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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

Resolutions, for everyone

I usually make a few New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve found that the key to being successful is keeping my goals simple and realistic. I also try to make several resolutions, because partial accomplishment is better than none at all — if I keep one-third of my resolutions, I generally feel pretty good about myself.

However, this year I’ve had trouble coming up with a list of resolutions.

Instead, I’ve been thinking of resolutions for others.

Like my cat Clem.

Lately he’s gotten into the habit of waking me up exactly 30 minutes before my alarm goes off. He does this by meowing piteously, and swatting me in the face with his paw. I have no idea why he acts this way. My theory is that he wants attention and figures I’ve slept enough. Which is a bit rich, considering how much he sleeps.

In any case, I found myself penning Clem’s New Year’s resolution early one morning after his crying snapped me out of a very pleasant slumber: “I, Clem, will resolve to let my owner sleep as late as she wants for all of 2013.”

I’ve also got a list of resolutions for Congress that I began developing when I realized that the new year was shaping up to be very much like the old one, dominated by battles over the debt ceiling and taxes.

My desire for a clean slate has never been quite as intense as it was on Jan. 1, when I realized that the federal government is operating on some kind of nightmarish, Groundhog Day-like loop, with the same debates and arguments reoccurring every three to five months, with little to no resolution. When I heard about the stalled relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims, my reaction was not so much outrage as déjà vu. So perhaps Congress could do us all a favor and resolve to become a functional branch of government again. At the very least, they could retire the term “fiscal cliff,” which I never want to hear again in my life.

As satisfying as it is to make up resolutions for others, such as my fellow drivers (“We resolve not to double park on Central Avenue in Albany”), the New England Patriots (“We resolve to win the Super Bowl”) and pundits (“We resolve to stop speculating about the 2016 presidential election”), I know that it’s silly to continue on in this vein. For one thing, nobody listens to me. And since I’m far from perfect, I should probably stop worrying about everyone else, and focus on myself.

My first resolution was an easy one: I resolved to read more.
After looking at a list of books I read last year, I concluded that 12 books is too little, even if one of those books, Studs Terkel’s “Working,” was really long. I actually resolved to read more in late December, and began taking steps to work on this goal: I zipped through Dave Eggers’ “Zeitoun” over Christmas, and immediately picked up the Herman Melville novella “Billy Budd.” Each evening, I make a concerted effort to read at least a few pages, even if I’m tired; if I read a magazine, I can skip book reading without feeling guilty. (I consider this my “magazine loophole.”)

My resolution to read more books made it easy to come up with my second resolution, to spend less time on the Internet. I think the Internet’s great, and that there’s a lot of interesting stuff to read out there. But for me, surfing the web is the equivalent of watching TV: a way to veg out after a long day. If I summon a little willpower, I should be able to put the computer down and read a book (or a magazine).

Or do something else, like play my keyboard.

In fact, that’s my third resolution: to play my keyboard more often.

My fourth resolution is to go to more art exhibits, at both galleries and museums. Every year, I miss out on interesting art exhibits, mainly because I don’t make enough of an effort to get to them. There’s really no excuse for this: I read local entertainment blogs religiously, in anticipation of concert announcements, and I frequently check the websites of local movie theaters, so that I know which movies are opening. Devoting just a fraction of this energy to the visual arts should lead to an exponential increase in the number of art shows I attend in 2013. I already have my sights set on an exhibit at Union College’s Mandeville Gallery titled “Art or Evidence: The Power of Photojournalism.”

There are three other resolutions that I’m on the fence about. Basically, I’m not quite ready to make a commitment, but I’m considering it. (Think of them as being in draft form, awaiting public comment.) Here they are:

1. Start jogging. I hate jogging! But I do a lot of walking, and lately I’ve been thinking that adding some jogging to the routine would be good for me.

 2. Go to bed earlier and get up earlier. On the surface, this seems like a good idea. After all, the early bird catches the worm. But am I ready to make this kind of drastic lifestyle change? I’ve always been a night owl — why fight it? On the other hand, maybe I’d be a little happier if I got to work a earlier, and left earlier.

3. Go to church. I make this resolution periodically, and I’ve never been able to follow through.

Last week, a friend gave me a copy of the folk singer Woody Guthrie’s 33 New Year’s resolutions for 1942, which put my list to shame.

Guthrie’s resolutions range from the practical — “change socks” — to the idealistic — “love everybody.” He vows to read a lot of good books, write a song a day, “work more and better,” “dance better,” “stay glad,” “help win war — beat fascism” and “wake up and fight.”

I have no idea whether Guthrie achieved all, or even most of, his goals for 1942.

But if he could face a world in turmoil with such optimism and good cheer, I can, too.

Even if the debt ceiling fight resumes in two to three months, and my cat keeps waking me up.

Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at

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