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Every New Year’s Eve, I write a letter to myself. “Dear Kelly,” I begin. Then I try to think of something that one year in the future, will be meaningful. I describe my life as I see it. Am I kind? Do I make good decisions? I aim for objectivity, almost to the point of harshness: Do I waste my days? Will anyone be happy to see me die?I write goals: Do a nice triple pirouette or publish a poem, maybe, although I hope I didn’t propose those last year. They didn’t happen. Most of my goals, though, I can’t do and then check off. They are constant goals: Be patient. Don’t always think of yourself first, that kind of thing. Yes, I write to myself in the second-person.The letter serves as a safeguard: I want to make sure I like the person I am, and in order to do that, I have to really look at her. Daily life keeps me away from this kind of mean introspection most of the time, and thank goodness, because I would either turn into a big phony, like some bad folk musician, or a silent, depressed worm. But I like the once-a-year schedule. It gives me time to slip up and time to catch myself. One should never underestimate the advantages of slipping up sometimes.Anyhow, I look forward to reading my New Year’s Eve letter all year. You’d think I would be keeping a tally as I went along – it’s October and I still haven’t even done a double pirouette, oh no – but honestly, by the end of January, I have no idea what I wrote. I write the letters late at night just so I will forget, and to keep myself from posing. I don’t want to be awake enough to delude myself, and I happen to know that I become disgracefully honest around 11 p.m. I prefer to go to bed by 10.So I don’t know, all year long, what my goals were. I can’t say whether this constitutes the most efficient way to meet them. Nevertheless, I like it this way. I don’t want to rely on a list to tell me how to live, just as I don’t want to obey wisdom I find on teabags. I want life to feel, constantly, as if it is a found object, unexpected and astonishing. Whatever I might say about wanting each day to startle and thrill me, by December, it takes all my reserve not to peek. This year, I nearly peeked on Thanksgiving. Fat with pie and a little edgy after all the sugar, I stared at my journal, where I keep the letters. I thought, “I should look now. Then, I’ll have a whole month to guarantee that by New Year’s Eve, I’ll have done something right.”However, cheating is hardly ever doing something right, and somehow, I held out.Keeping the letters in my journal, knowing full well that every week or two, when I realize I haven’t written in my journal for a while, that I will covet the current year’s missive with all my neurons, is a little sick. It’s like putting a treadmill in your living room and trying not to lie down on the couch.But again, I like it this way. This is my third or fourth year of successfully denying myself the pleasure of reading my letter early. I write this now, publicly, pre-New Year’s Eve, because these last few days kill me, and I need this final push: I will not open my letter “until Dec. 31, 2007,” just as it reads on the outside of the envelope. I will wait three more evenings after tonight before I find out whether my dreams from 2006 have become who I am. Resolutions annoy everybody. I realize this. They feel forced upon us by numerical happenstance. They feel hokey and unlikely. People ask us about our New Year’s resolutions just for something to say; no one believes we will lose weight or learn to play the lute. We will be the same person we’ve always been, the questions insinuate, practically command. I think it really depends how you feel about the person you’ve always been. If you like that person, minus five pounds, where’s your motivation? But if you’ve been a jerk, a tyrant, a fool, a pushover, a wallflower or a deadbeat, then a resolution can offer a real chance to try some other strategy. Besides, diets can wait for summer.
E-mail Kelly your stunning solutions to the library hunt at laeditor@ lamonitor.com. She will not respond until after New Year’s, as she will be on vacation, but her e-mail will be scrutinized.