Why should I plan my New Year's Resolution in December?

In 2019, I’m resolving to be short.

I know what you’re thinking. A whole year just to be short? You don’t need to start planning for that in December. All most people need is a few minutes of biokinesis to shrink down to size.

For me, a woman whom nurses routinely round up to 5’2”, it’s even simpler. I’m already too short to reach the top shelf and see over the steering wheel. Done and done. So why the long head start?

To get at why I’m resolving to be short—and why it will take a full year to get there—we have to talk about resolutions.

Being short requires resolve. |  Biao Xie  for  Unsplash

Being short requires resolve. | Biao Xie for Unsplash

Until recently, I’ve been underwhelmed by New Year’s resolutions. It felt so irresolute to wait until a specific day to start working toward a goal. If you want to lose weight, put down the Cheez-Its. If you want to drink less, stop buying wine. If you want to be more present with your kids, leave your phone downstairs. If you want to be a writer, pick up a pen. If you want to run a marathon, start running. Most of these goals don’t require advance planning, and future marathoners, who certainly do need a training plan eventually, don’t need to plan their first slow miles.

In 2017 I made an exception and resolved to get dressed, which sounds easier than it is when you’re a write-from-home parent, and which I realize, typing to you in workout gear, I still haven’t quite mastered. See? Resolutions aren’t that helpful.

But then I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. If you’re among the dozens of people who haven’t read it yet, Rubin devoted each month of the year to a different aspect of happiness. In January, her mantra was “boost energy.” In February, it was “remember love.” In June, “make time for friends.”

Rubin’s resolutions were much different from the kinds of resolutions I was thinking about, and that’s because I wasn’t thinking about resolutions at all. Rubin draws a distinction between goals (which you can “hit”) and resolutions (which you can “keep”). Rubin elaborates:

“Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever.

I started thinking that if I set a true resolution, a practice that required daily focus, maybe a plan would be helpful. I read about other people’s resolutions, and found that many writers pick a word for the year—like expand, re-purpose, or linger—to keep their resolutions in focus.

Which brings me back to short.

I’m obviously short, but I rarely behave as though I am. I buy dresses and pants that are six inches too long, and then buy shoes to compensate for the length. I climb the kitchen counter in order to reach the salt. I spend three weeks with cold ears because I don’t want to drag the ladder to the closet so that I can tiptoe on the third step in order to reach my winter accessories.

I could, of course, hem my clothes and store items at an appropriate height. I don’t think twice about doing adapting our house for my preschooler. We keep stepstools by the sinks and tinier stepstools by the toilets. His closet has kid-height clothing bars. Our hallway has kid-height hat hooks. At snackdinner HQ, our desks are sized in bear heights: one for papa, one for mama, one for baby. From his height, everything in the house is sized just right.

If I can buy matching mother-and-child desks, if grocery stores can stock the most profitable items at a height where most people can reach, and if the Navy can commission submarines that accommodate shorter sailors, maybe I can build a shower where reaching for the shampoo won’t bring it crashing on my head.

But I don’t do such things for myself, because the extra steps always feel like unnecessary self-indulgences. That’s why “be short” needs resolution-level advance planning. That’s why it also requires some public declarations about what I’ll do in 2019:

  1. Wear pants that fit. I will purchase petite pants instead of hoping that the wildly fluctuating quality of Gap jeans will mean one pair is a few inches shorter than others. I will also learn to use my sewing machine.

  2. Wear flats. Crying at weddings is great, but not when it’s over the shoes that leave my feet numb and my toenails throbbing. Flats 365.

  3. Prepare for special occasions. Nearly all my years of wedding-induced foot torture are owed to extra-long hemlines. This year I will shop earlier and have suits and dresses tailored.

  4. Fit in at home. I will invest in a stepladder that enables me to reach the smoke detectors in our house without imperiling myself, and store everyday items within reach.

  5. Build to suit. When house-hunting in 2019, I’ll test my ability to reach things from cabinets, closets, and bookshelves, and, if necessary, renovate before moving in. Or buy a very cool library ladder.

The above steps will help me fit inside my clothes and home. I want to be short in lots of other ways, too. I resolve to be short of breath when running my first marathon in 2019, following in the footsteps of other short role models like Miki Gorman, who at almost two inches shorter than me could run 911 miles in one month. I resolve to write short stories with my five-year-old. I resolve to submit more short essays for publication.

And that brings us back to the question that started this post. Why do I need to start planning my New Year’s Resolution in December? Because taking myself seriously sometimes requires time and thoughtful focus. And perhaps a bullet journal.