Thursday, December 11, 2014

viva la resolution

The other day I bought the January issue of O, The Oprah Magazine because AK wasn’t feeling well and the cover featured Oprah posing in an emerald green dress next to a lion, and I thought it would make her laugh.

It's all about me-ow.
It’s fun to make fun of O because Oprah is powerful and ubiquitous and prone to let-them-eat-cake moments; because, like every other women’s magazine, it’s obsessed with self-improvement; and because, well, see lion cover above.

But of all the magazines you can impulse-buy at the checkout counter, it’s one of the best. It takes books seriously. It features women of color regularly. And even though Oprah’s always on us to be our best selves, it turns out that the resolution-oriented articles in the January issue are pretty sensible.

I have a complicated relationship with self-improvement. I think our (American? female?) obsession breaks us down and gets us to buy shit more often than it lifts us up. On my blog and in my life, I want to be the voice of You’re good enough. Life is crazy. Have a cookie and a good cry. Yet there’s something charming and innocent about seeing every new day as an opportunity for self-actualization. I just don’t think that Scandinavians think that way, you know?

Bread and bread. And bread.
And, of course, I am always trying to self-improve. I’ve wanted to be perfect since fourth grade, at least. Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to hint that while I ate flautas and three pieces of double cinnamon bread (so, sextuple cinnamon) yesterday, starting today I’m going to be a picture of clean and noble living. I’m going to eat only squash and spend my free time reading smart literary magazines. Because I have a new strategy! Because I have Oprah!

One of the magazine’s tips: Start a resolution on a Wednesday when you’re not overwhelmed by the Monday-ness of Monday. So here goes [ed. note: I wrote this post last night].

I mean, I’m not really making a resolution right now. I’m making a meta-resolution, which is not to get derailed by my own perfectionism.

The perfectionist in me wants better punctuation in my screw-it message.
Rule 4 in O’s resolution-making guide is “Your Slip-ups Are Only Detours.” It includes a zigzaggy line depicting the arc of a slipup, whether it’s financial, nutritional, whatever. “Don’t let yourself get sucked into screw-it syndrome—the idea that once you overindulge, you’ve ruined the day, so anything goes. Instead, say to yourself, Yes, I got off track, but I don’t need to make it worse. It’s easier to dig out from a 300-calorie or $30 mistake than a 3,000-calorie or $300 one.”

That’s just basic common sense, and yet I read it with a kind of wonder. Other people have screw-it syndrome too? My sister has long accused me of beating myself up for having basic human emotions. I always think that I am worse than everyone else and that I should be better. Neither is true. I’m just not that special.

During the Thought of the Day at Homeboy this morning, Fr. Greg talked about cherishing the moment. The root of the word cherish, he said, means “to hold.” We should hold good moments and bad ones, simply turn them over and look at them.

A thing I would like to hold.
To suffer from screw-it syndrome is to declare that a certain day doesn’t count. In a way, it would be awesome if we could make some days disappear and only cherish the perfect ones. But life is really fucking short, and it all counts, so you might as well cherish, which is the opposite of screw-it.

So I guess that’s my overly abstract, not-quite-the-new-year resolution (Oprah and company also recommend warming up to a new habit): more cherishing, less saying of screw it. I’ve made similar resolutions before, and even as I type this, I know that what I really want is to trick myself into being perfect by accepting my imperfection. Like some kind of secret back door to perfection.

I’ve been working on an essay or a memoir chapter or something about perfectionism, and I keep circling it, not quite sure how to describe a problem I’m still in the middle of. But I’m not a perfectionist about the essay itself, because I’m much more well adjusted in my writing life than in the rest of my life.   

No comments: