Columns

In which I WIN the resolution thing. Kind of.

The thing about New Year’s resolutions is they are so boring. Everyone tends to have the same ones – lose weight, exercise more, work less, play more.

More exotic resolutions tend to leave me scratching my head – learn another language, make a new friend, take a dance class.

Listen, I have enough problems wrestling with the English language every week. I don’t see the friends I do have often enough, and I’m not about to start dancing at 52. My plié is played out, the only tapping I do is my fingers on my desk while waiting for a file to download, and I’d much rather eat salsa than dance it.

I haven’t always been so jaded about resolutions. Indeed, in my teens I’d regularly fill a journal with my goals for the New Year.

You might have noticed that I didn’t marry Andy Gibb.

Or join the Bay City Rollers on tour.

Or entertain Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” with my witty banter and collection of amusing anecdotes that I dutifully jotted in the aforementioned journals.

Resolutions just never worked out for me. Either they were too lofty or too banal. Even the more creative ways to inspire change or achievement proved unsuccessful.

For example, for several years my high school youth group leader had us write letters to ourselves on New Year’s Eve. We’d then receive these missives in the mail the week after Christmas the following year.

None of those letters remain, but I do vividly remember one that began, “Dear Cindy, Please ALWAYS remember you are AWESOME, no matter what that jerk Donny says.”

Actually, I feel much better just reading that sentence. Perhaps, I’ll tape that above my desk.

Recalling resolutions made me wonder just how this tradition began, so I did a little research. (OK, I Googled it, but research sounds better.)

Apparently, the ancient Babylonians started the ball rolling some 4,000 years ago. During a massive 12-day festival they crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed.

Alas, we can’t hold a presidential election every Jan. 1, though one does wonder why the Founding Fathers didn’t consider this concept. However, it is a good idea to start the year by paying off your library overdue fines, and by returning your mother-in-law’s serving spoon that you’ve had since Thanksgiving 2007. Not that I’d know anything about that.

I told my husband I’d gotten a good start on some manageable goals and wanted to add more.

“Maybe I should get a new hairstyle for the New Year,” I mused.

Derek was dismayed.

“Oh no!” he said. “I love your hair. It’s all Farrah Fawcett-y!”

Obviously, “new hair” is staying on the resolution list.

Scanning an online list of popular resolutions, I considered adding “quit smoking” to mine. Of course, I’d actually have to start smoking and then quit, which seems like way too much work just to chalk something up in the successful resolution column.

I found a list of unusual resolutions that intrigued until I got to “make the usual unusual.” What does that even mean? I usually brush my teeth every morning – should I skip it? I usually look both ways before I cross the street, should I throw caution to the wind?

Also perplexing was the suggestion to “fall in love with life in 2018.” I mean, I like life just fine. You might even say I’m committed to it, but how on earth does one measure the success of falling in love with it?

Speaking of success, further reading revealed just 16 percent of people over 50 achieve their resolutions each year, while 37 percent of people in their twenties do.

It seems resolutions are a younger person’s game.

For me I’m going to stick with the basics. Today, I resolved to get out of bed, get dressed and get this column done.

Hey, two out of three isn’t bad.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Columns

Magic Under the Big Top

Sawdust. Greasepaint. The wire stretched tautly high above the center ring.

The circus was never about the animals for me. It was about magic, make believe and those daring young men on the flying trapeze. Once upon a time it really was “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Last week’s news that after 146 years, the curtain was coming down on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, triggered a flood of memories.

While the industry’s sordid history of its deplorable treatment of animals is undeniable and inexcusable, the circus of my childhood was more than bullhooks and elephants.

I can still remember clutching my dad’s hand tightly as we went through the turnstile at the old Spokane Coliseum. My parents had taken me to the El Katif Shrine circus before, but this was my first exposure to the crème de la crème of circus magic – Ringling Bros. – the big time.

Even as a kid I loved old movies, and I’d seen the glamour and pathos of the circus in films like the Academy Award-winning “The Greatest Show on Earth” and Disney’s “Dumbo.”

But I’d recently seen “Trapeze” on television and I was enthralled with the idea of flinging myself through the air into the waiting hands of the well-muscled Burt Lancaster or pretty boy Tony Curtis.

My friends and I played “circus” on the playground at recess at Jefferson Elementary. We’d swing higher and higher, until the swing set rocked with our rhythm, then we’d let go of the chain and sail through the air to land in the gravel, hoping to nail a dismount worthy of Ringling Bros.

Mostly, we just got rocks in our shoes and occasional bloody knees and skinned palms.

Under the big top of the Coliseum, I sat entranced. From the red-coated ringmaster with his shiny black top hat, to dozens of clowns in a tiny car, to the lovely ladies in sparkling costumes riding atop high-stepping steeds, the circus held me in its grip. My eyes glittered like the sequins on the tightrope walker’s tutu as I tried to absorb the pageantry.

And then Gunther Gebel-Williams and his big cats took the floor. He strode into the center ring with a leopard around his shoulders, dimples flashing, blond hair flowing, bronzed abs rippling under the lights. Pure showmanship and undiluted magic.

I saw several other circuses, but nothing ever measured up to the first time I saw the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

However, by the time I reached my teens my Gunther Gebel-Williams poster had been replaced by Andy Gibb and Leif Garrett posters – the gaudy glow of the circus had dimmed, replaced by the flashing lights of disco fever.

Later, as a busy mom of four sons, my home often seemed like a three-ring circus complete with roaring animals and stunts as breathtaking as a toddler scaling a teetering bookcase. I had neither the time nor the inclination to leave my house to see one. My parents took my oldest son once, but my youngest at 17, has never been to the circus.

Now it looks as though he never will.

I’m OK with that, but I wonder what his generation’s equivalent will be. Running away to appear on “America’s Got Talent” doesn’t have the same allure.

Sure, they can watch death-defying stunts on YouTube, but seeing Johnny Knoxville catapulted in a Porta Potty will never equate to watching an aerial acrobat soar high above the ground, spinning into a triple somersault, stretching to grab his partner’s waiting hands.

In fact, today’s kids seem to have their eyes on electronic screens from the moment they wake up until the moment the clock on their cellphones, Kindles or iPads tell them it’s time to go to sleep.

Perhaps that was the best thing about the circus – it got us out of our houses, away from our screens and caused us to look up for just a moment.

 

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.