Consider New Year’s Resolutions as though they were giant mylar balloons filled with fresh morning helium. We blow them up with great expectations — or rather, someone else blows them up for us right after we pick out their empty, wrinkled shells based off pictures on packaging or samples floating around the party store. “That one looks fantastic,” we say, pointing to a giant silver star filled with hover-inducing chemicals, suspended on a perforated indoor ceiling like a spaceship might out in actual star-covered space, artificial like drugstore bought ice-cream yet no less delicious.
If we’re lucky we are asked to choose the color ribbon which will then tether the vapid entertainment to our wrist, or our palm, or perhaps the champagne bottle we also happen to be holding in our right hand and then — “Do you mind curling the ends a bit?,” we’ll ask the salesperson who would probably rather not.
Out the door we’ll go holding this gigantic prize, smiling sheepishly as we bang it into each and every passerby. “Sorry!,” we offer while glancing upward as though this balloon were a bothersome child in a movie theater. But we’re not actually sorry. We’re proud of this extremely light, temporary and universally jovial burden. “One-man constellation coming through!”
This gigantic mylar star will coast over our heads, bouncing light off its metallic film and puffing out its chest with pride (or gas, if we’re being more scientific than poetic). People who haven’t yet been whacked in the face by it will smile, as will those who sit far enough away so that they can admire and not necessarily touch, enjoying without the imminent danger of static cling — because a balloon is perhaps one of the greatest tangible things we have to demonstrate the feeling of elation.
But what happens to balloons, of course, is that they deflate. Some diminish less slowly than others. It may take one very large foil elephant at least a week to meet its shriveled end; the nose going first as it crinkles and crumples in warning that this too shall pass. Others just burst. Maybe they were filled to excess or hit a sharp corner, or a child with a pin and a hypothesis let the air out in one fell poke.
For a while I hated making real resolutions. They seemed like an arbitrary set of goals just hovering over my head that I was expected to decide upon, feel proud about and flaunt before the next year’s clock ran out, all because society demanded a call to action on January First. They’re just tasks we assign ourselves in order to make us feel better, to re-inflate our human ego, give us a sense of purpose as we walk (or jog, maybe in our newly purchased sneakers for our newly purchased gym membership), smiling sheepishly if we hit shoulders with a walking passerby. “Sorry!,” we offer while continuing on our run. Can’t that be done on any day of the year?
My friend Katy once gave up sharing as her New Year’s Resolution. Our mutual friends found this horrifying and rude; I found it kind of hilarious. “I know I’ll be good at it,” she said. “It will make me happy. If I’m tactful about it, it won’t offend others.” It was a non-resolution — a way of having fun with a tradition that she too felt stifled by, or poking fun at those who inquire about one another’s upcoming resolves as though entering the new year is impossible without one.
There’s still something to be said for that shiny, puffy balloon though…sort of the manifestation of New Years Eve itself in all of its expectational glory and what it represents. But maybe our resolutions don’t have to be floating vessels waiting for the air to be let out. Maybe they can be one step above not sharing but not quite so high that if you let go accidentally the balloon will float away.