NEW YORK — The usual New Year’s resolutions — exercise more, spend less time doomscrolling on social media and more time reading, go to bed earlier to get my beauty rest — feel like a giant pile of irrelevance after this year of complete and utter feces show.
It’s also helpful, though, to look ahead, to hope and dream that 2021 might return us to some semblance of normalcy.
Thinking and planning ahead, including focusing on what goals I’d like to achieve for 2021 sure beats staring at the peeling paint on the wall ... and wondering if I will ever get to sip a cocktail at a restaurant with a friend like a human being in and of the world again. I’ll even take a watered-down cocktail at a mediocre restaurant with a friend who talks too much. I’ll tip even more than usual.
Landing that big book deal or finally fitting into my high school jeans feels like biting off more than I can chew after this year that has depleted and devastated our planet. I have decided to instead focus on those simple goals that will reestablish myself as a normal person in a more normal world. Looking back on 2020, I realize there is a lot I have lost and plain forgotten how to do in this year of great upheaval.
In preparation for when the world right-sizes, my first goal will be to learn how to get dressed again. That means practicing how to put on a bra (under my shirt). It also means I have to wear both a bra and underwear. It may require a pep talk, but I should also practice wearing socks to go out with those other undergarments.
An even harder sell, which is precisely why it makes my objectives list for 2021, is trading in elastic-waisted pants (namely, pajamas) for actual real pants that have buttons and zippers. I will block roughly 45 minutes on my calendar each week in the days preceding this transition to practice such fine motor skills as looping a button through a hole. All those quarantine baking sessions may yield mixed results on said defined-width pants.
Talking to people
Another major goal will be learning how to talk to people again — by which I mean actual human beings in the flesh, like the woman in front of me in line at the supermarket. If there is ever a day when we aren’t dressed in hazmat suits, I will practice my friendly face and how best to say, “Please, go ahead of me. You have just canned tuna and margarita mix while I have 126 items to feed my bottomless-bellied child.”
This will lovingly take the place of today’s interaction, which includes “Back up lady, you are less than 6 feet behind me!” and lobbing death glares that she probably can’t see through my COVID-safe space helmet. (Maybe I can retire the helmet, comfortable in the belief that I won’t spew potentially deadly aerosols in late 2021.)
Achieving a goal like showing up to work sans pajama pants and saying hi to the stranger at the supermarket feels like attainable wins for 2021.
Setting realistic goals
The experts agree that setting realistic and maybe small goals for 2021 makes good sense.
“If you are looking to set goals during this unusual time, I think there are a few other things to consider,” said Will Meek, a psychologist based in Providence, Rhode Island, via email.
“The first is making sure you have a plan of how to actually pull it off,” he said. “If you set fitness goals, but the gym near you may have closures, how will you manage that? The second is planning for slip ups. The pandemic has made so many things unpredictable that something will likely disrupt even the best laid plans.”
Focus on how you will manage setbacks, Meek offered, and look to reset quickly when you slip up. It’s also helpful to know yourself and know what works and what doesn’t. If you know you are going to fall off the exercise-for-an-hour-every-day wagon after two weeks because you have every year in the past, try something different this year. Commit to exercising for just 20 minutes each day, or to three days a week rather than every day, for instance.
Get into the details
It helps to get really specific with your 2021 goals.
“Quantify. Rather than say ‘I’m going to do some dating,’ set a goal to go on five dates in five months, for example,” said Paul Greene, a New York City-based clinical psychologist and cognitive behavioral therapist, via email. “By making things specific, it will help create a sense of urgency that’s often helpful.”
Keeping goals realistic and telling others about them can also be a helpful way to hold you accountable and to help you get across the finish line.
Must we use napkins?
In the New Year, I will also commit to learning how to place my napkin in my lap when I eat and using the proper fork for the accompanying course.
This will replace my present tack of piling any combination of foods I have around the house directly into my mouth with my bare hands (after washing them with bleach studiously for 20 seconds, of course) while multitasking on remote work into the wee hours of the night.
Because time doesn’t really mean anything anymore anyway. And when you start to unpack things, utensils don’t make much sense either, unless you consider their utility for things like getting that lost grape out from under the radiator (thanks, kid, for putting it there) or digging a tiny hole to plant some herbaceous seeds so you can sustain yourself when the food supply chains buckle.
Then again, maybe trying to lose 10 pounds isn’t such a far-fetched goal after all.