Giving It Up for New Years
by Patricia Draznin

There’s nothing that gets me stoked for indulgence like the prospect of curbing my vices. Pondering my New Year’s resolutions on December 31, I’m like a tourist at Mardi Gras on the eve of Lent, clinging to my sorry habits like a dog clenching a dirty old stick. If Wild Cherry Pepsi and late-night TV were life extending I could probably outlive Methuselah. But experience has taught me I can only indulge in excess for so long until it catches up with me, which is SO not fair.

Mending my ways is a complicated process that involves dealing with a committee, a gaggle of personalities in my head who coexist in mutual denial. Sometimes I am the Blessed Sister Mary Miraculous, advocate of healthy living. “A pure diet feeds the spirit,” she coos, smoothing the snug white collar on her black habit. The good Sister disposes of the vat of Rocky Road belonging to Lotta Carboz, my alter ego who considers ice cream a food group and was not aware that we had voted on the menu.

Every New Year I make some courageous resolutions that transform me into a new and improved specimen of humanity, at least until January 3. This year I’ve added some artillery to the War on Indulgence that could help extend my New Year’s commitment, maybe by several hours. I’m reading a self-help manual called CHANGE YOUR LIFE NOW! While This Book Is Still In Print. According to this $17.99 hardback complete with life-tweaking advice and references to more publications by the same author, change begins by targeting habits I can actually divorce in lieu of my usual trial separations. So this year my resolutions include attainable goals like saying no to polka music, chewing tobacco, and armadillo meat. With these victories under my belt even before the year begins, I can work toward bigger goals in the decades to come, like downsizing my coffee consumption by losing the I-V drip.

The book also explains that in giving up something important it’s valuable to have a Rite of Closure. When the time comes, I envision scattering a few symbolic French Roast coffee grounds into our swimming pond, cremating my Pier 1 credit card, and burying my TV remote. I also plan on writing a farewell poem to Hagen Daas saying thanks for all the fine breakfasts. It might happen. Yeah, and Howard Stern might be voted the next Pope.

In addition to giving up everything that feels good, tastes good, or gets me out of bed, the book suggests enriching my life with things that make me feel special, such as greeting the dawn, reading the classics, or studying conversational Latin. Just the thought of all those fine options inspires me to bask in the glow of our SONY until my brain waves flat line. Anyway, I’ve already got plenty of things that make my life special, like drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea while reading The Chicago Tribune off-track betting results. 

But enough about me. Let’s talk about how the New Year inspires us to celebrate with a hit list of everything we care about that we promise never to do again, all to become better and healthier people. Because according to this timely book, healthier living could make our lives longer. Or at least make our lives seem longer. I’m so inspired I think I’ll celebrate with a Wild Cherry Pepsi and a late-night Gilligan rerun.

Copyright 2003 Patricia Draznin


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