Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 2, 2006, Herald Journal

The art of torture, new year’s style

By LIZ HELLMANN

The shine has worn off, the wrapping paper lays crumpled on the floor, and the grandeur of the holiday season has come to a screeching halt, like the sound from an exuberant New Year’s Eve party-goer’s whistle fading into the night.

As if the threat of the post-holiday blues wasn’t strong enough, we manage to find yet another way to torture ourselves through one of the bleakest months of the year, new year’s resolutions.

Resolutions actually date back to medieval times as a way to torture helpless souls. They were weapons used by elite lords and kings to break their subjects’ spirits to keep them in submission.

Okay, so maybe I made that up, but, as with any respectable art form, there are hard-and-fast rules to this exact science of torture. For optimum pain and suffering, do not attempt resolutions without the proper understanding of these mechanics.

Step one: Review your life through a microscopic lens of disdain, magnifying all of your shortcomings.

Step two: Recount where you thought you were going to be at this time of your life, and wallow in the pathetic mess that has become you.

Step three: Become indignant that you let this happen. Allow a powerful wave to sweep over you. In a Yoda-like revelation, repeat: Better than this am I.

Step four: With pen and paper in hand, furiously scribble down all of the amazing things you will accomplish this year.

Step five: Review your list with renewed fervor. Then, actually write (in all caps, of course) across the top of the page “2006 – the year of (insert name here). Smiling triumphantly, underline the title at least twice.

Step six: Place the paper on the kitchen counter to be viewed every morning.

Step seven: Proceed to make the first week in January the most exhausting in the history of mankind.

Get up for 5 a.m. workouts, strain your hamstring in kick boxing class at your new gym because you thought you’d try the advanced class.

Keep going to the gym every day at 5 a.m., loathing yourself because not only are you tired, now you are in pain.

Use your good leg to limp to the charity you signed up to volunteer for.

On your way home, stop at the grocery store to pick up the gourmet food you had special-ordered from India.

Not only will you become a phenomenal cook, you will immerse yourself in other cultures.

Get home and realize it is already 8 p.m.

In a renewed effort to be a better spouse and parent, you insist your significant other sit and relax while you prepare the feast and help little Billy with his science project.

While gluing Styrofoam balls together to form a perfect replica of the universe, you look up to see a raging grease fire in the kitchen.

Apparently, you should have paid more attention when you were in science class, because you throw water on the fire, inflaming it even more.

Flames jump out at your face and singe your eyebrows.

Your spouse jumps up and rushes to the rescue with the fire extinguisher Uncle Ernie gave you for Christmas, after you mentioned you were going to start cooking more.

An hour later, you are sitting at the table eyebrowless and eating charred Indian food with ice on your hamstring.

(This step can vary, depending on the resolutions made, but the more outlandish the expectations, the more entertaining the results.)

Step eight: Notice the grimacing faces of your family as they struggle to chew their blackened rice.

Limp to the kitchen to call for Chinese take-out (hey, at least you’re still cultured).

Notice a half-burned sheet of paper on the counter next to the stove with the words “2006 – the” at the top.

Let out a dejected sigh and toss the paper into the garbage, just as you catch a reflection of your face, minus the eyebrows, in the refrigerator door.

Step nine: Block this week from your mind in an effort to shield yourself from the pain of failure, and to enable yourself to repeat again next year.

Step 10: Repeat again next year.

If you are one of the enlightened souls among us, and have decided to rise up against this time-honored tradition, beware that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Resolutions can serve a good purpose, if done correctly. So rise up against those evil peasant lords and take what is rightfully yours, control of your life.

The donning of the new year can be a good time to reflect on all that has happened in the past year, good and bad.

Remember your accomplishments, and note your shortcomings.

Then vow never to use the word “resolution” again.

Rather, think of a few things you would like to do, not necessarily to improve your life, but to live it more fully, the way you want.

If you want to do good, actually contact a charity and set up a do-able schedule to volunteer – maybe once a month. If you want to do more, you can always add time later.

If you want to lose weight, but haven’t broke a sweat since disco fever hit, don’t take up advanced spinning III “feel the burn” at your gym. Just do something active every day.

By actually writing down goals, and ways to obtain them, it becomes much easier to accomplish what you want. Start small and work up to the big things.

Jumping in over your head will only ensure your defeat, and possible loss of facial hair.

You wouldn’t build a house and then lay the foundation, it would all come crashing down, just like your dreams of a “new you.”

By all means, don’t ignore your urge to make “resolutions.” The same energy that led you to don a karate suit in kick boxing, suggests you are searching for a change.

You only live once, so do it right, or risk the regret that comes from knowing you could have done better.

You might never become a black belt, but it’s nice to know you’re still alive and kicking.

Cheers to 2006 – the year of (insert name here).


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