You may have missed the moment a couple of weeks ago, noteworthy as it is every year, when most of us saps who resolve things on January 1 drop those same resolutions. January 10 is the date many experts agree that we approach our gym and instead of opening the door to jump on a treadmill, cut and run back home to the couch. For that matter, though, anytime we undertake a significant change in life we are likely to fail, particularly if we ever wind up succeeding. Indeed, failing and failing again is most often our path when we find we’ve managed to troubleshoot our way to success.
This being the case, what is the seduction of January 1? Why should it matter which day we set a goal or in what month we set about accomplishing it? As usual I have a musing or two. (Too bad my musings aren’t a-musing.) Of course there are many factors that go into the communal coalescing of our hopes and dreams on the first day of a new year—it feels less messy to start something on the 1st rather than the 17th; New Year’s Day is the last in a string of giddy, fattening holidays beginning late October, and therefore seems more sober and serious; with its status as a sort-of holiday it also carries the aura of enough significance to be a “watershed” or a “landmark,” perfect for later reflection; good old fashioned procrastination fills a role as well, I mean, why improve on the 17th when there is such a prettier, cleaner number up ahead after the holidays?
All this aside, however, think a lot of it comes down to the allure of blank, unspoiled days and pages. After all, we actually did start a diet on the 17th, blew it by the 18th, and in so blowing lost also any point to trying again that month, as, if we did restart on the 21st the arbitrary string of perfect days is already severed, and if we wait just for the first of next month our success won’t be even enough. This insane babbling pretense at logic leads to only one conclusion: Sorry baby, New Year’s resolution is the only solution.
It does not escape me that this bespeaks a quest for perfection that is much like that of this sci-fi reference that will forever out me as a geek--the Borg (but, no, resistance is not necessarily futile; look at Seven of Nine). As anyone with an ounce of coolness in her knows the Borg are a hybrid of cybernetic and organic components, the sole purpose and drive of which is to find perfection and scarf it up—um--assimilate--it, thereby making it one with them (or rather it, as there are no individuals in the Borg collective) and….sorry. Too much? The point is that the Borg are driven to seek the unblemished and flawless at all costs.
Many of us non-fictional characters share this pursuit, though hopefully to a less genocidal degree, particularly in a society where “perfectionism” is held out as a sort of covert virtue, as it is seemly to pretend to despise it while actually taking pride in it. (Oh, I just couldn’t bring myself to be satisfied with winning the title Most Supreme Super Mormon Woman ever, I also had to make sure I finished my Doctoral dissertation and hand-tied 50 quilts in time for the family newsletter, even though I had neither time nor news left for my actual family….silly me, I’m such a perfectionist!) So as we strive to pretend not a strand of our hair is or ever has been gray, that our children never spit at each other and the spaces between our teeth have never been invaded by slimy, partially-masticated food, we also look yearningly and hopeful at the twelve blank pages January affords us. The promise of really doing it right this time. The hope, no, almost certainty, of brilliant success this year.
Here is what I say—true perfection, the unfaltering patterning of our lives after the Savior’s, is a precious and sweet goal, the striving for which fills our lives with grace. It is a wise Father who knows that those of us who attain it will only do so through and after strife, decidedly imperfect fits and starts, and many scratched up calendars, garishly scribbled and lined with red slashes. He also knows that becoming perfect, as He commanded us to be (Matthew 5:48) will not be a linear journey beginning January 1and ending December 31, but that it will be a meandering, sometimes circular, often confusing trek through the peaks and valleys of life (or the stars and whole vastness of space for reformed Borg) that will continue after we’ve left mortality.
It is fine to jump on the New Year’s train and see if the burst of momentum supplied the by collective unconscious of wishers everywhere might help propel us to success, but let’s not get so caught up in a calendar day that we lose the entire year waiting for our time to circle back again. The Atonement, if properly applied, washes away sin and gives us a new start every time we sincerely repent and find the Lord’s forgiveness. Similarly, our Heavenly parents support our worthwhile goals that include developing skills, improving education or character, becoming as physically healthy as possible, increasing spirituality, etc. and will help us find a way to achieve them if they re folded into a righteous life. Any gains we make come through the mercy of the Lord, and the effort is ongoing. There is no passage I know of that refers to thrusting in our sickle for a couple of weeks then knocking off for the last few decades of our life.
The allure of worldly perfection is an illusion, bound to discourage and distract us if we pay it too much attention. The pull of spiritual perfection is our true call. It doesn’t matter which day we start following it, as long as it is this day. It is expected that we will mess up at times, both in our diets and careers, and in living the commandments. If we let them, these errors will make us stronger, help us to “fail better” next time, and will be wiped clean by the perfection of our Savior that we become a part of as we ensure our goals—our resolutions—are in line with God’s will.
Yes, like me you’ve probably blown the slick, shiny vision of what the next 365 days were sure to be, but so what? Suit back up with me and grab an elliptical trainer (or a textbook, or a more firm grasp on unkind tendencies, or a pottery wheel), January is great for leaf-turning, but any other month is just as good, and the story, upon reflection, will be every bit as gripping whatever day it begins.