The York Weekend guide to the truth about New Year's resolutions.

I resolve to...


What you say: This is the year I'm going to eat right and exercise more.
What really happens:
You buy fancy new kitchen gadgets to process your whole foods, vow to start counting calories and stop buying things in the center of the grocery store. You spend hours reading recipes online and actually get excited about making a shopping list. You bring home expensive meat and confusing vegetables. Your first attempt Super-Glues food to that fancy new pan like a concrete glaze. The entire family complains about your new diet, which is forcing them to survive on secret convenience-store binges. You go on the traditional frustrated dieters' buying spree to bring home chips, cookies and ice cream, and you gain five pounds.
You pay $50 per month to join a gym, which you visit three times (including walking around but not exercising the first day when you sign up, because you say, “I'll get to that later.”). The machines look like torture devices; the people are a little too into their energy drinks. You hate sweaty clothes. That creepy guy who's always there at the same time is staring at you. You decide a home workout setup is more your style. You price home workout centers and decide push-ups and walking the dog are more your style. Push-ups are hard, and it's raining outside. You resolve to start that exercise thing next year.


What you say: This is the year I'm going to stop smoking, drinking and spending eight hours a day on Facebook.
What really happens:
You announce to your family, friends and co-workers you're really doing it this time. Because you mean it. Really. They say “that's great!” in the tone of voice that means “I'll believe it when I see it.” You say this will be your last pack, you finish the last alcohol in the house on New Year's Eve and you power off the computer after work. You start feeling fidgety. You try that meeting thing, but those losers aren't like you. You can quit any time you want. You remind yourself about that thing you saw somewhere about how “cold turkey” never works for anyone. So just a little bit can't hurt, right? Tomorrow, you'll really be done doing all those terrible things to yourself.
Two weeks later, you explain to your family, friends and co-workers that this stuff is hard. You're doing better, but it's just really hard. So you might slip a few times. But that doesn't mean you've given up. It was just one pack of smokes, a one-off bash at the bar with friends, one really important day spent harvesting crops on FarmVille. And they'll nod, and smile, and say, “I know. You're doing great!” in the tone of voice that means “Yeah, I knew you couldn't do it.” All this stress from quitting just means you should probably give up the effort. But next year? Yeah, next year, you'll do it for realsies.


What you say: This is the year I'm going to bite my tongue and really be kind to my mother-in-law, my co-workers and all those idiot drivers on the road.
What really happens:
You say a polite hello to your mother-in-law on the phone and immediately hand her off to your spouse. Clearly things are going great. Limiting contact makes it easy to be nice. Until you have to attend that family thing for your spouse's cousin's kid, and your mother-in-law makes a point of listing your innumerable faults. To wit: You cut sandwiches corner-to-corner instead of straight across. Your house is too clean; you're trying to show her up. You make everything about you, like that time you were named Employee of the Month and your spouse mentioned it once at dinner. The swearing that ensues is unprintable. But hey, at least you tried. 
You smile more around the office. You don't shred people for the questions they could have answered themselves if they'd just read your original email. You let it go when your file disappears from the shared computer drive. You don't mind working that day you had scheduled off, and of course you can cover an extra shift for the third time this month. You smile until your teeth ache. People start to ask if you're feeling OK. By February, you're slamming phones, cursing up a storm at your computer and responding to co-workers with a curt “I'm busy. Catch me next year.”
You let people merge. You don't swear at the guy who just cut across three lanes to take the exit. You don't shout at the pedestrian crossing against the light. You wait patiently for that woman to turn left out of the parking lot even though the lane is clearly marked right turn only. ... And then it's Jan. 2, and you hate everyone on the road again.


What you say: This is the year I'm going to cut my cable service, clip coupons and bring my lunch.
What really happens:
You call the cable company, and the operator swears she can get you a great deal if you stay. They'll even throw in a few premium channels for free. And upgrade your old cable box to a shiny new DVR. And they offer that discount for bundling services. You could use that, right? Of course you could. You agree to sign up for another year because “it's a really good deal!” At least until the rates go back up, and you vow revenge. You won't fall for that deal next year.
You see an article about “extreme couponing,” and you want to be like that woman who got $254 in groceries for 19 cents. You subscribe to couponing blogs, you read up on strategies, you scour the store ads and download the coupons and organize them in a binder you spent $8 on ... and you get $254 in groceries for the low-low price of $212. You realize your buying habits don't fit the coupon model. You calculate the amount of time you've invested in extreme couponing and realize you could have made $165 in a minimum-wage job in the hours you spent “saving” $42 on groceries. You abandon the blogs. Maybe you can use the binders to store recipes for that diet you're clinging to.
You get up early to pack a lunch, which you've cobbled together from leftovers of last night's low-cal, concrete-glaze dinner. You hunt for an appropriate lunch sack, realize you don't own one and stick your food in a hole-filled grocery bag that really just needs to be stuffed in the recycling bin at the store. You're now 20 minutes late for work. You put your sad little bag in the office fridge, alongside what appears to be a three-week-old half-eaten sandwich, a jar of mayonnaise dated 2009 and an odd-smelling plastic container. You retrieve your lunch an hour later than expected, go to heat it up and discover the office microwave 1) is older than your mother and 2) has gone uncleaned since the day it was purchased. You sit at your desk to eat, surrounded by the smells of co-workers' restaurant takeout. The next morning, you stop at the ATM for lunch money instead.


What you say: This is the year I'm going to take cooking classes, go skydiving and travel around the world.
What really happens:
You research the hot new thing that all your friends are doing. Or you remember that thing ... you know, the one you wanted to do as a kid? The one you promised yourself you'd do before you turned 30. Or 40. Or 50. OK, by 65, definitely, this would be something you will have done. You get yourself amped up with nostalgia-fueled excitement or friend-recommended thrill. It's contagious. You tell everyone you know about how amazing it's going to be when you cook that French meal, jump out of that plane or reach the top of Kilimanjaro. You start planning. Costs spiral. Enthusiasm wanes. You remember all the reasons you never did that thing: you like eating more than cooking, you're afraid of heights and you hate camping. You tell your friends about that time you planned to try something new while you sit in front of your computer, looking at Facebook, and wonder why you never meet anyone new. Well, maybe next year. And you know what? A cookie would be nice right about now.