My old pal Skippy and I were down in his cellar one afternoon working on some shelving.
When I say “working,” I mean mainly sitting sipping refreshing adult beverages while planning the next stage of the project.
It doesn’t pay to rush a job, so we were being careful to take our time and do it right.
It was late December, and his wife, Victoria, had decreed that he should install some shelving in the cellar to provide additional storage space.
She had presented it as a pleasant idea for something he could do if he wanted to, but they had been married long enough for Skippy to realize that even the sweetest “idea” was really just a decree with sugar on top.
He didn’t have to install the shelving, but he was reasonably confident things would go better for him if he did.
There was a fair amount of measuring involved, and between the measuring, there was time for reflection.
There was an old sofa in the cellar, and the furnace was behind us, so we were quite comfortable while we worked.
There was even a beer fridge down there, a carryover from Skippy’s bachelor days, which Victoria hadn’t gotten around to making him get rid of yet.
We talked about various things as we worked.
“I read an article about New Year’s resolutions the other day,” Skippy began.
You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Skippy was actually a fairly ambitious reader. He didn’t go in for novels or things like that, but in his own way he found a wide variety of things to read, and ended up finding some interesting material along the way.
“I think people are doing it all wrong,” he continued.
This piqued my interest. When Skippy divulged his personal philosophy about things, it was generally worth paying attention. I could tell he had spent some time working on this one.
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
He took a long pull on his beer to help him marshal his thoughts.
“Well, you know,” he explained. “When people make their New Year’s resolutions, they always involve things they want to change, or things they want to start.”
“That’s true,” I agreed.
“Most of the time, the resolutions are about unpleasant or difficult things, which is why the people aren’t already doing them in the first place,” Skippy continued.
I nodded and took a drink.
“The problem is,” he continued, “people are setting themselves up for failure right from the start.
“It might sound good to say you are going to lose weight, or eat better, or get more exercise, but if you don’t enjoy those things in the first place, the initial excitement won’t last.”
“I see what you mean,” I agreed.
“That’s why most New Year’s resolutions don’t last more than a couple weeks,” Skippy said. “They’re simply unnatural.”
He got up and went over to the ice box to retrieve a couple more brewskis.
“And you have a better idea?” I suggested, anxious to hear his theory.
“Yes,” he replied. “People should make resolutions they know they can keep.”
“What kind of resolutions?” I wondered.
“Well, suppose I made a resolution to avoid exercise,” he said. “I hate exercise, so that would be an easy resolution for me to keep. Even if I lost, by not exercising, I would win, because I would be keeping my resolution.”
In a bizarre Skippy-sort-of-way, it made sense.
“Then there’s the vegetables,” he continued. “I could make a resolution to avoid broccoli, and it would be as easy as falling off a log, because I can’t stand broccoli.”
“What you say has a distinct ring of truth about it,” I congratulated him.
About that time, we heard the kitchen door open, heralding the return of Victoria from wherever she had been. She came down the stairs to check on progress.
“You haven’t gotten very far,” Victoria observed, always a keen judge of these things.
“We’ve been measuring,” Skippy explained.
“Worked up quite a thirst, apparently,” she replied, nodding at the empty bottles on a crate near the sofa.
Skippy started to agree, but caught himself, realizing it might be a trap.
“I was just explaining my new theory about New Year’s resolutions,” Skippy said, quickly changing the subject.
“Oh? How does that go?” She asked, eyeing him narrowly.
“People should make resolutions not to do things they don’t like, or to do things they do like. That way, the resolutions would be easier to keep,” he explained enthusiastically. “It could revolutionize the concept of resolutions.”
Victoria uttered a noise that, coming from a less attractive woman would have been a snort. It echoed through the peaceful cellar like a shot, dislodging the cat, Hezekiah, from the pile of laundry upon which he had been napping.
“How about you resolve to get those shelves done before New Year’s,” Victoria replied tersely, turning and heading up the stairs. “And make sure you put those bottles in the recycling.”
Victoria never was much for philosophy.