Monday, December 31, 2012

The Only New Year's Resolution I Ever Kept

It's New Year's Eve... the end of another year. This is the time people like to make resolutions - promises for the new year, usually to do with behavioral changes. "I'm going to quit smoking" or "I'll quit drinking" are popular choices as are things like "I'm going to start working out" and other 'healthy' goals. The problem with New Year resolutions is they rarely work out. People almost always break them. I know I always did...

I used to make a resolution every New Year's Eve... usually something like those I've mentioned above... quit drinking, smoking, fighting... whatever. None of them ever really came from the heart. They were promises made because that's what you do at New Years, right? A resolution is almost mandatory, a way to look toward the future with a promise to personally make it better somehow yet does anyone truly believe in their New Year's resolution? I know I never did.

I'd make those resolutions (usually while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both) and I always broke them, often within 24 hours. It's no mystery why I broke the promises I made to myself... I didn't believe in them anyway. It was just the thing to do on New Year's Eve. Everybody was doing it and almost everybody was breaking them early in the new year. 

Breaking my New Year's resolutions shouldn't have bothered me. I always knew I was full of crap making them so why should I care if I broke them by doing what I resolved not to or ignoring the lifestyle changes I'd resolved to make? But I did care. It always bothered me... year after year after year.

Until December 31, 1979 - New Year's Eve of 1980. That was the year I finally got it right. The year I made a resolution I've kept for over 30 years and will continue to honor until the day I die. It wasn't a resolution I'd ever made before, had nothing to do with improving my life or curtailing bad habits. All it did was forever remove from me the issues surrounding New Year's resolutions. It is beautiful in its simplicity...

On Dec 31, 1979 I resolved to never again make any New Year's resolutions. 

That was the only resolution I ever kept. The only one I never broke. If you have a problem keeping the promises made under New Year resolutions maybe this one is for you too. I'm not saying don't want to improve yourself and your life, not saying those aren't great and noble things to strive for. All I'm saying is don't anchor yourself to one singular date to do it. Don't wait for New Year's Eve to make those resolutions, just get started whenever the time is right. Mark the passing of one year to the next however you want, party as much as you need or desire (or don't) but forget about promises made on New Year's Eve. 

A real promise to one's self comes on its own time.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tis the Season to be... What, exactly?

Have you ever stopped to wonder what Christmas means to people... even what it means to you? I know a lot of people will answer something about Christ's Birthday, or it's a "season of giving" or maybe a "time when family and loved ones connect" and it might have been one or all of those things once but I wonder if that's really what Christmas means to people now. I wonder if people really know what Christmas means to themselves anymore.

My wife and I no longer celebrate Christmas. We don't get a Christmas Tree, decorate out apartment or exchange gifts. For us Christmas has become something to endure... crowds, store closures, the falsity of people who act anything but charitable towards others at any time of year but especially Christmas. The memories of people and things past which alternately reawaken aching loss or rekindle searing heartbreak.

It wasn't always that way. Both of us come from families where Christmas was a time of gift-giving, celebration and family get-togethers. The religious aspect of it was noted and moderately followed but mostly Christmas was about getting together with family. For me it was always a strange time. I liked the gift giving (and getting) but always felt my own family - my parents & siblings - rarely had any real time to ourselves aside from a few short hours Christmas morning before all the visiting and extended family stuff started. 

And that family stuff... Wow! As a kid I felt it strange seeing people who didn't necessarily get along all year suddenly become close at Christmas time. (At least until the booze started really flowing anyway, then the real fun stuff started.) For the most part, family feuds were put on the back burner for Christmas... a truce of sorts brought on by the need to honor the spirit of the season by forgiving (at least temporarily) all the various slights, insults and character traits exhibited by and between various family members the rest of the year. 

Raised on my family's example, I believed Christmas was a time to let go of old grudges, a time of forgiving. As I understood it, Christmas was when everyone in the family worked to put differences aside and come together in solidarity and peace to celebrate making it through another year. I believed those same principles applied to people outside our family as well. Christmas was a time to be a little more charitable, a little more forgiving and tolerant and a little more pleasant to others be they friends, neighbors, casual acquaintances or complete strangers. 

