April may be the cruelest month, but January is the most depressing. It's not just that the nights are long and the days are raw, the snow has turned to ice, people have taken down their Christmas lights, and all you have to look forward to is—well, more of the same in February. The real problem is that January is the month of resolutions. And resolutions are designed to make you feel bad.
Why? First, they're usually the same as last year's, which reminds you of how little you've accomplished in the last twelve months. Second, just looking at them makes you depressed. Here's a typical list: lose weight, get into shape, wow your boss and colleagues with mind-blowingly creative ideas (or find a new job), stop wasting time on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, AND start the Great American Novel. See what I mean? There are so many resolutions and they all seem so unattainable that all you want to do is crawl back under the covers with a box of Oreos.
And it gets worse. Right around now, you look back and realize that you haven't been to the gym even once in the last week, your carb-free diet has just crash landed on an enormous bowl of pasta, and the Great American Novel . . . ah, no comment.
Then, disappointment sets in. Not to mention guilt and self-flagellation. I don't know about you, but I'm really good at guilt and self-flagellation. I'm also really good at creating the doom and gloom scenarios: I'll never lose weight, I'll never get in shape, I'll never be able to do anything of value in my life, and etc.
I have thought about not making any resolutions at all, but I know I'll just feel guilty about not making resolutions.
So this year, I decided to try something radical. Instead of no-resolutions month, I'd do low-resolutions month. I tossed my usual list out the window (or, more accurately, off my iPhone notes app). I picked two things I wanted to do—get into shape and write that novel. I thought about something I could do to get started on each of my resolutions and came up with "going for a daily run" and "writing a first chapter."
Then—and this was the really hard part—I downsized. I downsized again. I kept downsizing until I had something I could do in half an hour once or twice a week: a 20-minute jog and a brainstorming session about chapter 1.
OK. I admit to feeling a little disappointed. And worried. How could I get into shape with just two short jogs a week? How long would it take me to write a novel at this rate? To make myself feel better, I made a plan for upping my running times gradually over the next two months. And for starting to draft a first chapter by the end of four weeks.
I guess I'm hoping that starting with little bite-sized pieces might make a difference.
Will it work? I don't know. I'm still in phase one. But at least I'm jogging and brainstorming and I haven't had a single Oreo cookie in at least the last hour and a half.
Roberta Eve Tovey