It’s the first weekday of the new year. Resolutions fill the air. The parking lot at the Y was packed today and every machine occupied. I know my gym, its rhythms and its denizens; these were not my people.
I sweat next to the same people at the same time of day six days out of seven. That’s not to tout my dedication, discipline, or resolve; I’m a creature of habit, currently retired, and without much to distract me on a day-to-day basis. Were I not at the Y at the same time every day, I’d be shuffling around the house reminding my wife of the correct way to stack dishes, fold laundry, bring order to the silverware tray. None of these would be welcome instructions, and my wife’s generous patience with my fussiness would quickly evaporate. I would also be spending my declining years sitting in front of the TV, eating Cheetos, and watching the Game Show Network. As the days and the pounds mounted, as my fussiness increased, my free-floating discontent and anxiety would chafe me into a state of sleepless exhaustion, driving me back to the cupboard for another bag of Cheetos and to the couch for another hour of Family Feud.
And so the world ends, not with a bang but with the remote in a death grip of fingers stained orange.
But I go to the Y, hop on a recumbent cycle, and pedal my way into sweet, sweet oblivion for an hour, hose myself down, and drive home ready to turn to reading, writing, and to the appreciation of all that my wife and each of my children bring me. It’s a good life.
As I say, the air at the Y was thick with resolve; never has exercise been more earnest. I have nothing against resolutions; they’ve never done me any particular harm. Never done me any particular good either. Generally, resolutions, like intentions, pave the road to whatever private hell we choose to inhabit. Over the years, I’ve taken a different and equally ambitious path; I draw up a list of strongly held convictions from which I intend to escape, becoming mindfully irresolute.
For example, I intend to be irresolute in believing that disagreements reveal a lack of good judgment on the part of those who disagree with me. I haven’t done very well in resolving to withhold judgment of others; by not done well I mean I’ve been laughably unsuccessful. So, irresolution would lead me to say something like, ” I could be wrong…”. “Hmmm. You might be right.” It will take practice, of course, but it seems almost possible to shift to the presumption that I might not have all information or all answers.
In an even more dramatic attempt at irresolution, I’m willing to release my frantic attempt to control the future. There is an outside possibility that what I believe is the inevitable course of events may, in fact, be nothing more than conjecture. I often confide in a friend, wallowing in the certainty of disaster and ruin ahead. His advice is always the same; “Why don’t we wait until we get there?”
This impulse toward irresolution is put at risk as I move into resolution, so I’ve got no lists on the fridge, no deep thoughts on the bathroom mirror, no reminders hanging from the visor in the car. To be irresolute is to be uncertain, and it is uncertainty I embrace as this new year begins.
I’ll grab my gym bag tomorrow, look for an open locker, hope a machine is available, and assume that once again, I have no ability to guess at which newly motivated, energetically resolved, fresh initiates will still be lumping along on the treadmill in a week’s time, or in a month. Checking the certainty meter for a second, I’m reminded that I have no access to information about my own future. I stand on the brink of a new year, then, irresolute and determined to stay so.
After all, you can’t argue with “who knows?”