catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 24 :: 2010.12.31 — 2011.01.13


The grace of time

I was a U.S. Marine for four and a half years and it was during that time that I began smoking cigarettes on a daily basis, usually a pack a day, sometimes more, but nonetheless I never went a day without smoking.  And each year after Christmas was over and New Year’s Eve was on its way I would get this idea that I could throw away my cigarettes and move on into the New Year without this habit.  But then the next morning would come — and by “the next morning” I mean an hour or so after midnight — I’d light up again.  I failed.  I couldn’t do it.  Just like so many other people who say they’ll give something up for the new year.  It’s becomes cliché to make this sort of resolution that we know very well we are not going to keep, at least not in a day’s worth of time. 

Now, I always thought that as a Marine, it was okay for me to smoke. I mean, when have you ever watched a war movie that didn’t show a bunch of guys smoking?  And as odd as it may sound, I thought that I would have the ability to control my habit by only smoking when I was out “in the field” or in another country at war.  But this never happened.  I still smoked when I was home and I’d go away from friends or family to do so.  I’d smoke in the car if I was driving somewhere.  Let’s face it, I was a regular smoker.  I never did succeed at quitting the habit while I was in the Marines.  Not until I got out did I actually give it up for good.  But I didn’t quit on New Year’s Day.  No, it was several months later.

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, we tend to be too hard on ourselves by vowing that we’re going to give up a habit starting that day. However, tahere is nothing wrong with setting goals that we hope to achieve over the whole course of the year to come, choosing a less burdensome timeline than achieving success overnight.  If there is something that needs to be changed in your life that year, and you know it, well then, before midnight of New Year’s Day, go ahead and set your goal and make that the day that you begin the journey of transformation.  It doesn’t have to be the start and finish of some resolution you have set for yourself.  That’s the beauty of a new year; you have an entire year to accomplish a goal that you set for yourself!

In January of last year, I knew I wouldn’t be able to quit smoking right away — not until I got out of the military at least.  And so it happened that when February came and I left the Marine Corps, I began limiting my intake of cigarettes and eventually I was able to let go completely.  It was hard at first, but after the first few days of not having any, I wanted to go back and give in right away, but I didn’t, and eventually it became something I didn’t think of.  Now I’m at the point that I can’t even recall the last day I had a cigarette. 

I realize now that each person needs to decide when he or she is truly ready for change.  If you feel that you need to rid yourself of bad habits or you need to begin an immediate change in your life all because you went out and bought a new calendar, then by all means, go ahead and do so.  But if that’s not your thing, and if January 1 is not your day for change, then you shouldn’t feel guilty that you haven’t made a resolution yet.

With the shifting of the years, and with this ritual of making oaths of change with the coming of a new year, there is too much pressure to succeed.  Rather, each day should be a new slate.  So whatever your addictions are, and if you wish to defeat them and to move on without them in the coming year, just remember, the next day might be very hard for you.  And if you’re not ready, or if you’re not at all prepared for it, keep in mind that you have an entire year to make the change, to do better, to succeed.  What’s all this fuss about New Year’s resolutions?  A resolution is only an oath, it’s not something that needs to be accomplished in one night; you do have a full year ahead in which to fulfill it.  Don’t set the goal too high and too fast, take your time and don’t look back.

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