Friday, January 02, 2004

Ataractic: This is a word not often seen in headlines

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I’m hoping 2004 is a good year. I don’t want to die, I want to have a few laughs and I want my wife to keep liking me. I’m rather easy to please.

But I am through with making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t mean that I’ve finished deciding what they are. I mean I’m not doing it again, ever. It only makes me feel guilty.

I need your help. If you ever see me on the street and I’m clearly making a list of New Year’s resolutions — like I’ve got my special New-Year’s-resolution-making pen out and everything — I want you to grab me by the shirt and bust me in the chops.

Or scratch that. You should just talk me out of it.

Why should I bother making resolutions? I never keep honestly to them. I cheat on myself, thinking I won’t notice. What am I, a fucking idiot?

They’re always ridiculous. One year I resolved to copy out the dictionary by hand, doing a little bit every day. I decided to copy out, word for word, letter for letter, my copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, third edition. My reasoning was that it would improve my vocabulary.

Incidentally, I made it to the late A’s. Here is a sample word from the late A’s: “ataractic.” As an adjective, it means when something produces a calm, tranquil state of mind.

This is why this word is stuck on page 86 of my dictionary, and not floating around in most people’s conversations:


Scene: A typical Dunkin’ Donuts in Fall River. A girl with miniature American flags painted on her fingernails sleeps standing up behind the counter with her eyes open. Dan enters and brushes snow off his coat.

GIRL: Still snowin out there, huh?

DAN: Yeah.

GIRL: It looks nice, though. It’s got that ata...atar...aratactical thing going on.

DAN: Oh. I know what you mean. One of those Antarctic, ataractic kind of days.

GIRL: It looks wicked atratractical over on the Braga.

DAN: Yup.

[Awkward silence.]


DAN: Medium tea, black, two sugars, and a Boston cream doughnut.

GIRL: Uh-huh.


As I was saying, some resolutions I frankly refuse to make. There are things I like that I know are bad for me, but I won’t give up because I like them too much — Chinese food, for example, or “Three’s Company” reruns.

Everybody resolves to shape up, to become healthier. I do it, too. But this is difficult to accomplish because I won’t give up the Chinese food. You see my problem?

Resolutions never work, which causes aggravation. That, in turn, causes guilt, which leads to self-loathing. You begin to drink. You mutter to yourself in public about broken promises to floss after each meal. Eventually, you shrivel up inside and become a shell of a human being and hit people. I have enough of that in my life.

So, this year, I’ve decided that I’m going to make anti-resolutions. Instead of resolving to do something, I won’t resolve to do something.

It sounds like the same thing as making a resolution. But it isn’t — because if I resolve not to do something, and I end up doing it, I didn’t really break a resolution because I never actually made one. Get it?

I hereby do not resolve to eat four pieces of fruit every day. If I end up doing it anyway, then right on. But I’m not making any promises. I can walk away from the whole thing at any time.

Also, I’m not resolving to exercise regularly. In fact, I don’t resolve to not exercise, either. I’ll probably end up walking a lot, or maybe trying to jog when the weather’s better — either way, my conscience is clean.

I don’t resolve to wake up earlier. I’m tired of resolving every year to quit sleeping so much, and then failing miserably. I’ll wake up when I wake up, as God is my witness, and if I use an alarm clock to help me do so, then so be it.

I don’t resolve to keep the apartment cleaner. I won’t use the new year to force myself into any arrangement. I’ll clean the apartment when it gets dirty, when my wife tells me to, or every other day, whichever comes first.

I absolutely will not resolve to drink less beer. I will drink as much beer as it takes — no more, no less.

I don’t smoke, so I hereby do not resolve to start.

You won’t find me resolving to work harder, either. It just so happens that I want to do so. But remember this — it is a complete coincidence! It has absolutely nothing to do with my anti-resolution! I refuse to be shackled by guilt! Hear that, world?

I feel more ataractic about this new year already.

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