My wife's family had similar Christmas experiences and values and I think most everyone else did also. I think back then most people still believed in and practiced the time-honored Christmas values of forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance and patience toward others. It wasn't hard to find evidence of that. During the Christmas season people everywhere were more accepting of others' behaviors (and more polite to strangers) than at other times of the year. At Christmas people showed real gratitude to those stuck working during the holidays and everyone tried a little harder to get along. 

Back in those days even the people who didn't do or believe in Christmas showed those same values toward those who did celebrate the season. Nobody got bent out of shape over a stranger wishing them "Merry Christmas", school Xmas pageants, Christmas trees on government spaces, Santa Claus or any other Christmas traditions or accompaniments. If they did, they kept their opinions to themselves... didn't spoil the fun for everyone else. 

Where are those Christmas traditions now? Where is the collective respect towards our fellow man... the tolerance, patience, acceptance and love shown not just to family and friends but complete strangers? Where is that Christmas spirit found in the new holiday traditions of me-first entitlement, indulgence and greed? Just what the heck are we as a society celebrating anymore? Why do we even bother keeping Christmas a holiday anyway when for most people it's all about themselves? Why close the stores and shopping centers if all it's about is buying stuff... usually for ourselves... instead of doing stuff for others... of giving strangers a helping hand (or parking space)... of tolerance, respect, kindness and love toward your fellow man?

We have pushed Christmas (and God) from most of our schools, government and public places. We have created a society where wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" may be considered offensive... where Presidents and Prime Ministers call Christmas trees "Holiday trees" so as not to offend those whose beliefs or faith systems don't recognize Christmas. We are driving Christmas - a time that used to be about recognizing, strengthening and glorifying the bonds between us - underground. We are making the best of our nature into something vile and offensive while at the same time treating one another in the most offensive of fashions with every trip to the mall.

Whatever happened to being nice to each other? What happened to being polite and respectful to strangers? Why do we lose patience with each other sooner and with more negativity at Christmas than any other time of the year? Why are we as a society and as people "celebrating" Christmas by turning more and more toward the antithesis of what it stands for? Just what are we celebrating, exactly?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recommended Reading

This isn't a regular blog entry. 

I'd like you to take a moment and read an entry in a blog belonging to someone else. I think it's message is important and shouldn't be lost among the scads of other blogs, internet posts, Tweets and mainstream media stories and coverage about the events that spurred the writer to post it.

Those "events" are the recent school shooting and subsequent deluge of media & internet commentary.

PLEASE read this:

For more information on Autism check out

Thank you.
God bless

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Oh yea, there are things going on...

Regular readers (if there is such a thing) may have noticed I haven't written any new entries for some time. One person actually asked me if I'd given up writing this blog, wondering if it's because "there's nothing worth writing about" in my life these days. That's hardly the case. There are LOTS of things going on in my life (and the world at large) that are 'blog worthy'...

Here are just some of the subjects I've considered writing about...

My job at the quarry - the actual job... the stigma of working at a place many people believe (erroneously in my opinion) to be a detriment to the environment... the uncertainty of lay-offs and my struggle to remain at work in the face of looming unemployment... the physical toll on my body... the personal dynamics of the quarry workforce... the birds and animals I see there.

Driving - my commute to work... the bad habits of some drivers and the scary moments they cause

Current events - the latest school shooting, the Christmas season, politics etc

Birds - birdwatching adventures my wife and I have enjoyed... the various bird species and the behaviors I witness... the community of like-minded people at the forum...

The past - thoughts and reflections on my "dark years"... where I've been and who I've known... scars inside and out

God - my journey to spiritual understanding... the quest to find balance in my life... religion...

Oh yea, there are LOTS of things worth writing about. The above ideas are just a fraction of blog-worthy fodder in my mental rolodex. I have a number of topics lined up that I definitely plan to write about and new inspirations come every day.

So why haven't I?

There is no easy answer to that. It's not like I haven't had the time, the energy or the will to sit down and write. I have. What's stopping me from adding new blog entries at every opportunity is my own state of mind. When I look at the urge pushing me to write about something, like driving, for example, a big part of my desire to write is born of negative emotion... anger and frustration. Like, I want to rant about driving and the people I share the road with. 

Ranting about things is very easy and can make for some entertaining reading but I have to ask myself if that's what I want to do... if ranting in full sarcastic and cynical mode is the right thing to do. As fun as it can be in the short term, is it something which will stand the test of time without regret? Will writing in a negative bent help me achieve balance? I already know that it will not.

