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.

About Jim

Jim is a happily married father of two daughters, one autistic, one not. He writes about autism, parenting, and his busy family life at Just A Lil Blog when his busy family life allows.

22 thoughts on “The Promises We Break

  1. I hate resolutions. A few things I have learned about myself, and I don’t think I’m too different from most people: We are creatures of habit, We do what we can and We do when we are ready to do. I’ve struggled with weight off and on my whole life. About a year and a half ago, I looked at myself in the mirror when I got out of the shower…totally not recommended, and thought to myself. “You are getting old and getting fat. You can’t do anything about getting old, but you can do something about being fat.” I was ready. I dropped the weight fairly easily, especially for a woman over a certain age, because I was ready. Life is much more fun without the excess baggage and I am happy I did it. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re right, the family stuff is what’s important. Just live life, eventually things fall into place. Or the world will end. Happy New Year Jim.

    • You have to be ready to make the change, you’re right. You can’t just arbitrarily say…today is New Year’s Day, and that means I will begin being a better person. You have to go through that mirror-gazing thing and realize that you HAVE to change.

  2. About 8 years ago, I was listening to a 6-year-old boy’s prayer, and I was struck by something profound that he said. Children’s prayers, in my experience, are generally either repetitive, topically aimless, overly simple, or intensely sincere– you just never know what you’re going to get. His name was Nicholas, and I know very little about him or his family, but what he said really made me reflect not on his family, but my own.

    He said simply “Please help my dad remember his promises.”

  3. “…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.”

    This is a really interesting point! Why do we feel more bound by the resolutions we make at the start of the year? Why don’t we make them all year round, as soon as we notice that changes need to be made? Now you made me think. I’d resolved to do less of that this year.

  4. I needed to look at where I am. I’ve gained 15 pounds since we moved to Rhode Island, and taking stock of what is going on in my life just helps me to see what is really going on. It’s not about the food or about the diet. For me, the weight is a manifestation of how stressful things have been along with my not taking enough control in my life to manage the things I CAN manage.

    The New Year works to remind me that I can try a little harder. That’s all.

    • hmmm. Yeah. I think it IS a great reminder to ‘start anew’. I just think when you make promises based on some arbitrary “start date” then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Or at least *I* am.

  5. These questions really resonated with me: “Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself? How many promises have you easily and guiltlessly broken to yourself?” I have also struggled with weight. I come from a family where family gatherings are used to assess who looks good (aka slender) and who has gotten fat. I have set a goal to lose weight starting this coming Monday. Yeah there is something about Mondays. LOL. I am not calling it a resolution but I am telling others to keep myself accountable. Why? Because I want to like what I see when I look in the mirror. I agree with your point about being family focused and that is and always will be a priority. If helping my son with his homework means I don’t get to workout then so be it. All I can do is try. Sorry for the long response. :-)

  6. I absolutely agree with your sentiments here, Jim. We buy into the idea that we have to “start over” every year with a long list of resolutions that only serve to make us feel like total losers if we can’t keep up or fulfill each and every one of them. But the way we live our lives day-to-day as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers…..those are the things that matter in the long run and shouldn’t require any other effort than love.

    Great post.

  7. I have to admit, I started feeling discouraged at the start of this post. I mean, I break these sorts of resolutions all the time. I don’t want to think of myself as a promise maker. But I love how you ended this–it is so much more important to focus on the promises we make to our kids, spouses and families. Thanks for the reminder of what’s important.

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  9. I promised myself that I would leave a response, so here it is. :)
    What’s more, I really liked this post (not to be a kiss-ass, but I really do enjoy everything you write, it makes my brain cells fire up) as it resonates – especially the part about trusting ourselves – the promises I failed to keep last year were ALL to myself, and my health genuinely suffered. This year, I came into it from several months of consideration of what is best for me and I since I already started before the end of last year, it is more a continuation than a starting point for me. I have come to realise my own weakness in my ‘stick-to-it-ness’ (is that a saying? I don’t know if I have that right but it is almost bedtime here and I am simply going to accept that I don’t need to look it up, cause the sentiment works. For me. And it is all about me. Where was I?)
    Right, yes, YOU, Jim. THIS post. Loved it. I shall treasure the wisdom of trust – something I am deserving of, most of all from myself.

  10. I firmly believe that thing about habit. When I started running again last year, I had to have a fight with myself every single day to go running. Every day. Then, after a while (but longer than 21 days, let’s be honest), finding time to go running was just part of my day.

    I’m sorry, there was some other heartwarming part of this post, but I’m focused on my resolution, which involves…running. And also weight loss.

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