December 27, 2013

My (Non) New Year’s Resolution: 8 Ways to Not be a Jerk.

Warning: naughty language ahead.

I tried to remember this morning if I’ve ever had a New Year’s resolution.

If I have had one, I don’t recall what it was.

I believe in a lot of things—that Julie Andrews makes the Sound of Music special, that football should have stayed on public television and that vegetarians don’t eat fish and chicken—oh, and that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time.

I’m generally too caught up doing one of these two things:

Either I’m so thoroughly enjoying my life and who I am in this moment that I’m not worrying about how things could be improved, or I’m nit-picking myself and working on self-improvement, regardless of the calendar date. (More accurately, though, I’m often fluctuating between these two.)

Because if you’re only trying to, say, eat better and make a commitment to exercise when the clock strikes midnight on a particular day, my thinking is that it probably won’t go that well.

Yet, this year, I wanted to think about what my resolution would be if I made one…which I won’t…but if I did.

And  I decided that it would be this:

To not be an asshole.

Yep—that’s it.

To not be an asshole.

Maybe that sounds easy, but it’s really not.

My husband comes home from work and tracks muddy, slushy footprints all across the white tiled hallway that I just mopped up. Worse, he doesn’t even notice that he’s done it.

My reaction could go one of several ways and not all of these are anywhere near nice and, unfortunately, if it’s been a long day and I’m tired—which isn’t unusual—I might snap. I’ll always regret it, but this doesn’t take that moment back.

My daughter wants me to read her a favorite book. It’s the fourth time in a row she’s wanted me to read it. I desperately want to do something—almost anything—else for long enough to not go crazy. I could read her the book one more time or I could refuse and see her face crumple up in disappointment.

I wish I could say that I’ve never chosen the latter, but that would be dishonest. The most horrible thing, though, is that, invariably, I want to snatch this book back up after seeing her sad, tiny face, but by then she refuses to read her story with me.

I might have bored you completely by now with these mundane examples which, surely, isn’t my intention.

I’m merely wanting to share these regularly occurring illustrations from my own ordinary life, where I have the option to be an asshole or… not.

And I’m sure that you can think of a few. (I mean, not from my life, but from your own.)

If we’re in relationships, we hopefully know that our partners aren’t perfect and, equally, that neither are we. Similarly, life and daily situations are often frustrating, but it’s how we handle them—how we cope and react—that define, not only our lives, but ourselves.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be somebody who’s only looking in the mirror on January 1st (and, optimistically, maybe for the next few weeks afterwards).

No, I want to be the sort of person who isn’t afraid to piss people off but who also isn’t doing it on purpose. 

In other words, I don’t want to be afraid of conflict, opinions and dialogue, but I also don’t want a lack of kindness, sensitivity and empathy—and sheer respectfulness—on my part to create problems for myself or those around me.

So here’s a little list that I’ve come up with.

I’ve titled it My (Non) New Year’s Resolution: How to Not be an Asshole.

1. Speak the truth, unless it’s hurtful and unnecessary.

2. Stand up for what I know to be right even if it’s not easy (or it pisses people off).

3. Say “I don’t know” freely.

4. Say “I’m sorry” freely.

5. Try my best to not place myself in situations that will require me to later say “I’m sorry.”

6. Don’t judge other people through the eyes of my own life’s experience.

7. Watch things that make me laugh my butt off, because this makes me happier, which makes me nicer to be around.

(Like this:)

8. When I come to a fork in the road, where I have several options (like the aforementioned situations) then (for the love of God, Jennifer) follow my instinct (and read her the g.d. book again).

But that’s the funny thing about life and about confronting a new year (not funny in the above Conan-visits-the-Irish-American-Heritage-Center way—funny as in ironic)—we’re faced almost every single day with the ability to improve our lives and to improve who we are.

Likewise, New Year’s resolutions are for pie-in-the-sky dreams that we’re too lazy to put everyday work into actually achieving, which is why they and we often fail.

In short, my (non) New Year’s resolution—to not be an asshole—also extends to me.

I deserve to follow my passions. I deserve to love myself enough to make the best choices that I can make. And if we all did that, the world would be a pretty different place, wouldn’t it?

But, eh, some people…are just assholes.

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it.”

~ Jack Handey


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: someecards

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