I stopped making resolutions a few years ago. Attempts at changing my behavior to conform to promises proved futile.
My efforts at weight loss were successful after I ended the all too common resolution. I simply changed my eating habits without promising myself anything. My body and I have reached a certain understanding and together we have shed 15 pounds.
The object of my attention this year is to listen and not label.
As a boy, whenever something bad happened, my mother would ask, "What happened?" She followed that question with, "You don't listen!"
I grew up in a row home in West Philadelphia. Each conjoined house had a postage stamp lawn. Naughty children, such as me, would make a habit of running across these lawns from one end of the street to the other. Homeowners did not appreciate this activity, since the little patch of grass in the concrete jungle was a prized possession.
One day as I sailed across the lawns, one lawn perimeter's elevated cable went unnoticed. Although I cleared the first, I was not as lucky with the second. My foot caught the line and sent me soaring into the alley. As I ran home, the increasing pain in my left arm reduced me to tears.
My mother immediately noted my distress and asked the first question, "What happened?"
Through tears and bent over with pain, I gave the explanation, complaining about that no good Krepke and his lawn wire.
Her response, "You don't listen!"
I remember that all the kids would hang out at Barson's Luncheonette. Their piece de resistance was the ice cream waffle. A custom designed waffle iron was used to make this massive griddle cake with colossal amounts of ice cream, strawberries, jimmies, nuts and whipped cream. Three people would have trouble finishing this delicacy. Fools, like me, accepted the challenge to go it alone.
The human body cannot withstand such overwhelming content. Within 20 minutes of finishing the gourmet delight, the stomach gurgling would begin, followed by waves of abdominal pain.
As I hurried home, I can remember my eyes bulging, face flushing and sweating profusely.
When I entered the house, my 4-foot 10-inch, 95-pound mom would stand there, hands on hips and ask the first question. "What happened?"
I wailed, "I've been poisoned at that horrible Barson's Luncheonette."
She would respond as she did so many times, "You don't listen!"
In 2009, I will heed my mother's advice by listening and not labeling anyone. We Americans are a visual people — we watch television and look at computers. It is rare to actively seek out a lecture or read a book. We discount opinions because we tag people as liberals, socialists or conservatives.
It is possible to learn from anyone. I may not agree with an individual's opinion or politics, but I will listen.
My mother knew that knowledge would help one make better choices. Had I understood her advice, I would not have sailed across the lawns and broken my arm. If I had tapped into my mother's wisdom, I could have prevented the bellyache at Barson's.
At my age, I do a lot of listening, but hear very little. My wife says, "Wear your hearing aid!"
I say, "I hear enough."
My wife is right. But she sure sounds like my mother.
Dr. Marc J. Yacht is the retired director of the Pasco County Health Department.