2017-01-04 / Columns

Trying not to be too hard on myself as I resolve to change


So here comes 2017, just as I’d gotten used to writing 2016 on my checks.

I said goodbye to ’16 with no regrets. We’ve endured a bruising Presidential campaign that seemed endless. We’ve looked around too often and seen murder and mayhem. Places on the other side of the world are facing monumental losses, and here at home, last year’s end feels at once welcome—and also scary.

What’s next?

As we survey what was in the universe out there, we also pause to take a long, hard look at ourselves around this time of year. It’s almost a reflex, a kind of changing of the guard of our souls, lofty as that sounds.

But is there the real possibility that we can change?

For years, my sister and I have had a running argument. Ruthie, who is two years older than I am and always has assumed the rights and privileges of a firstborn, insists that people can change. I insist that deep down, where it counts, they can’t.

The argument comes up often and both Ruthie and I are stubborn. We try—but can’t convince each other—of our unquestionable wisdom in this matter.

I will insist that I am the clone of my mother, physically and emotionally. I will point out to her that Ruthie is my father in everything from hair color to spirit.

I am impulsive, impatient and restless. Always have been.

Ruthie has endless patience, and like our father is analytical. While my sister could dismiss the slings and arrows of coming of age rationally, analyzing each episode in her head, I was done in by my heart. Every slight seemed the most tragic, every mild social rebuff the dramatic end of a friendship.

I would sob into my pillow. Ruthie would write in her journal.

At this advanced stage of my life, I’ve finally accepted it: I’m doomed to feel everything too much. And no matter how diligently I try to re-educate my tendencies, they won’t go away.

That same failure, if the inability to change qualifies as a “failure,” applies to other things. For this proud, card-carrying AARP member, at least, there are immutables in my personality and habits.

I will never manage to be on time, let alone early…in a marriage that is, of course, a mismatch between the perennial early bird and the “running late” culprit.

There are probably deeply psychological reasons why I run, panting, to some commitments, and why I can’t seem to remember to gather up my glasses and my cell phone when we have someplace to go and the clock is ticking. My sister has lists and a calm that will never be mine.

I resolve to do better—to plan more judiciously, to make lists and to factor in my poor husband’s belief that on time is good, but early is better. And still, I repeat the patterns endlessly.

I love theater, especially plays that have some huge message. But unlike my sister, who has been known to go to two classical musical concerts in a day, I fidget and even, to my shame, occasionally nod off during the same concerts.

Can this soul change?

Probably not. As my late immigrant grandmother used to say, “You are what you are…”

Grandma had no advanced degrees. No pedigree from some prestigious institute of analytic theory. But she had oceans of common sense. And part and parcel of it was her conviction that the important things are hard-wired, set almost from birth, and not likely to be altered. You are what you are…

So as 2017 clicks into place on the calendar, Grandma aside, I’ll try, as I do every year, to accomplish the following:

Eat more vegetables.

Eat less junk.

Clean out the closets.

Go to the gym faithfully and frequently.

Read really good literature, not the literary equivalent of junk food.

Floss daily.

And stop maneuvering the bathroom scale all around to find a spot that reflects a loss.

But sincere as I sound, I will probably accomplish none of the above!

And if you’re in the same leaky boat, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just remember that there’s always 2018…for the same self-delusion.


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