Something quite peculiar happens to Americans in the days after all the New Year’s Eve parties and revelry, black-eyed pea eating and the start of that ticking time bomb we count down headed toward April 15th and tax day. And, thankfully, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the incessant number of college football bowl games, the likes none of us can remember by name, since they now all seem to be the Vizio Capital One Tostitos Valero Outback GoDaddy Beef ‘O’ Brady Hyundai Belk Bell Helicopter New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Or something to that effect.
When a lot of foggy heads finally clear, or when clear heads who don’t do that anymore — who never partied hearty before midnight of the first day of the calendar year — we start making promises.
That’s right, it’s New Year’s resolution time. The time of year when we firmly set goals and make promises to ourselves, that this year is going to be different from all the previous ones we kind of just blew off.
I’m first to admit I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I lie to myself enough the other 364 days of the year, and it kind of seems pointless of me to make self-promises.
But, a funny thing happened several years ago on New Year’s Day — a following two-month period where I made a firm resolution and kept it. And — drum roll please — it really worked.
When I found myself having finally lost a half-step to Father Time, when blood pressure was starting to rise, the sugar intake was too much and the calories were adding pounds to the fairly slender frame I’ve carried for lo these many years, I decided to act.
Well, my doctor said it was time to act, so I listened.
I made a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds, after I kept finding it hard to button the khakis in the morning, the washing cycle obviously having shrunk my modest wardrobe.
So, I made a resolution to eat much better, drink only diet pop, cut out sweets and eat only sugar-free, cut way back on the red meat and potatoes, and get out and exercise every day — weather-permitting.
I started reading food labels, ate oatmeal and whole wheat breads, learned I liked diet cherry in my Coke and Dr. Pepper consumption, and added greatly to my intake of chicken and nuts.
And, I walked every day.
Six weeks after beginning my first-ever diet regimen, I had more than hit my goal weight, dropping 22 pounds and finding out that all my pants suddenly were almost too loose.
And, I felt better than I had in a long time.
Historically, New Year’s resolutions were a time people made promises to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice.
I found this online reference to be a little amusing. Do something a little nice?
What, open doors for women, tolerate rowdy little kids, go outside to belch, stop saying a word that also means manure? Huh?
Improving physical well-being, eating better, losing weight, exercising more, drinking less and ending smoking habits still top the average American’s list of resolutions.
Saving money, reducing stress, managing time and doing things one has never done before also top resolutions for many of us.
But at least one extensive study shows that 88 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions fail. Ouch!
As I mentioned in last week’s column, Janus, the ancient Roman god of myth, seems to be our starting point in history for New Year’s traditions, along with some Babylonian customs.
Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, usually depicted as having two faces that looked both at the future and to the past, which apparently made a lot of sense to people over the millennia.
Janus presided over the beginning and the ending of conflict — war and peace. And, he also saw over births, journeys and exchange.
And, since much of the civilized world we have come to know was under the thumb of the Roman Empire during a goodly portion of world history, Janus had more than a little influence.
Thus, we get New Year’s celebrations in New York City’s Times Square each year, where a million people have to stand for 12-14 hours in freezing weather with no food or drink and wear adult diapers for lack of restroom facilities — to have fun.
For my resolutions two years ago, I got my flat stomach back, my knees felt better for having lost 20-plus pounds, I don’t get winded looking for the TV remote (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but I didn’t want to be too serious here), and the exercise greatly relieved my stress levels.
OK Janus, now leave me alone!
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking.