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The Truth Behind Aspen's New Year's Resolutions

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

Someone dragged their Bowflex home gym down the stairs, onto the snow and out to the dumpster. A discouraging sight for the New Year’s Resolutions department, considering it’s only January 11. More optimistically, maybe Mr. Bowflex’ fitness goals include getting out onto the cross-country course and away from those “one machine, fit for life” infomercials?

Or is it a sign of the times? Have New Year’s Resolutions become a thing of the past, cultural lore, something to be humored but not honored? Do people really resolve to make a significant change and consciously commit to making it happen in 12 months?

Collective energy is contagious and powerful. From hunger strikes, to 2 minutes of silence in remembrance of someone or something significant to the way everyone seems to be kinder and more patient and infinitely tolerant on Christmas Day (except for perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Sheen), the force of one intention being manifested by umpteen number of people at the same time is something to be reckoned with. My friend Vijita drives our local RFTA buses and she checked in on Facebook Christmas Night: “I wish people were this nice to each other every day of the year.”

New Year’s Resolutions have a similar unifying potential; when so many people take stock of their lives and what they’d like to change, each and every January, some sort of energetic shift is bound to follow. But do people really do this? Do they still believe in New Year’s Resolutions and, if so, what sorts of goals constitute of these grand proclamations, after all these years?

I posed these questions to friends and family, colleagues and acquaintances from pretty near and kind of far and right here at home in Aspen, Colorado. I wanted to get a feel for the collective consciousness on the subject. Any type of response was encouraged: serious, thoughtful, stupid, silly, sarcastic - whatever comes to mind when you think about New Year’s Resolutions. With so many people getting back to me, all at once, maybe I’d become a collective energy medium and help streamline the process, jump-start the positivity!

Or maybe not.

One of the first responses came from an Aspen ex-pat, a friend, talented AV guy and writer now living in L.A. land. “For my New Year’s Resolution, I plan to work in earnest towards finding a common bond across all humanity, promote peace and love of our fellow humans, our frail Earth, and ALL of the beautiful creatures that inhabit it,” he replied, much to my confusion. This didn’t sound like him; or really anyone I know. “Also, I plan start a porn filming operation specializing in furry animal-suited deviants, along with flogging myself with live jellyfish on a thrice daily basis, for the exercise bit.” Ahh, that’s more like it. Good to hear from you, old boy.

Some were reflective and personal, geared towards changing the way they view the world: “My New Year’s resolution is to be less judgmental of myself and others; the world needs good vibes and there’s no need to be negative towards others, only accepting; and towards myself, to be self-accepting,” wrote one eloquent and well-intentioned good friend, good skier and good-time gal.

Others accept the way they view the world and resolve to fine-tune their behaviors, instead: “Most resolutions seem to involve giving up a vice, which has never really interested me,” begins one always wickedly funny writer and ever-thoughtful – as in, pondering – friend from Boulder, who spent many years in and out of the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Sure, I could say I’ll give up coffee this year, or I’ll give up my one Mike’s Hard Limeade at night, but then life would be even bleaker,” he elaborates. “So here’s my 2010 resolution: I resolve to be nicer to stupid people. Ok, that implies that I’m not being nice in the first place, by judging someone to be ‘stupid’, but I think the needle needs to swing back to neutral since I’ve said I’ll be nicer to ‘them.’ I even include Republicans and the criminally obese. It’s the effort that counts, right?”

Not surprisingly, many people questioned the necessity of making official resolutions on one particular day. “I’ve always eschewed New Year’s Resolutions as a sign of weakness,” replies a lawyer friend from Carbondale; “save the psycho-analysis on that one,” she advises, adding a smiley face: “sorry to not provide greater fodder for your literary musings, JLM!”

