This essay was first published on WHYY.org on Jan. 13, 2018.
We know the new year has arrived because we can’t avoid the ads for gym memberships and Weight Watchers.
But we will not be making resolutions. This is not an article about how we’re going to use an Instapot to prepare healthy dinners and donate any clothes that don’t “spark joy.”
We don’t do New Year’s resolutions because we’ve been there – and not done that.
Our commitment to have smoothies instead of cereal for breakfast lasted just one week. We’re not donating those sparkly blouses because we might wear them again.
We’ve realized that over the years our commitments have not been spurred by the calendar. Indeed, there is nothing compelling about January 1 to make us take on new projects – like a diet. Why would we pass on that gooey cheesecake dessert just because it’s January 4th?
Many of our commitments have come about circumstantially. By that we mean: We had kids, they had interests, and we jumped right in.
We agreed to stand on the banks of the Schuylkill from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and put out the granola bars and Gatorade when it was our turn. We bonded with the other high school parents in the crew tent. We watched the boats row by and asked, “Is that him?”
Not only did we pledge to drive to choir practice three times a week, but we also volunteered to write the organization’s newsletter, plan the fundraiser and host visiting choir boys.
We spent hours and hours with the other parents, chatting, commiserating, and trading phone numbers to set up carpools. The shared purpose and camaraderie kept us committed and involved. We were a close-knit group – until the kids moved on to the next activity. Most of these fellow parents and circumstantial “friends” faded away.
We are grateful for the few friendships that lasted, the parents with whom we had more in common than the carpool schedule, the neighborhood playground and the high school orchestra.
When our children were growing up, we also pursued interests of our own. Wouldn’t it be fun to dance like Fred and Ginger? To take a pottery class at the local art center? To learn to play bridge?
For five years, Joyce took ballroom dancing lessons twice a week. For a 90-second tango “showcase,” she bought a slinky, sequined red dress and a matching red tie for her husband and dance partner, Ted, but like that Instapot, they were only used once. She spent countless hours with fellow dancers and shared strong bonds, but when she went to the dance reunion last year, only four other people showed up.
We’ve relished our craft classes – photo collaging, pottery throwing, glass blowing, card making – and we have met cool, artistic, inspiring people. The box of wooden stamps and handmade pulpy paper stowed away in a desk drawer are reminders of those artistic years.
It’s easy to recognize a passing phase in a toddler’s life because kids grow and change so quickly: The phase when our preschooler thought “poop” was the funniest word. The month Ellen’s son cried at the babysitter before he learned that “mommy always comes back.” When our daughters were immersed in the drama of middle school, we remember consoling them: Those mean girls won’t be in your life forever.
But “phase” doesn’t seem like the right word for our bursts of intense interest because when we’re in the midst of them, we don’t think they will ever end. And we don’t want them to.
We prefer to think of them like the chapters of a book we love. We get engrossed and engaged and attached to the characters. We can’t wait to read more. When we come to the end, we’re a little bit sad. But we know another book will capture our attention before too long.
That’s where we are right now, waiting for what’s next. We try to stay upbeat. We know that something new will pique our interest in 2018. After all, there are still plenty of vacations to take and countries to visit. Books we haven’t read and restaurants to try. Volunteer projects that could use our help and children who still need our advice, nagging and occasional check.ph
But you can be sure that we won’t be resolving to whiten our teeth with activated charcoal toothpaste or join a pickleball league.