Old Year’s Resolutions

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time-passesThroughout my adult life, I have had a problem with the notion of New Year’s resolutions. When I was younger I would search my brain to find a possible change so I could feel virtuous.

I can’t recall any of those bygone resolutions, except for the perennial promise to lose a few pounds and exercise more. The fact that I no longer remembered any previous goals, led me to believe that one-time resolutions didn’t work for me. Perhaps other people were more dedicated than I was when they set their year-end vows. In my resolution-making days I would feel guilty when I looked back after six months had passed and noticed that I didn’t do any of what I said I would. “OK, I’ll do it again next year,” I thought. Of course, the pattern continued and I was perpetually disappointed with myself. Ultimately, I stopped worrying about the unfulfilled short-term promises because it struck me that they couldn’t have been that important to me.

So, after many years, I set aside the notion of one-time resolutions. It didn’t work with my personality. My psyche began to realize that it needed to see the results of anything I took on. Making resolutions that never went anywhere wasn’t satisfying to my spirit. I began to think differently and decided to embed resolution-making into daily existence. I didn’t want to abandon resolutions entirely, but create aims to accomplish over my life-time. I did that, they are with me every day, and they stay the same from year to year. Certainly, I may add or eliminate an objective once in a while, but that will happen when one of them becomes less important, or I discover a new compelling one.

Having said that, here are the things I resolve to do. First, I want to stay connected to the people who mean a lot to me – my friends, family, and of course kids and grandkids. Therefore, I try really hard to respond to daily brain pop-ups. “I haven’t connected with Harriet in a month or so, and I miss her. I need to call or e-mail her right now!” “I wonder how Miriam is doing – I’ll check in with her.” “My grandkids have school vacation next week. I need to make a special plan for our regular day together.”

Second, I want to try to make a positive contribution to people I know and many whom I have never met. For the people I know, I can do this on an individual level when someone asks for a bit of help, and I respond in simple ways – often just listening carefully to their worries. For those I don’t know, I try to help through my writing, because people let me know that what I write resonates with them on a very personal and meaningful level.

Finally, I want to take what I learned from my own experience, what I gleaned from others, and from on-going study, and apply that knowledge to help my community, especially around issues of aging. But I don’t limit these efforts to elder issues. I care a lot about the challenges of lack of affordable housing, safe outdoor environments for people of all ages to walk in, loneliness and isolation, respecting and welcoming diversity, and supporting an inviting atmosphere in the city where I live.

I admit I still have the seemingly unreachable goals of losing a few pounds and moving my body more than I am doing now. I shouldn’t give up on these ancient goals because, without these, I could end up being chunky and slothful. That doesn’t fit with who I think I am. Keeping goals of good health engenders just enough guilt to prevent me from putting them to rest permanently. I have to keep emphasizing that staying in good shape is critical to my ability to carry on with my larger goals.

Thus, I really don’t have to invent new resolutions. The overarching ones that I set a while back work from each year to the next. The more I work on them the more important I think they are, especially when I see some tentative impact. Staying connected gives me a comforting sense of belonging, even with people I only see every now and then; I know we are together in shared attitudes. Being able to reach out to people when they are troubled gives me great satisfaction. One of the best parts of this is that I usually don’t know when it is happening. I only know once in a while when people seek me out and tell me. But I cherish the mystery of not knowing what positive impact I may have had out there in a larger realm. I am very pleased with some of the progress on making my city livable and all-age-friendly, but there is a tremendous amount to do. I will remain immersed and keep working; after all, that is what I have resolved to do for as long as I can.


  1. Mark Hatch

    January 2, 2017

    Dear Marian,
    Thank you for your as always thoughtful and thought provoking newsletter. Best Wishes to you and yours for the New Year, which if my calculations are correct is already over 100,000 seconds old! Clearly, there is not a moment to waste!
    Sometimes in the course of a conversation or an article, a particular word (or phrase) will stand out to me. In the case of your letter, this word was “resolution”. Without going online and looking up the etymology of the word, my mind is off and running. Please note that this does not mean that it is correct… however. Resolution…. to resolve to do something… to re-solve. Hmmm, this would indicate that we have, as you rightly lamented, have been down this road before. As this applies to Mr. Trump, and in this case I want to stress the Mr. title, even though for years it has made me bristle at the press referring to any President of the United States of America as Mr. ( fill in the last name here), as I feel Mr. Trump is a man unworthy of the title of President. The only thing I see him as president of is the business empire he has been part of… a seeming fluke in it’s own right. Perhaps that in and of itself could be a start, to be sure to refer to him in all communications as Mr. Trump and not President… I’m sorry, I cant bring myself to write it. Back to having been down this road before, Mr. T is an old problem, one to re-solve, by resolving to be part of a groundswell revolution to make a resolution to encourage the desired change through the electoral process. I believe this will happen, as first and foremost, I do not see Mr. T (pronounced “mertee”?) “making America great again” or brining the jobs back… the jobs have been surrendered to automation, and this trend will unavoidably escalate, touching much more than just the manufacturing sectors. Time will tell all, and I hope to be around good people to witness whatever we can make happen.

    • Marian Knapp

      January 3, 2017


      Great comment! I want to be a part of that groundswell – let’s all “swell up”!


  2. Carolyn Kruger

    January 3, 2017

    Thank you so much for your wise words!

  3. Diane

    January 3, 2017

    Please spread the word and join the Boston Women’s March For America on the Boston Commons – being held on same day as DC march. January 21st. It’s a Saturday and it’s about all rights – not just women’s.

    This is one small step we can all take together.

    Thanks Marian for helping us think of ways we can be brave and stand together

  4. Paula Gilbert

    January 4, 2017

    Hear, hear, Marian. I agree with everything you have written here. I’ll start moving ahead with my local group soon after the Women’s March on Washington. That should provide a lot of energy and inspiration!

Reply to Diane

  1. Old Year’s Resolutions – LOOK MY PAGE01-05-17

About Marian

Marian Leah Knapp, Ph.D., wants to start a new conversation about “aging with intent.” Much of what is written about elders is from the point of view of physicians, psychiatrists, gerontologists, and adult children. In her roles as author, columnist, speaker and elder activist, Marian is reporting from the front lines.
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