The first day of a new year, that proverbial clean slate where we are determined to suddenly become improved versions of ourselves, free of bad habits and vice, filled instead with unrealistic expectations and a rather dubious optimism. Instead of congratulating ourselves for having survived yet another series of 365 days, despite our inherent weaknesses and all-too-human frailties, we instead press on toward the hope of a string of perfect tomorrows that will somehow see us exercising regularly, saying "no" to dessert, hoarding our pennies, and remembering to floss before bed. Never mind that none of these things has been a part of our lives before; the fresh calendar on the wall seems bright with promise, and we are adamently determined that this time we won't screw it up.
And for a while - a day, or a week, or even the better part of a month -- we will even seem to have achieved it. Our muscles will be sore from unaccustomed forays into the gym, our beds will be made, our ashtrays empty, and only the kindest and most patient of words will have found their way off of our tongues.
But then something will happen... something we should have expected from the unpredictable, imperfect, often rather messy thing called life. The power will inexplicably go off late in the night, causing us to oversleep, to leap from our beds in horror the next morning, surrounded by silent electronic equipment ominously blinking 12:00. And there will go our string of punctual days, and we will once again arrive at the office harassed, and out of breath, and tardy. Or the cat will throw up quietly on the downstairs carpet, which we will discover only when we have trodden slipperless across it, and the kind of words we swore would not pass our lips again will stream with eloquence to our dismayed ears.
A long day at work, an endless commute in pouring rain with no umbrella, the beginnings of a cold, will see us arrive miserably, weakly, at home again, and we will reach for the comfort of the chocolate bar, or the cigarette, or the glass of wine.
And even if we tell ourselves that it is "just this once", we will know in our hearts that our solemn resolve has been irretrievably broken, and there is no magic in beginning anew on January 14th, or February 3rd. And so we will sigh, and since we have already blown the budget with the new clothes, we will decide that we may as well buy the new shoes as well, or we will go ahead and polish off the rest of the carton of Rocky Road ice cream. And after the wave of disappointment recedes, we will settle down with a certain relief into our usual comfortable overweight, overdrawn, overwhelmed routines.
Maybe we will be a little more conscious, having had a brief taste of virtue, and we may not smoke quite so much, or hit the snooze button quite so often, and we may opt for salad instead of hamburger more frequently. And when the new year rolls around again we may even be able to glance back at the previous 365 days with some small sense of satisfaction. We won't be perfect, or even close to it, but we will have done a little better.
And that, in itself, is worth celebration.
Happy new year!