Tahlequah Daily Press

January 3, 2006

Rules are made to be broken

By Teddye Snell, Press Staff Writer

Sue McMurray is member of a rare breed.

McMurray made a New Year’s resolution two years ago and has kept it ever since - that of watching her weight and exercising.

“Sue joined our six-week solutions program two years ago,” said Ashlea Ridenhour, manager of Curves. “Her hard work and dedication paid off in that short period of time, and she’s been with us ever since.”

Health-related goals top the charts every year in surveys of contemporary New Year’s resolutions; however, if unreasonable goals are set few, if any, of those resolutions are kept.

“New Year’s resolutions are fun, but the problem for most people is that we are not realistic when choosing them,” said Heather Winn, extension educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “When making a resolution, consider choosing the ‘right’ one. Give it some thought, then set your goal. Once you’ve made your resolution official by writing it in the form of a goal, create a plan.”

By making a reasonably good plan, resolution-makers are more likely to make some progress or actually attain their goal, said Winn.

“Try to identify the exact steps toward accomplishing the goal, being sure to identify any pitfalls or obstacles that you may run across,” said Winn.

Rev. Thea Nietfeld, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tahlequah, takes a spiritual approach to resolutions and the new year.

“I’m trying to keep up with the seasons and let myself move with seasonal changes, so that in the fall I don’t initiate [any new projects],” said Nietfeld. “Since winter solstice I’ve been preparing for what’s next, and I expect in the spring that new things will bloom in my life.”

According to Nietfeld, this approach to her changes over time keeps her in tune with the natural world.

Connie Jolliff spent a number of years on the road with her husband, working in a variety of capacities. Now the co-owner of J&J; Liquors, Jolliff is resolved to taking life more slowly.

“I plan to stay at home and relax more,” said Jolliff. “I’m busier now than I was when we were on the road, but it’s a good kind of busy. I love our customers and coming to work each day. Our goal is to make our store a pleasant place for our customers.”

Area men seem less likely to keep their resolutions than women.

“I’ve made resolutions in the past, but no longer do so,” said Michael Lindsey. “I did it because everyone else did, then I thought it was silly. It’s a silly tradition. Who, or what, started this trend anyway? A resolution is a decision; why should Jan. 1 be the ‘special day’ to make a decision? How about we toss in a Mid-Year’s resolution, so we can [break] it, too? Double your pleasure! We also have the chance to follow it with fireworks, with the bonus of celebrating the freedom of decision-making.”

Gregg Simmons has also failed at keeping New Year’s resolutions.

“I usually don’t make them, because I’m not very good at keeping them,” said Simmons. “It started to become pointless. Why say I’m going to make all these changes if I’m not?”

If Simmons decides to make a resolution this year, he plans on it being “generic.”

“I probably won’t make any [resolutions] unless it’s something generic like ‘I’m going to be nicer this year,’ or ‘I’m going to be more productive.’”

Although Nietfeld respects people who manage to keep their resolutions, she doesn’t count herself among them.

“I admire people who say in July that they are still focusing attention on the resolution they made in January,” said Nietfeld. “I’m not one of those people.”

Lindsey has managed to keep one resolution.

“If you’re asking about outrageous resolutions, the most outrageous one I’ve ever made is to make no more resolutions,” said Lindsey. “Ironically, I’ve kept it.”

New Year’s eve brings a lot of festivities, so it’s no wonder people don’t keep - or sometimes even remember - making resolutions. Simmons is a member of that club.

“Once my ex-girlfriend and I said that we were going to argue less,” he said. “We ended up fighting shortly after midnight at a New Year’s eve party.”

Although Nietfeld refrains from making resolutions, she believes strongly in the power of a fresh start.

“In general, hope seems to rise this time of year,” she said. “It’s a great time to celebrate with hopeful resolutions or seeing possibilities or preparing for what’s next - whatever we call it.”

History of the New Year’s resolution

The first day of a calendar year is one of the world’s oldest holidays. The Babylonians are known to have celebrated the new year approximately 4,000 years ago, and this ancient civilization is credited by some with originating an annual tradition still going strong: The New Year’s resolution.

The first day of the new Babylonian year was considered to be March 23, and a common Babylonian New Year’s resolution was their custom of returning something borrowed from a friend over the course of the previous year.

The Romans used a different calendar and named the first month of the year after the mythical figure Janus, a symbol of beginnings and endings, whose two faces allow him to look both forward and backward in time.

The Romans celebrated the coming of the new year on Jan. 1 by exchanging gifts, and had their own version of the tradition of resolution-making begun by the Babylonians. A common resolution in ancient Rome was to seek forgiveness from enemies of previous years.

Among the many customs associated with the Chinese New Year, celebrated at the time of the first full moon after the sun enters Aquarius (late January to mid-February), is housecleaning, frequently found today on lists of the most common New Year’s resolutions worldwide.

Source: Kansas City Public Library History Guide.