Those New Year's lies we tell ourselves

Suddenly, it's the beginning of a new year, and we will start it the same as the last by making promises to ourselves that we surely will break by early March, at the latest.

I was going through my email the other day, erasing old messages, when I found one sent to a friend in January 2012.

Its title: "Resolutions and such."

I make New Year's resolutions? I thought. When the hell did that happen?

I opened the message to discover, much to my shock and horror, that I did set contrived goals for myself in honor of 2012.

Looking at them now, it was hard to decide whether to laugh or cry. I've always made fun of people who post their New Year's resolutions on social media. Who are they kidding?

The one thing I've learned about reaching age 30 is that after your third decade, you don't — and won't — change much. You are who you are, and you will continue doing what you've been doing. Hey, it got you to 30. That says something, right?

But make New Year's resolutions I did in 2012.

Among them: Extend my running routine to five days a week.

Didn't happen.

Another: Eat smaller portions; stop being a glutton.

Did neither.

A third: Fly home to visit parents at least twice.

Sorry, Mom.

And: Save money.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

(I'm going to take a five-minute break to weep softly into my hands. Be right back.)

Money, fat and exercise issues aside, 2012 wasn't the worst year. In fact, I don't think I'll remember it for much of anything.

However, near the end of my resolutions email, I did mention that I was considering a program I'd read on several literary-themed websites.

The program is called "52 Books in 52 Weeks." You can find numerous Tumblr blogs hosted by brave readers who post weekly updates on their progress. The idea is to read a book a week and write a bit of something about each tome. The quality of these blogs vary, from people who participate until week three and give up, to some manic-depressive types who seem to enjoy flogging themselves in a public forum for falling off the book wagon.

In my younger days, I was what one could describe as a voracious reader. I could put down a handful of books per month without blinking.

It was easier then. I worked low-level jobs in the retail sector that allowed me to sneak off into remote areas of a giant-box store to polish off the last few chapters of a James Lee Burke book.

That game changed when I got a real job. The Mail Tribune is a laid-back gig, but I'm fairly sure our editors/overlords would frown on reporters relaxing at their desks with a copy of "Gone Girl" as, say, City Hall burned to the ground.

As I deleted the resolutions email, I was struck by my ambitious 2012 self.

Who was that guy? I thought.

As I thought more about it, I don't know why I couldn't at least try to put down a book a week in 2013. After years of interviewing criminals and politicians on a daily basis, I do feel that I've gotten dumber. Maybe I should rebuild my brain with an injection of literary steroids.

But then I remembered that I've only got myself to blame for my lack of reading these past few years. It's not my job or any other responsibility that keeps me from finishing, or even beginning, a book. I have plenty of time before my swing shift and a few hours after I get home to sit quietly and read.

But I choose to flip open a laptop, shuffle through my iPhone or pop on Netflix and veg out in the darkness of my room.

You could say that scanning the stream of information that pours over the screens of my laptop or iPhone constitutes reading. It is, but only in the most rudimentary form. Reading news blogs and flash updates is more like in-taking letters jammed together in units and processing them in my short-term memory.

Is that "reading" in the deeper sense of the word? I'm not so certain.

At the end of 2012, I can say that I looked at a lot of words and even might have compressed a few of them into an idea, but can I say that I read a lot last year? No.

We'll see if this changes in 2013. I'm not making any promises.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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