202. New Year’s Evolutions

I hereby do resolve, on this, the last day of 1995, that I’m going to do my best to work on decreasing the number of resolutions I make, and focus my energy on evolving. Deciding to think differently and/or behave differently, for many people, is an effective way to really make changes. For me, it may be helpful, from time to time, to tell myself that I’m going to make a change, but when I tell other people, my words often come back to haunt me. And when I believe the words myself too fervently, I often disappoint myself.
Children make lots of resolutions all the time, and they often really believe themselves: “If you let me have or do this one thing, I will never, ever ask you for another thing as long as I live.” When children make such statements, they are often quite serious. They have a limited concept of future, and they really don’t believe they will ever regret and or take back their words.
I choose not to spend my time arguing about such resolutions. If a child wants to believe that some promise will bring on a fundamental change, I just let it be. I do sometimes tell children that I’d rather not hear too many promises, but some children and adults have the habit of promising, and can’t kick it. So if they want to tell me about something they’ll never do again, I don’t argue too much. And later, when they do it again, I try not to rub it in. I’ve been there, and I know how it feels to be told, “I told you so,” or “But you said you were going to…”
But people do make some pretty important statements that, to me, are in the same category as New Year’s resolutions. They make commitments to do things they really intend to do. Some of those commitments are sanctioned by law, and come back to haunt resolvers in significant ways. The obvious one, of course, is marriage – a commitment to keep feeling love, and to live life in ways that reflect that love. I’ve made that kind of resolution, and though I’m not as cynical as some people are about it, it didn’t work for me. I’ll still go to weddings and I’ll try to believe that the love will last through worse, sickness, and poorer as surely as it lasts through better, health, and richer. It often does.
Other kinds of contracts fall in the same category. Life doesn’t stay the same, and feelings don’t. I’m glad law protects people from broken resolutions; people often quickly grow to depend on the particulars that are resolved. But for me, and for many other people I know, evolution works much better than resolutions.

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