February 01, 2022

Article at fortwayne.com

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Topiary Gravy Dongles

Recent studies have shown that most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions within 20 seconds of the stroke of midnight on January first. I may have gotten the exact amount of time wrong there. I probably should have looked it up before I typed it.

Too late now.

You’re just going to have to trust me: It really is an absurdly short amount of time.

A lot of people have probably come to feel that it’s a waste of time even to make New Year’s Resolutions. No one, however, has come to feel that it is a waste of time to read a Steve Penhollow column about New Year’s Resolutions.

I did a lot of research for this column. I read the work of New Year’s Eve resolution experts. I read their findings. I read their leavings.

I read experts who have studied at the Sorbonne. Oh, wait. Not the Sorbonne. I read experts who’d graduated from the New
Year’s Resolution program at Sore Bone Community College in Sore Bone, Kentucky.

Still impressive.

I read the research and rejected all of it in favor of my own strong opinions about New Year’s Resolutions.

Hopefully, I will form some before the end of this column.

I think Oxford don William Archibald Spooner said it best: “Which of us has not felt in his heart a half-warmed fish?”

Spooner, an inadvertent mixer-up of syllables, was the unwitting inventor of the Spoonerism, a deliberate or accidental conversational scramble. Spoonerisms aren’t supposed to make literal sense, but perhaps the one about the half-formed fish does.

Which of us has not felt in his heart a half-formed wish at the beginning of the year that seemed more like a half-warmed fish by the end? Half-warmed by microwave oven, to be specific.

Yes, our unfulfilled New Year’s Resolutions can give off quite a stink by the end the year. We know they stink because our so-called friends turn up their noses at them.

These are the same people who put pressure on us in November and December to come up with resolutions.

Whenever anyone asks me what my New Year’s Resolutions are, I always say something alarming, like “I hope to break my habit of sticking wasps up my nose.”

When they say, “You don’t really stick wasps up your nose, do you?” I respond, “Of course I don’t stick stinging insects up my nose! Do you think I’m insane? I only stick non-stinging insects up my nose.”

My advice is to keep your real New Year’s Resolutions to yourself. Especially if your real resolutions involve sticking stinging insects up your nose.

Most people don’t have anything half as interesting as insect-sticking-upping on their list of New Year’s Resolutions.

We’re all just recycling the same resolutions year after year: spend less money, lose weight, exercise, look indiscernibly more like Brad Pitt, etc.

Isn’t everybody tired of their resolutions? Isn’t everybody tired of the word resolutions?

The knowledge that “resolutions” will inevitably become a subtitle for a “Matrix” sequel only makes us feel more hopeless.

So … don’t call them “resolutions.”

Call them “New Year’s Wishes” or “New Year’s Delights.”Or something nonsensical, like “New Year’s Topiary Gravy Dongles.”

So when people ask you, “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?” you can say, “Do you mean my New Year’s Topiary Gravy Dongles?” And they will probably say something unhelpful like, “You look like the sort of person who sticks wasps up his nose.”

You don’t need people like that in your life, unless they are wasp-sticking addiction counselors.

My point here is that the whole New Year’s Resolutions making/keeping/breaking process is way too serious.

Why start a new year by looking back and figuring out all the ways you screwed up? Is January not depressing enough? Aren’t the first three months of the year enough like living through an Ingmar Bergman film?

Why can’t New Year’s Resolutions be fun? Order something you’ve never tried before at your favorite restaurant. Explore a nearby town or city you’ve never visited. Go see a different movie at the multiplex than the one you planned on seeing (as long as it wasn’t made by a Swedish existentialist). Attend a service at a church outside of your denomination (as long as it isn’t Our Lady of Swedish Existentialism Parish).

You may think you know Fort Wayne pretty well but you’re wrong. All of you are wrong and I mean that in the nicest way. No matter how long you’ve lived here, there are streets you haven’t driven down, doors you haven’t opened and soulmates with whom you have not shared cassoulets (I admit that I had to reach for that one).

Don’t make a list. Wing it!

If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that more change happens after you shift your perspective than happens after you make a plan based on what you think you know.

And if you already wrote up your list of your resolutions before you read this, tape it somewhere prominent, like a wall. Then forget the location of the wall.