Writing From the Heart: Realistic resolutions

Drop the sugar, embrace the gratitude.


Every year I make New Year’s resolutions, and every year I give them up by Jan. 6. The list has gotten shorter and shorter as time has gone by, but always at the top is no more sugar. By about Jan. 4, my coffee without honey (which as we all know is just another form of sugar) is not fun anymore, and I am missing spaghetti to the point of having withdrawal symptoms. Pasta is white flour (which as we all know turns into sugar). So by Jan. 5 I end up with headaches from no caffeine and standing shaking in front of the aisle with Rao’s spaghetti sauce.

Many, many years ago, when my sister moved down from Maine and started living in the town next to me, we were at each others’ houses frequently.

Once she opened my fridge and took a small, foil-wrapped thing, held it up and said, “What’s this?” I answered, “Probably a half a slice of red onion. I don’t know. I can’t throw food out.” Me neither, she confessed. It wasn’t really a confession though. We both knew we had food issues. We had always talked about our upbringing and our empty refrigerator. “Let’s go to a food therapist,” she said with a big grin. “And what, pay someone to help us start throwing out food?” I quipped.

The first one we went to, after two sessions, said, “You both seem perfectly well adjusted. You’re not bulimic, you’re not anorexic. You aren’t too thin. You aren’t too fat. You don’t seem to have body issues. So you can’t throw a few scraps of leftovers out? More people should be like that.”

The next therapist told us to watch an Oprah episode of obese women who had been abused. Somehow we couldn’t make the connection between abuse and not being able to throw out an onion slice.

One day my sister arrived with a name of a guy who had started something called Reality Therapy. I don’t think we ever actually went to him. I’m pretty sure by then we had given up on getting help, and started to believe we didn’t really have a problem. After all, we always ended up using our little table scraps in soups anyway.

But we both liked the sound of Reality Therapy. We decided it was about making commitments that were realistic. So instead of saying, I’m not going to ever do such and such again, we would say, I’m going to try to do less of that such and such. If memory serves (and these days it’s not much of a servant), we scrapped RT and added it to our collection of stories we would tell our kids once they were old enough to have their own food issues.

So here it is early January, and as much as I hate to use the word fail because that would imply there’s a success lurking somewhere, I’m gonna use it anyway. I’ve failed at giving up sugar. And I will say this morning’s coffee was deeeeelightful. And tonight I don’t know if I’ll make the spaghetti with red sauce or shiitake mushrooms and Parm Reggiano, garlic, and olive oil. This is the kind of dilemma I was born for.

My second resolution was about gratitude. You know that thing we do on the Vineyard when we’re on a narrow dirt road? One of us pulls over, and the other one gets to drive right on through. I always pull over, but when I don’t get that little thank-you wave, my feelings get hurt, and I spend an inordinate amount of time feeling used and wishing I hadn’t been so gracious. And then I go into a complete fantasy about what I would say if I could meet the guy. First I would introduce myself without attitude. Then I would say in a nonjudgmental way, Did you even realize that I pulled over? Then I think I get a little tougher. It seems as if you felt entitled to barrel on, because you just sailed on by. And then pianissimo, So now I have to explain to you why you can’t do that again. We’re a small community and one of the ways we give to each other is that pull-over thing. We smile, and there is a lovely, intimate connection. If we lose that, we lose everything. When I run out of things to say to my nonexistent offender, and

if I’m only in West Tisbury at that point, I start composing a letter to the editor with pretty much all of the same thoughts. Between my writing my epistle and lecturing the guy, I’ve made the whole trip to Vineyard Haven, without seeing one tree, one bird, not one Xmas decoration. Just consumed with my imaginary response to rejection. For a Be Here Now kind of a gal, I was certainly being there then.

And so for resolution No. 2, I decide I don’t want to do that anymore. I will not take the non-thank-you personally.

Last year is over.

But last week I had to think about 2021. On the night of the 31st, I burned my marshmallow stick which had lived leaning, ready for action, right next to the fireplace.

Then I wrote down Realistic Resolution: This year I am going to try to do less such and such. I mean less sugar.



  1. Loved this commentary! Funny, I have the same resolution but not too sure
    about my ability to follow through on the ‘less sugar’ one but at least I am
    trying to be conscious and not go grocery shopping when hungry!

  2. How could I possibly love you more than I already do?
    But now you write this and well, you leave me no choice but to love you more. XO
    And ps I have food issues up the wazoo, and the same reaction to those ingrates on the road, although I have longer lasting resentments to take me all the way to Vineyard Haven and on to Milwaukee!

    Favorite line:

    “For a Be Here Now kind of gal, I was certainly being there then.”

  3. Adore this. Feel the same way about sugar and people who don’t acknowledge me pulling over on our narrow road! This is what makes your writing so delicious – you pay attention to the little things – that are actually universal and articulate them in such a real and funny way that you make us fall in love with you over and over ❤️❤️❤️

  4. Everything you write is gold, Nancy. I can see each bit of this scenario and the journey through the neglected birds and trees; the bitterness followed by the realization: if at first you don’t succeed, be glad for the gratitude. It’s as sweet as sugar (although…cookies are pretty darn tasty).

  5. Your column in the MV Times is something I look forward to with the anticipation of a child waiting to see what Santa brought for Christmas. Each a delightful gift from you, just waiting to be unwrapped and enjoyed. Thank you!

  6. Nancy you are so good at writing I love to read you what you write… Sometime I get mad letting somebody go by and they don’t wave but then I think life’s too short to get mad… On the other hand I think I’m gonna go make spaghetti for tonight… Love you Billie

  7. Nancy: Sweet nod to a moment when we are all equal; similar to opening a door for a stranger, and vice versa. Simple courtesies make us( some of us) aware that we are all just cogs in a big wheel. Joey

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