I've always thought the saddest New Year's resolutions are ones I commit to annually. But, it turns out, there are more depressing resolutions than the ones that never go away: the ones that return.
For the past few years the routine has been as predictable as the months of a calendar:
October: Retrieve skeletons and spooky spiders, wonder how they got beneath my dumbbells and a Nordic Trac.
November: Store skeletons and spiders, retrieve gourds and ceramic poultry, wonder how they got under my Thighmaster and stationary bike.
December: Store gourds and gobblers, retrieve menorahs, dreidels and dreidel-shaped accessories (cookie cutters, hats, adult novelties), from behind elliptical machine and heavy bag.
Jan. 1: Store menorahs, dreidels etc., retrieve dumbbells, Nordic Trac, Thighmaster, stationary bike, elliptical machine, heavy bag and Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, begin New Year's quest for the perfect beach body. Wonder if a raspberry Sno-Cone flavor packet manufactured in 1977 is safe. Ponder whether the scarier answer is yes or no.
Jan. 2-7: Wander into den meaning to work out. Make delicious Sno-Cones instead.
Jan. 11: Begin using exercise equipment to store jackets, galoshes and cooling fudge.
Feb. 14: In response to wife's plea that she'd "love to see this exercise @#$% cleared out of her house," heave it into storage and claim granting her unfettered access to the den, so she can vacuum and dust, is her Valentine's Day present.
Feb. 14, 11 p.m.: Sleep in storage unit, head nestled on a dreidel-shaped pillow.
Sad, right? Familiar, right?
But even worse, I'm now facing the Ghost of Resolutions Past: quitting smoking.
I collect addictions the way others collect art. I've been to so many meetings my daughter thinks the "12-step" is a middle-aged dance craze. But every habit I've kicked stayed kicked.
Until, that is, I found myself sitting next to an open pack of cigarettes, arranging my mother's burial. I hadn't had a smoke in six years. I finished a pack before that day was over, and hundreds more since.
What I'm noticing now is how much the world, and this process, have changed.
I smoked two packs a day from age 13 to 34. This was possible because people smoked everywhere: work, home, restaurants, bars, hospital waiting rooms, gyms, planes. But when I restarted a couple of years ago, I found I couldn't get that much smoking done.
Not in the house. Who does that anymore? Not in the office, or near it. Not in the car, if the child is there. Not at the beach, or on a train platform. And certainly not in the audience of a school production of "Cinderella." (Trust me.)
And not too much, anywhere: Smokes cost 60 cents each in New York, thanks to high taxes meant to raise revenue and discourage puffing.
Some of the changes are in laws, and some are in attitudes. Unlike most smokers, I support bans in places like public parks and railroad platforms, because they are truly public facilities. But I oppose bans in bars and restaurants, where owners should be able to decide for themselves, and patrons and employees can stay away if they wish.
I'm glad it's no longer OK to blow smoke in my daughter's face. My parents cured us kids like hams. I'm glad I can't smoke at work. People who can't smoke at work are 84 percent more likely to quit the habit than those who can.
I don't favor outlawing smoking, but I'm glad it's restricted. Such rules protect nonsmokers, and nudge people toward better decisions. So far, it's making it easier to quit, and put this resolution behind me.
I just hope I can find room in storage for 16 dreidel ashtrays.