Talking Resolutions over New Year's Brunch at the Hickory HouseTalking Resolutions over New Year's Brunch at the Hickory House

My high school friend Claire has a good point, as always: “What, does life start over on January 1st?” Our friend Nat agrees: “I tend to deal with the crap in my life on a regular basis so New Year’s Resolutions don’t really enter the picture. It seems to me that if it’s worth promising it’s worth following through on, and that there’s probably a better context for that promise than New Year’s.” Nat chooses Lent as a good time to reflect, give up things and do other things to effect bigger, more general changes in his life. “I may meditate more, or turn off the stereo in the house more often and not inflict my music on my family, both of which are nice for peace and harmony, but not screaming for attention. It can be useful to give up alcohol for 40 days to a) eliminate something that can muddy the thoughts and b) prove that you aren’t an alcoholic and c) it does wonders for the waistline. Any reason other than that, you’re an F’in drunk, so get yerself to a meeting already!” he finishes, with a good-natured flourish.

A new friend Jeff says he quits drinking every January for 30 days. He’s on his 19th year of January Sobriety, pretty impressive, but it sounds like December 31 and February 1 are off the charts and not always recollected, so I’m not sure if one month on the Ark does much for surviving the flood that is the rest of the year.

“You know, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore; if I set my sights one year down the road, it’s like I give myself a 12-month pass; I miss the opportunities to make each day a deadline for improvement,” says another friend, Dan, who writes about the UFC and spends most of the year driving back and forth across the country to cover the fights. “You could say, I’d much rather approach life with less room for procrastination.” And then there’s my friend Ally: “One of my New Year's resolutions is to be on time... oops I already broke that one, when was this supposed to be turned in??? If it isn't too late... ????

For others, it’s not the timing so much as the semantics. “I’m more into goals than resolutions,” says a local comedian, bartender and all-around thought-provoker: “Not sure why the distinction is important to me, but it is. A goal sounds to me like something you celebrate when you achieve it, with a concrete way to know you’ve achieved it. A resolution sounds to me like something that you get bummed out about when you break it. Example: A goal is to lose 10 pounds; a resolution is to not eat as much sugar. You don’t ever get to be happy that you have won because it goes on until you lose.”

Encouragingly for the New Year’s Resolutions department, many set themselves up for success. “I’ve resolved not to have any more resolutions,” says one local professional. “Resolutions are generally impossible to attain,” Claire’s email continues, “so for 2010, I resolved to start each morning sitting still, drinking a glass of water. Two days in, I am happy to report success!” I cringe at the thought of asking her how it’s going on this 11th day of the month. Remember the Bowflex.

My friend Robin is a Merchant Marine, owner of the historical New Roxy Theater in Clarksdale, Mississippi and full of interesting responses to all sorts of questions. “I find New Year’s Resolutions are like diets – temporary fixes but not a lifestyle change. Like going to church on Sundays to confess your sins and make up for the rest of the week – we know all year long we want to quit smoking/lose weight/donate to charity but saying ‘I’ll wait till New Year’s’ to resolve to do it seems silly. I’m such a ‘seat of my pants’ commitment-phobe that long term goals and resolutions are just too stressful,” she continues, with her self-deprecating humor; “The victory of ordering the steamed tofu over the fried pork chop today is my success; tomorrow is a whole new day. In the meantime, eat yourself some collard greens, hoppin johns and black-eyed peas so your next year is lucky!”

Good Friendship in 2010: New Year's Resolutions in ActionGood Friendship in 2010: New Year's Resolutions in Action

Another friend grew up in Aspen and recently moved back to the valley after an exceptionally tough year: “I resolve to be a good a friend to others, as they have been to me,” she says, grateful for the quality people in her life. My friend Kelly lives mid-valley and resolves to smile, spend more with her kids and less time on the computer; my brother-in-law resolves to floss his teeth more, my aunt and uncle want to eat less, eat better and exercise more and my exceptionally athletic cousin Michelle writes: “I best be getting my ass in shape this year!”

Back in Aspen, let’s hope Mother Nature resolves to let it snow more, now (call it a season resolution).

And for me?

I enjoy the concept of new beginnings, starting over, improving and cleaning the slate (a close second to cleaning my plate) but alas, my ‘to-do’ lists seem endless and I’m unsure when exactly they’ll move to ‘done’ lists.

So this year, I’ve taken a cue from my friends’ sage responses and decided to set myself up for success. Yet thought of truly making a significant change is kind of exhausting, which brings me to the top of my New Year’s Resolutions: take more naps. My brother-in-law swears by it, says it’s the secret to life. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be back in…around 20 minutes.