When it comes to the first day of the new year, I don’t favour sitting around a large family-style brunch table. Not that I am against food or family gatherings, but in many ways the idea serves only to extend the excess of eating and drinking from the holidays into what should be a new take on healthy family living.
“Let’s wake up bright and early and go on a family hike!” I suggest. “Dragon’s Back – that way we can end up at Big Wave bay to watch the surfers do their thing while we dig into quality Thai food.”
My suggestion is greeted by groans and other utterances depicting a lifetime of torment.
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“Do we have to be that active on the first day of the year?” Ilya, my 13-year-old daughter, asks.
But what better time to put into action one’s New Year resolutions? Regardless of what my resolution is, whether to burn 500 calories a day or write 500 words a day, I figure if I do it on January 1 then there’s a better chance I will maintain the practice throughout the year.
Alas, the others do not agree.
Arya, my 10-year-old son, does the maths. “There is a higher chance that you will stick to your resolution if you start on say the second day of the second week of the second month….of the year, after you are done with false hope of trying to carry out your New Year’s resolutions in the first month of the year.”
Ilya pipes up: “I was going to start my superbrain yoga exercises on January 1,” she says, referring to a series of squats that purportedly stimulate your brain to operate at peak performance. “But not if you are going to force us to climb mountains, anyway.”
“What’s wrong with doing both?”
“If I conquer all peaks on January 1 then what will I aspire to the rest of the year?”
Understanding Ilya’s brand of logic is not my strong point but when it comes to achieving her resolutions, she remains resolute.
Dumbledore, our dog, barks in apparent agreement.
I turn to my husband, who, as usual, ignores our conversation in favour of his BlackBerry.
“What are you planning to do on the first day of the year?”
“What am I planning to do on the first day of the year?” he repeats back to me slowly and cautiously. It is a tactic he has used for years to prove that he is actually participating in the conversation (when, in fact, he has only picked up the audio and will take another few seconds to process the content).
“My resolution is simple, I am going to control my anger.”
No subtlety there. This is clearly not about him.
“Is that a resolution for you? Or for you for me?” I ask, annoyed.
Dumbledore barks again. My husband cocks his head to the side, imitating the dog.
“Well I was thinking about the kids but you are right. Perhaps I should be less angry at you, too.”
That’s when I realise it isn’t about him at all. While I had assumed he was referring to my quick temper, he was in fact talking about controlling his own.
His resolution could definitely work in the family’s favour regardless of which day of the year but the nagging psychologist in me asks, “And how is this therapeutically sound?”
If my husband tried to control his anger, he would simply revert to his old tendency of sweeping things under the rug, pretending that problems simply do not exist. It’s the opposite of my own emotional training, a system in which you react instantly, typically at other family members over dinner, but then relinquish your woes rather than letting them accumulate as emotional toxins.
My method comes with its own slew of problems, so I resolve to control my quick temper as the number one on my resolutions list. Then back to the husband.
He considers himself, well, considerate. By sweeping things under the rug, he has developed a mechanism for not addressing whatever it is that makes him angry. But what will happen if the rug is finally lifted? Visions of toxic dust ghosts rising up from the floor begin to dance before my eyes.
“No way, Jose! You had better unleash your anger on all of us!”
He looks up from his BlackBerry and then does it again. Slowly and cautiously, “I had better unleash my anger on all of you?”
“How about a resolution that you will actually listen to what we say rather than simply repeating the last words we just uttered? Starting January 1?”
Reenita Malhotra Hora is the author of Ayurveda: The Ancient Medicine of India and producer/presenter of Money For Nothing, RTHK’s morning business/finance show.