The Promises We Break

January 04, 2013

The Promises We Break

I stole this little tidbit from my New Year's Resolutions in 2012. It was a year and two days ago...
My New Year's Resolution was to lose 15 pounds. I'll be watching my diet a little more closely, choosing the least evil option, for example, or managing portions more reasonably. And I'll be running. I'm not a marathoner or anything. A few miles here, a few miles there, working up to something along the lines of 3-5 miles at a time, 3 - 4 days a week. I don't want to burn out on it, but I think 15 pounds is a reasonable goal, and hope to make it more once I've met it.
I hedged my bet. It was the end of October or November and I thought to myself, "I'll make it my New Year's Resolution to lose weight." I then promptly refused nothing that landed on my plate. If it was food I ate it; it was the "See-Food" diet. At the end of December I knew I'd gained weight, but it wasn't my "normal" weight, and I felt like it would make it easier to lose. Ultimately I think you can read from my confident "make it more once I've met it" line that I was really going to go for something like 20 or 25 pounds. At the time, however, it didn't occur to me that all the food that I was seeing, and subsequently eating was really adding up. So at the end of December I knew I'd gained weight, but it's not like I was weighing myself (the resolution didn't start until January for godsake) so it was a bit of a shock to learn that I'd gained in a month and a half the entire amount I'd resolved to lose in the following year. This dampened my spirits a bit, but maybe not for the reasons you might think...ultimately I was just disappointed that my 15 pound loss would put me at zero balance for the year. The fact that I'd gained 15 really didn't bother me, just diminished the "greatness" of my ultimate achievement. I swear I'm getting to my point. It was probably two months in when I fell off the wagon. I'd lost five of the fifteen pounds in the first month, then another three or so in February...then I just started to not do it. Hopping on the scale as I write this post, I'm up about eight pounds from where I was at the beginning of that resolution a year ago. I didn't really lose any sleep about this broken promise. Is that weird? I mean, I saw myself losing drive to continue. Too many warring factions competing for my evening time, not the least of which was sleep. And there was a little guilty twinge, but nothing that ever really gave me pause. The promise I broke to myself I was sure I'd keep. I was sure because it was easy. I mean, I've lost that weight before. Controlled my diet. Exercised a little, but regularly and the weight fell off. But it wasn't easy. And I broke it. Who can you trust if you can't trust yourself? How many promises have you easily and guiltlessly broken to yourself? How many negligible little social media list challenges have you participated in and failed to complete (a song a day, a picture a day, a blog a day)? I should have known better than to trust myself. I've broken the exercise promise tons of times. Maybe it was because I hadn't established a routine. My wife used to teach a time management course that said something to the effect that doing something 21 days in a row is enough to establish a habit. Maybe I didn't push through the toughest part and get that habit established. Maybe I made it too hard to break the promise I made to myself. Maybe I'm establishing instead a habit of breaking promises. I'm sorry if this was all a huge end-around for the bigger picture: The promises you make to your family -- the promises that matter. Vows to be there for doctor visits and IEP meetings, teacher conferences and dance practices, therapy sessions and recitals are resolutions that you can't afford to cave on. I feel like you have to jam absolutely as much involvement into your family as you can while they still want you involved...before teen angst and peer pressure tell you it's time to back away and let them discover the path on their own (if that's a path left open to them) with a little more "occasional" guidance. Being with your family has to be a habit. I've always believed that the more you're away from your family the easier it is to stay away, and the more you're with your family the harder it is to leave them. I don't mean this to disparage in any way the work that people have to do on the road to make money for their families, or the men and women serving overseas in the armed forces protecting and providing for theirs. I'm not saying that being away makes you love them any less...it just makes it easier to stay away. Maybe I'm wrong. I think New Year's Resolutions are good in theory. They are a way for us to look at something we see in ourselves that we'd like to change, and give us a starting point to nudge us in the right direction. But the very fact that a resolution is required points perhaps to a subtle failure in ourselves to address our weaknesses as soon as we recognize them. To put them off until some arbitrary start date prompts us to again pay attention to them...our weight, our appearance, our habits (too many bad or too few good). This year I hope to lose that weight again, but I'm not going to make a resolution to do it. My schedule is already cluttered and I don't want to make another resolution that I'm just going to break because something more important comes along. If the burning embers of the hell that was 2012 have done anything for me, it's to establish a habit of being there for my family through tough times. I'm so much prouder of myself for that than I could ever be of losing a few pounds. And I want my family to know that the promises I make to them I will keep, so I have to stop making stupid promises and unimportant resolutions. I have to focus on the important ones. I don't need a resolution to keep my family fully focused in my priorities. But I will resolve to try to do it even better in 2013.



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