I have discovered negativity is easy, a self-serving, self-sustaining way of thinking which can cloud one's appreciation for life. I have no wish to write from a negative point of view even if by necessity I must write about negative things since so much of the human condition embraces that easier path. If I'm to write about anything I must endeavor to do so from a place that is free of my own negative feelings and bias.

When I restarted this blog I pledged to remain honest and truthful. The truth is I have struggled with negativity most of my life... spent years embracing it in the way I looked at the world and everyone and everything in it. I have come to realize negativity is at its core a very arrogant way of looking at things... a self-centered "me first" mindset which allows one the luxury of side-stepping personal responsibility for their life, their actions and their emotional state. 

Negativity's mantra is "Life's not fair." Believing that causes one to react to everything that doesn't fit their way of thinking (or their wants, needs and opinions) as a personal slight against them. They get upset about things that really aren't about them at all. 

Life is not fair or un-fair. Life just is. 

Man is the only living thing which questions life, the only living thing that believes it deserves to be alive.

I wish to write about life, including the inherent negativity Man brings to it, but I don't want to be negative while doing so. I don't want to look back at my blog entries with regret. There is enough negativity in the world already. I have no desire to add any more to it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here for a good time?

While driving home from work a couple days ago I heard the old Trooper song "We're Here For a Good Time"... Vocalist Ra McGuire singing:

"We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine every day"

That got me to thinking about the phrase "here for a good time, not a long time" and how often it's cited as validation for personally gratifying behaviors. Like, because our lifespans are relatively short - maybe even tragically so - it's important to have a good time while we can. Many people truly believe that and rank having a good time high on the list of things they need to do. Gotta have a good time today because we may not be here tomorrow. I know I sure used to think that way.

When I was in my teens I didn't think I'd live to be thirty so I was always searching for ways to have a good time. When I actually reached that age I merely shifted my supposed termination date to somewhere before forty (No way I'm makin it to forty.) and continued my search for a good time because after all... we're not here for a long time, right? I mean... Everybody knows that. 

"We're here for a good time, not a long time" 

A lot of young people feel that way and many of them continue to feel that way long after they have in fact been around a long time (relatively speaking). Many people well past forty, or fifty... people well into their sixties, seventies and beyond still live their lives looking for a good time but here's the thing...

Having a good time isn't necessarily a good thing.

I know a lot of my good times often left me feeling anything but good when they were over. Hangovers, bruises, regrets... Those are just some of the residual affects of me having a good time. I'm sure others wouldn't have to look too deeply into their own lives to find their good times often came with side-effects of the not-so-good kind.

I think the phrase "We're here for a good time, not a long time" is something for us to believe and to base our thought processes and behaviors on but it's important to define what the word "good" means...

For years I believed, like the majority of others, that "good" in this instance meant "fun". We have to have a fun time. We have to have a good time by doing something fun, something we enjoy. We have to FEEL GOOD by HAVING FUN because... (cue suspenseful music...)


And how much fun would THAT be?

I still think we're here for a good time, not a long time. I truly believe that is the way to live one's life but NOT because we're here for a short time. I think it's the right thing to do no matter how long we may or may not be here for. The difference between the way I look at being here for a good time now isn't the way I used to look at it. I don't think interpreting "a good time" to mean "having fun" or any other personally indulgent behavior is what the ideology (or way of life) that phrase espouses is all about. I think it's about something entirely different... something that won't leave you with a hangover.

What if being here for a good time means being good?

What if, instead of devoting one's life, health, energy and mindset to the pursuit of personal gratification and enjoyment (having FUN) and calling that "good"... we devote our lives, health, energy and mindset to being good?

And by "good" I mean honest, caring, charitable and understanding toward your fellow man (and other lifeforms, the planet and everything else too) 

The more I think about it the more I realize how wrong I was thinking life was all about me having a personally indulgent FUN time... how I rationalized that self-centered belief by thinking I deserved it due to the fact I won't be here for a long time - maybe not even tomorrow. 

I understand now that interpreting "good" to mean "fun" can be a road to a lifetime of empty promises, a pursuit of soulless gratification which ultimately means nothing no matter how long or short one's lifespan may be.

But striving to BE good, loving and respecting ALL life can bring one's own life meaning, experiences far richer and gratifying than momentary fun (and no hangover!)

So think about it... 
About being good...

"We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine every day"