removed from the first day of school, September always seems like the right time to start fresh. These bleak mid-winter days of January – dark, short, cold – are a time for cuddling up with our old habits and lazy ways. It’s a terrible time to start exercising or dieting, or resolving to do anything other than read, watch old movies, maybe write a letter or two.

That said, I do have one New Year’s tradition, which is to read and to share a New Year’s poem. The same poem, every year, since I always need to hear what the poet is telling me. It’s called, simply, “New Year’s Resolution”, by Phillip Appleman. Some of the references are to American sporting traditions on New Year’s Day, specifically the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, but the message is universal. We all end a year with some regret, and we start a year with the promise to do better.

Regardless of where this finds you, may you enter 2016 with a joyful heart and a resolution to break your losing streak. Happy New Year!

Well, I did it again, bringing in
that infant Purity across the land,
welcoming Innocence with gin
in New York, waiting up
to help Chicago,
Denver, L.A., Fairbanks, Honolulu–and now
the high school bands are alienating Dallas
and girls in gold and tangerine
have lost touch with Pasadena,
and young men with biceps and missing teeth
are dreaming of personal fouls,
and it’s all beginning again, just like
those other Januaries in
instant replay …
But I’ve had enough
of turning to look back, the old
post-morteming of defeat:
people I loved but didn’t touch,
friends I haven’t seen for years,
strangers who smiled but didn’t speak–failures,
failures. No,
I refuse to leave it at that–because
somewhere, off camera,
January is coming like Venus
up from the murk of December, re-
virginized, as innocent
of loss as any dawn. Resolved: this year
I’m going to break my losing streak,
I’m going to stay alert, reach out,
speak when not spoken to,
read the minds of people in the streets,
I’m going to practice every day,
stay in training and be moderate
in all things.
All things but love.