My bedroom floor is a boulevard of broken resolutions every December 31st. Its detritus is varied, but connected: the calendar I bought especially for my GetFit exercise plan—it featured cats and monkeys doing yoga in outrageously ugly sweatsuits, which so inspired me (if they can bend and stretch, certainly I can try to touch my toes) that I paid $19.99 for the thing that received two weeks of increasingly resentful attention and then languished beneath my bed; the juice cleanse cookbook that I bought on a whim after binging Queer Eye and thinking that I, too, could come to love myself more by loving celery and rutabaga (I found by the first week of January, it’s all about loving celery less so as to love life, food, and eating at all); the hand-lettered list of books I resolved to read this past year that were going to Change My Life and Mind for the Better (yes, I capitalized it just as incomprehensibly on the list itself—I guess Resolution-Setting Me enjoys Punctuating with Meaning-Driven Ferocity. I resolve to punctuate less aggressively in the New Year).
But despite the calendar and the cookbook and the Book List to End All Lists, I sat on December 31st, still clueless about how to assume warrior pose, uncleansed (at least, by juicing), and with at least three-quarters of my book list still unread. I realized with dawning horror that I am best suited for resolution success in the New Year if I simply resolve to not do anything. It seems, if I had done this, I would have succeeded.
My story may be all our stories, though others may have better tastes in calendars and like celery and actually have read Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore rather than move it, year after year, from Book List to Book List. Resolutions are made. The New Year is a thing with feathers. The year is a blank slate. But what a poltergeist the second day of January turns out to be in ordinary years. And, in the circus that has been the past two and counting, even more so. Blank slates are a thing of the past, if they ever were, along with maskless smiles and all-you-can-eat buffets. 2022’s slate has already been inscribed with the fourth calendar year of the pandemic, wildfires in Colorado, and lingering grief over Betty White’s death.
Any energy to make the most common of resolutions—lose weight, or write that book already, or run a marathon by April 1st—seems likely to be sapped by the massive ask that simply living in 2022 requires. I woke up to pouring rain and a cold on January 1st. My blank slate was quickly covered by Sudafed, tissues, and empty Gatorade bottles. I couldn’t help but laugh at the person who, a year ago, resolved to do much more than survive and breathe through my mouth. I was, on the first, already ready to play Bartleby. I’d prefer not to, I thought, and pulled the covers over my pounding head.
On days when I’m feeling marginally more myself, I enjoy stargazing. There’s nothing like looking up into the smog-covered heavens and realizing your own insignificance. Who am I, among so many? I occasionally try my hand at the telescope. It’s a tricky thing, this device that relies on mirrors and glass and angles; it cannot show more than things as they once were. I see Jupiter as it was 35 minutes ago; Andromeda shows me her good side of 2.5 million light years ago. The telescope produces resolutions of its own: originally, the word resolution as noun referred to the effect of a telescope in making the stars of a nebula distinguishable by the eye. It was later used more widely to talk about the process of rendering distinguishable the component parts of an object or image—the pixels in an image of sweat-suited cat yoginis, for instance, or examining a green smoothie under a microscope to identify what is celery and what is dirt (though I stand by my hypothesis that they are, in fact, indistinguishable).
To resolve in this sense is to engage in focusing attention and sight. It is not to be resolved, but to be continually resolving; it is not to be focused, but to be focusing. This is essential when looking at Jupiter and Andromeda and the Kuiper Belt, among other stellar bodies, which move and shift and dance their way around the universe in a swaying, swooping celestial samba. I can’t focus once upon Jupiter and be done; Jupiter will move on without me, and I’ll be stuck with a resolution that will be always, forever, more than 35 minutes out of date. We can’t resolve once in a world that is revolving and evolving. Rather, resolution is ongoing. Sight is active. Focus is a perpetual gerund and a perennial verb.
As much as I, and others, joke that we’ve been stuck in a Groundhog Day loop since March of 2020 that wobbles around delays, disappointments, disruptions, and dismay, the world is dancing its own terrestrial tango of change. Variants of the virus swoop up and squat down, political circus rings erupt in chaos and quiet down in Christmas cheer, and, in the space of me drafting this post, a sewage spill has contaminated the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles, California. To keep up with it all, I have to resolve continually, and focus again, and then again. It can be overwhelming and leave me with a sense of crippling insignificance. Who am I, among so many? My covers beckon, Bartleby tempts, but I’d prefer not to give in. Not on January 3rd.
I’m not sure if others are feeling this way. I don’t know if it helps to get real, or to perform emotional yoga while writing so as to stretch into uncomfortable territory, donning casual linguistic sweatpants rather than the usual formal voice and distant stance. That voice seems increasingly disingenuous as we slog through year three and counting of Zoom quicksand in our pajamas. All I know is, I’m unresolved. And I think that’s the only way to begin 2022. Unresolved, but resolving. Unfocused, but focusing. The fact is, living in 2022’s continued uncertainty is recognizing what has always been—certain, or sure, uncertainty. Our world requires not a one-time goal or resolution to vaguely lose weight on January 1st, but a dedication to look again, and then again, on March 18th and May 2nd and September 9th—to be present, to try daily to be within and with the celestial samba of shifting bodies and variant spikes.
So, I’m winning 2022 thus far. I got out of bed and am resolving what I can. Seeing, in this case, may very well be believing that 2022 will be brighter than I give it credit for, and more graceful than I can muster the hope for it to be. I’m focusing, I’m resolving, I’m being, and this, I can say, is a resolution I will keep off my boulevard of broken dreams and away from my Lycra-coated, calendared cats.
This post was written by Abby Thatcher, Humanities Center intern.