Over the course of my adult life, I've made countless New Year's resolutions. Regrettably, few have stuck. This I attribute to a lack of specificity and, as a result, a surplus of wiggle room.
For instance, one year I resolved to quit smoking only to decide, over my first cigarette of Jan. 2, that I would fulfill my promise by never again smoking a ham. In 1989, I swore my inevitable New Year's Eve drunk was the last I'd tie on. I simultaneously adhered to and sidestepped that pledge by remaining in a Stolie-induced blackout until mid-1995.
This year, however, in an effort to improve my odds of success, I'm approaching my resolutions differently. Each is accompanied by specific, incremental, actionable steps designed to keep me on track and on task. Such an approach, it seems to me, is so systematic, so thorough, so utterly foolproof, I'm prepared to tackle not one or two but five "vows of change," each of which is sure to improve my life and the lives of those who know me.
I've listed my resolutions and their accompanying action plans below in the hope that they might serve as an ongoing reminder for me and an inspiration for others.
Resolution No. 1: I will be a better son. a) Instruct my attorney to stop checking my birth certificate for loopholes. b) No longer count driving past Mom's house and honking out "Shave and a Haircut" on the horn as a visit. c) Roll my eyes only at every other thing she says. d) Drop the word "stupid" from the phrase, "Enough already with the stupid fucking coupons, Mom!" e) When she compares me negatively to my sisters, remind myself that I've cleverly duped her into giving me durable power of attorney and all sibling scores will be settled in due time. f) Calmly and actively listen to her second, third and even fourth meticulously, inscrutably, interminably, randomly detailed explanations of who this or that distant relative/passing acquaintance I've never met or heard of is and why I do too know him/her.
g) Instead of being aggravated by the fact that Bob Evans is the only restaurant on the planet she ever wants to go to, take comfort in the fact that their life-shortening biscuits will end our visits there soon enough.
Resolution No. 2: I will be a better husband. a) Employ flatulence as "aural punctuation" only when discussing an issue that's important to me, not one that's important to her. b) Do all the little things I'm expected to do without her asking me to do them before she demands to know why the hell I haven't done them. c) Just because I'm thinking of Heidi Klum doesn't mean I have to mention Heidi Klum. d) Stop speculating on which of her various family members would benefit most from which psychotropic drug and at what dosage. e) To fully demonstrate my strong commitment to our life together, next time, instead of renting her a bouquet of flowers, actually buy them outright. g) Let her know the outlook for me taking her out dancing has improved from "a snowball's chance" to "a iceball's chance." f) Quit bad-mouthing her boyfriend.
Resolution No. 3: I will be a better neighbor. a) As it applies to mowing the lawn, phase out my "clothing optional" policy. b) On days that I steal the neighbors' morning paper before they get up, phone them later and read the headlines in my best Walter Cronkite voice. c) Through a third party, inform the neighbors of my willingness to negotiate a return of the occupied territories -- i.e., their deck and pool. d) In the front yard, chop down the large topiary arrow that points toward the house next door as well as the topiary letters that accompany it and spell out, "I'm with stupid." e) No more clandestine forays to strategically sprinkle tire-puncturing tacks and nails in the neighbors' driveway and on the handicap ramp to their front door.
Resolution No. 4: I will be a better human being. a) Rather than judging people by their weight, lure them into an immersion tank and judge them by their displacement volume. b) Cardinal rule of all future conversations: One man's meat is a tiresome topic. c) Accept Danny Bonaduce's right to exist. d) Accept Danny Bonaduce's (anticipated) apology for existing. e) Accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior (on condition that He first successfully complete a 90-day probationary period as my personal shopper). f) Become more productive by having surgery that will put my adrenal gland "on-line."
Resolution No. 5: I will be a better writer. a) Desist in the flaunting of abstruse terminology that might, alas, confound some constituent of the vacuous proletariat and/or impel said sad schmo to his or her word looker-upper book. b) Quit shoehorning the word "schmo" into everything I write. c) Recognize an editor's suggested changes as my opportunity to take a piece that's undoubtedly perfect in the eyes of God to the next unknowable level. d) Stick to writing in the active voice and abandonattemptstowriteintheoveractivebladdervoice. e) Always remember: The ellipsis is useful for...
CONTACT BOB WOODIWISS: bwoodiwiss(at)citybeat.com. His column appears here the last issue of each month. His book, Keys to Uncomfortable Living, a collection of humorous and satirical essays, is in bookstores now.