Every year on December 31st I resolve to do nothing. And, like most years past, this year I pretty successfully did nothing with my New Year's Eve or my New Year's Day. Success. I neither contemplated my past year, nor planned for the months ahead. While I'm open to change, I really really like my life. There is very little I want to alter. I'd consider myself lucky if, in 2011, I got more of what I had in 2010.
At a party the week before Christmas, my friend Kate told me how much she hated Christmas, how she'd taught her two young daughters (3 and 5) that Santa didn't exist. This was refreshing coming from Kate, who I consider to be one of the more upbeat, positive, cheerful and engaged people I know. Her cynicism seemed to come from the absolute absurdity that everything Christmas has become-- commercial, indulgent, laden with wants and expectations.
I feel similarly about the whole celebration of the New Year. Why now? Why on this particular day am I changing my whole life? How is that even possible? I mean, what the hell have I been doing with myself for the last 365 days if suddenly I now need to shake it all up, turn everything on it's head and start from scratch. That's overwhelming. That's depressing. That's ridiculous.
Now, while I truly believe everything I just wrote, I must come clean about an unexpected 2011 New Year's Day event. In December a handful of my friends planned to do the polar bear plunge. Meet at Mount Baker beach and jump into Lake Washington at noon on New Year's Day was the plan. Initially, being pathologically competitive, I said yes to the challenge. Then, on New Year's Day morning, after an absurdly unplanned, highly relaxing New Year's Eve, I decided that I would absolutely not do the plunge. I don't need to jump into a freezing body of water to start the New Year, I told myself. But I wanted to see the event, so the morning of, Nancy and I walked the two miles down to the lake to "watch."
There were people of all ages (even a 6-year-old from Lucia's kindergarten class), all smiling, shivering, gearing up for the big plunge. It was exhilarating, thrilling, contagious. Suddenly, I wanted to be a part of this group. I wanted to start 2011 with an Arctic jump in the lake like them. I deliberated. It was so cold. I had no bathing suit. No towel. No car to get home. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but as all of the plungers shed their down coats and fuzzy robes, I was suddenly pulling off my sweater, kicking off my clogs and stripping down to my bra and undies. Holding the hands of my old, old, good, good friends, I ran screeching into Lake Washington. It was a big celebration of all of us. We were all brave, strong, impulsive, excited. And it happened to be 1/01/2011.
I still feel the same way about New Year's resolutions. Why wait until January 1st to jump into change? That can happen any time, and it should. I will probably never jump into Lake Washington in the winter by myself. Ever. But I very likely will do it next year. And for many years to come. I'll hold my friends' hands, adding new ones each year, and run screeching into the ice-cold water, plunging into a New Year of more of the same.