Goal Keeping

New Year’s resolutions begin pumped up with hope and eagerness—then deflate like a slow leak from a tire

1985: Kick the Kit Kats

The resolution: Due to an alarming amount of cavities, my mother insisted that my brother Tony, sister Becky, and I reduce our candy intake.
The result: Within days of starting this resolution and its subsequent sugar drawdown, Tony became a Rain Man-ish savant and recalled every spot in the house that potentially had our dad’s stash of mini chocolate bars and led us on scrounging missions; Becky ate half a bottle of chewable Flintstones vitamins just to feed her jones; and I, the runt, was reduced to a blubbering heap from lack of glucose. By mid-January, our exasperated mother had had enough and lifted the sugar embargo, sating us with some soggy, left-over Pixy Stix salvaged from the bottom of her purse.

1999: Be the Dude

The resolution: Inspired by the unemployed slacker in The Big Lebowski, I vowed to rein in my corporate ways and be more like “The Dude.”
The result: It was a natural, zesty enterprise, but I can’t remember a single thing from the entire year.

2008: Go organic

The resolution: Health is important, or so I hear. For months, I tried to limit artificial flavors and preservatives in my son’s diet and vowed to buy nothing but organic food.
The result: After numerous meal-time insurrections (“Dad! This kale tastes the way the zoo smells!”), we ended up just eating whatever was easiest, which usually was a goopy pizza, topped with sadness, at the Target food court.

2010: Shed the hairshirt

The resolution: It began with a piece of advice from my wife. “Hey, Todd,” she said,“I love you lots. But you’re in your late thirties now, so maybe it’s time you stopped looking like the Unabomber.”
The result: For several long months, I tried manscaping, specifically targeting the unruly follicle conditions that had come to dominate my head and face. This proved problematic, however, for the simple reason that my body is not unlike a giant Chia pet. Still, I kept at it, and while no one ever complimented me on the closeness of my shave or the sheen of my hair, well, let’s just say I no longer looked like I kept crickets in my beard for companionship.

2011: Quit caffeine

The resolution: Diagnosed with chronic migraines, due partly to my caffeine addiction, I tried to kick coffee and soda.
The result: My doctor warned me that I couldn’t just up and quit drinking caffeine because it’s too hard, too likely to end in violence. He suggested a slow withdrawal over a period of months. But I ignored him, and within weeks of a reduced caffeine intake, I resembled Nick Nolte’s mug shot. Eventually, I’m proud to say, I did kick caffeine. No coffee, no soda, and—to be honest—my life kind of sucks because of it.

2012: Turn back the clock

The resolution: As I closed in on turning 40, I vowed to stave off the typical midlife doldrums and grab life by the horns. This resolution almost killed me.
The result: I tried snowboarding. I visited Disney World and Universal Studios (“What’s that? We’ll go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, in the dark, and upside down? Sure, why not?”). I attended an underground wrestling match called “The Seven Levels of Hate” that took place in a tornado shelter and was nearly bludgeoned to death at ringside. But the antidote to all that fun was, of course, a heavy dose of reality. At a rock show at the Turf Club in St. Paul, my friend Chris slyly pulled out a Ziploc baggie, which I assumed was filled with something illegal. Then I remembered that we were both 40. It was a bag of disposable ear plugs.