New Year's resolutions are passé. I don't know any one who makes them, any more. Some claim that such resolutions don't work at all. So why make them?
I don't think it hurts to sit down and ponder the events of the past year, or years, in a context of what works, what doesn't work, what lessons can we learn, and what can guide us to a better life today and forward. We only live once. During the daily routines, requirements, goals, demands, and jostle of daily life, the practice of reflection can easily be placed on a back burner, to simmer and boil dry, forgotten permanently.
One thing feels certain. If we don't think about how to live, then life will be more random and out of control. If we do think about how to live better, then we are more likely to take a more active role in the course of our lives. It's true that bad things still happen to everyone, and if we are lucky, good things happen too. But I prefer to have an active role in the course of my life. I prefer an evidence-based life. I prefer to try to do things better, more effectively, and plan for the future while living better in the present.
So today, Jan 1, 2017, I again reflect on events that are personal, as well as community, and national, and global. What can I do to guide my thoughts and efforts for the coming year? What will direct how I live, and in some way positively influence how others live, in 2017 and beyond?
1. I will try to live positively. I know that big things happen beyond my control. I also know that I can live a better life if I don't give up in despair. Sometimes through dumb luck, sometimes through decisions, sometimes through stubborn effort, I know, I've made it this far. The best evidence is that if I keep trying my best, this part of life can be good. I still mourn the loss of purpose and role, that came with retirement, and continue to work on knowing that I did the best that I could. Cancer treatment continues to fatigue, fog the brain sometimes - if I am being honest, almost always - cause muscles to stiffen and protest. So I can't do an iron-man marathon. Who, in their right mind, wants to do that anyway? I can do what I want to do, with adjustment and planning.
2. I will be understanding of my own, and others, limitations. I've always been pretty good at understanding the limitations of others. My own are a struggle. Determination does not always overcome all obstacles. The ant does not always move the rubber tree plant. Accept it, be happy, laugh about those limitations, but do not let them stop me.
3. I will be thoughtful and creative, and positive, in overcoming obstacles. A journey doesn't just start with the first step. It proceeds one step at a time. I know, I need a sense of accomplishment at many points between here and there. It's not just the goal at the end, but each step that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. I know, I have many limitations, and more than a few short years ago. So, I will try to view each endeavor as a book of many chapters, and get through each chapter one at a time, happy to accomplish each step, and learn from each step what needs to happen next, and how.
4. I will not let others get me down. I understand how disillusioning it is to lose, and how hard it is to know that the world is dominated by forces that do not share my values. I know that my life, and all others, is ephemeral. But does it make it better to be negative? Will negativity make others want to emulate me, lift themselves up to a better place, make positive changes in their lives? Will negativity lead me to plant a tree that takes 3 or 5 years to bear the first apple, or plant a tree whose shade I might enjoy in 10 years, if I live that long? Or should I just give up, and in 3 years, if I am given that time, just say, "I might have tasted that apple if I planted the tree 3 years ago" and in 10 years "I could have had a beautiful tree there if I hadn't given up?" I don't need to respond to everything that I disagree with, just learn and move on. I will not nit-pick, and I won't protest others who do.
5. I will let go of what I can't control. Most of the big picture, and some of the small picture, are just beyond anything a normal, ordinary, person can influence. Maybe bad things will get worse, or maybe there are counterbalancing forces and random events that will influence the equilibrium in a direction that I prefer. Regardless, if I make myself unhappy by focusing on the negative, then I'm unhappy. If I enjoy the tastes and pleasures that are here, now, and prepare as best I can for tomorrow, then life is better in the here and now.
So that is my reflection for the start of 2017. Maybe, tomorrow the banks will go under, Mt. St. Helens will blow to the west and wipe out my world, North Korea will send missiles our way, Exxon-Mobile will merge with Mega-Pharma with Monsanto - Dow with Apple with Comcast and make us all into minion serfs of the master corporation. Maybe the people will be fed up and revolt. But in the mean time, I will try to life a good life, learn from yesterday's challenges and failures, and successes, adjust as best I can, and be happy.
"Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so."
Robert Green Ingersoll.