January is almost over, and I'm happy to report that I have yet to fail my New Year's resolutions. Do I credit this to my dedication to making positive changes in my life? Were my resolutions too easy? The answer is: none of the above.
This year I made a resolution to change the way I make New Year's resolutions. I can't make ones that begin on New Year's Day. There are too many end-of-the-year sales and too many good deals to be had for any debt-reduction resolution to survive past Jan. 1. Likewise there are too many holiday leftovers and stocking stuffers to be eaten for weight- reduction resolutions to succeed.
But I found resolution relief last year while driving with my family through Los Angeles's Chinatown on New Year's Day. I noticed "Year of the Rooster" banners hanging from power poles and realized that the day the Chinese celebrate the new year had yet to arrive. By the time it rolled around near the end of the month, I thought I would be more than ready to start my resolutions. With more time to focus, I could surely set worthy goals for self-improvement.
When I arrived in Little Tokyo to celebrate Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year, Jan. 1-3), resolutions began flooding my mind. Along with the usual health and wealth resolutions, I could teach my son how to play the steel drums (after teaching myself), grow more of my family's food, read more, study Chinese, and do my part for world peace.
But I knew that unless I focused and prioritized my goals, my resolutions would remain just that - resolutions. These thoughts weighed on my mind while I shopped in the Japanese Village Plaza and surveyed the stores' Oshogatsu decorations. One - the daruma doll - stood out.
Usually made of papier-mâché, these dolls help goalmakers find success. Traditionally they have two blank eyes. A person paints in one eye when a resolution is made and the other when that goal is achieved, I was told.
"Perfect," I thought. If I could just select one important, measurable goal, then maybe I'd have a shot at fulfilling my resolution. With the gaggle of goals I had made in years before, I would have needed something akin to an Argus doll, based on the mythological Greek giant with a hundred eyes, so I could have had enough pupils to paint in.
Now a daruma doll sits high on one of our shelves, its eyes still blank. Apparently I've lacked the requisite vision and sense of purpose to make my resolutions.
But that reminds me of a conversation I had with a shopkeeper in Little Tokyo on Jan. 1. When I asked about the significance of the white ceremonial arrows I had seen people carrying out of a Buddhist temple that morning, she explained, "It symbolizes the right direction, the right path in one's life."
I guess maybe that explains why I'm thinking of painting in one daruma eye for learning archery this year. That should get me started.