It is once again the time of year for resolutions.
However, I stopped making New Year resolutions decades ago, when I decided to accept myself just as I am. This does not necessarily mean that I love myself all of the time, or even most of the time, but that I have come to realize that I will never really change. I will always succumb to the pleasures of camembert on sourdough bread, will always be seduced by lurid crime stories on television, will always put off the gym until tomorrow.
But while I cannot change, I am not prevented from trying to impose change on others. And so, every year at this time, I make resolutions for others to follow, knowing with absolute firmness that if everyone would just listen to me and do as I say, the world in general, and my world in particular, would be altogether much improved.
In that spirit, then, I give to you, sweet but imperfect reader, my resolutions for 2019. They are in no particular order, but they are definitely the result of grievances, both petty and carefully considered, that I have collected throughout 2018. I hope that everyone mentioned will read my list and determine to follow my sage advice.
1. At the top of my list is a resolution for politicians to stop governing by tweet. Yes, Donald J., I am talking to you. But you alone do not bear the full responsibility for the trivializing of public policy that is the inevitable result of trying to communicate in fewer characters than one might typically expend when itemizing groceries for an infant’s birthday fête.
If what one wishes to say can in its entirety fit on a slip of paper torn from the flap of an envelope, then your message probably does not deserve the attention of a full nation (unless that message is something along the lines of Run for cover! Armageddon has started!).
Trump is not the only public figure guilty of this, but he is the most egregious example. How I pine for the days when presidents went on television to deliver long, boring speeches in which they detailed their rationale for decisions, what effects those decisions were likely to have, and what they needed from us to soften the possibly dire outcomes inherent in all weighty pronouncements. (Usually they needed something like patience and prayers, but that at least was better than snarky replies—also in 140 characters or fewer—from random citizens and celebrities who know nothing at all about the issue under discussion.) Though no one under the age of 60 actually watches television anymore, there are a variety of social media platforms which could be utilized for substantive declarations, and I resolve that our politicians on both sides of the aisle will start making regular use of them.
2. To add to Resolution No. 1: Social media outlets will stop announcing tweets as though they are actual news. While “Alec Baldwin Tweets Cutting Remark to Donald Trump” is a headline that temporarily fills me with joy, I will admit that a Baldwin tweet is no more informative than a tweet written by Sean Hannity. I do not follow Twitter, and still these types of headlines keep popping up on my news feeds. When Alec Baldwin actually does something, like announce his candidacy for president (in a real speech), he will be worthy of a headline.
3. Moving on from correcting the downward spiral of our national discourse, I shall address the home front. My next resolution will repair the decline in the art of communication that I have unfortunately witnessed in my own home. This resolution is for my son Everett, who henceforth will demur from referring to me or his father as “bro.” We are not his bros. We are, at the very least, his “pars,” though he might consider that an extra syllable, as in parents, is in order if he hopes for a favor that only a parent can grant, such as the keys to my car. In alignment with the first half of this resolution, Everett will also refrain from amending every declarative sentence with a question, as in “I’m not in the mood to pick up the pile of clean and dirty clothes, mixed together in one astonishing pile, in my room. You feel me?”
I, his mother, or perhaps “mo” in his lingo, do not feel him on this issue, just as I do not feel him on the issue of wet towels on the bathroom floor or a bed that has gone unmade for the better part of 2018. The issue of the clothes and the towels will be part of our 2020 Plan.
4. My next resolution is for my eldest son, Casey. Casey resolves to let me know something is about to happen, such as his need for some cash in his bank account or his impending date of graduation from college, more than one hour before action on our part is absolutely critical. Thence, he will no longer call me at 5:29 p.m. on a Friday to see if I can transfer some money into his checking account (for which I do not have a debit card) so that he will have food for the weekend. And sometime this next quarter, he will let us know the exact date (in June, I think) of his commencement ceremony.
5. I have no resolutions for my husband Matt. My husband Matt has been baking sourdough bread for the past four days. After I write this article, I will pair his latest batch, which might still be warm, with the uneaten camembert from Christmas dinner. He and his bread are perfect in every way.
While I could think of numerous resolutions for my pets (staying within the confines of our backyard unless expressly invited outside of the yard by a human family member might be a good start), I have come to the conclusion that my pets are, like me, wholly intractable. They will never change, and thus resolutions for them are an exercise in futility. Psychologists advise that one should keep the list of New Year resolutions short, thus improving the possibility of their long-term success. A list of five resolutions seems pretty short, and so now all I have to do is sit back and wait for everyone to absorb my wisdom and act on it. Donald J., the ball is in your court. I’m waiting for that eloquent speech.
Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.