It’s that time of year again! We groan with the weight of guilt for things about ourselves that we want to change as we take stock of the past year. That extra poundage? This is the year! We’re gonna lose it. That annoying habit of saying “yes” when we really ought to say “no?” Done with that noise. The excess drinking, the temper, the lazy schedule, the gym avoidance: gone, gone, gone! We will be better friends! Better daughters and sons! Better spouses! We will be neater, more organized, less frivolous with money and people. We will be better caretakers of our time and energy.
Humdrum, all of them. Important as they may be, they don’t tend to vary year after year. Sometimes, however, we don’t address the items in our lives that need real attention, that require superhuman self-awareness and then energy and focus to change.
Here are some from the list that I am making. Raise your right hand and vow with me:
I will stop taking offense at every little thing. Progressives aren’t the only snowflakes out there, let me tell you. I see fellow conservatives laughing about their melting counterparts, only to fall apart at the seams when some of their pet beliefs get questioned. Knock it off, people. Discuss differences like an adult; don’t justify ill-tempered responses with “I know, but . . . ”
I will not use the fast lane as a traveling lane, thereby holding up drivers who wish to get where they’re going with some expediency.
I will allow my life to be ruled by principles and not feelings. If my behavior isn’t guided by any objective standard greater than myself, and you aren’t guided by any greater than yourself, we have a problem, Houston. Might makes right, even in the strength of our emotions in this case, and anarchy ensues. America and our personal lives were more peaceful and cohesive when a greater number claimed at least a nominal obligation to a Power higher than self. This has the added benefit of our children and friends witnessing lives ruled by standards. We ought to live, teach, and apologize to the standard.
I am willing to admit when I am wrong (as a corollary to the previous). If I hold a truth to be self-evident that claims its source outside of my own determination, then I ought gracefully to admit defeat when the standard says that my behavior, my belief, or my reaction is wrong. Humility is a lessening commodity. Let’s rediscover it, and let’s develop it on a personal level.
I will find the turn signals on my car and use them frequently and appropriately.
I will reinstitute a family dinner table. These used to be typical American times where news of the world and of the day was passed along from family member to family member. In so doing, common values were emphasized and a family had time to come together to laugh and discuss matters both light and serious while partaking of a meal. We look each other in the eye, delight in ideas together, and form a stronger union in so doing. This should be a non-negotiable in most houses for the majority of our days. Don’t have a family close by? Invite those in regularly who could use some company, an ear, and a good meal. We are becoming a nation separated by our screens—let us attempt to regain some solid footing on interpersonal relationships.
I will find and make frequent use of my sense of humor. America has been long characterized by a hearty sense of humor—it is easy to find examples rife with it even in older political debates. As a people, we are growing afraid to laugh at one another, to laugh at ourselves, and sometimes, even, afraid to whistle in the darkness.
I will learn to entertain myself and depend less on my devices. The growing compendium of research suggests, no, screams, that screen time is associated with depression, anxiety and relationship issues. I will rediscover old walking trails, pick up (and smell!) favored old books, I will ponder anew theological and philosophical ideas that have been pushed to the back of my brain while my electronic jester entertained me.
I will teach people properly to merge by not allowing access to any doodie heads who can’t think ahead and try to get into my lane at the last minute.
I will look for softer ways to express myself. Social media has destroyed much gentility in our expressions to one another. I will put my much-loved snark back on the shelf and trade it instead for less harsh verbiage. I will attempt understanding and not to jockey to a position of power, crowing over a triumph in an online battle of words.
The time we’ve been given here on earth is so fleeting—it is but a whisper, a shadow, a blink. We must strive to eke the most meaning out of every minute we’ve been given, from admiring the tiny fist of a newborn, to laughing riotously at a shared humorous event, to seriously considering what the purpose of all of this is. We must give shape to our lives and encourage and exhort those around us to higher standards by our very example.
I will pay homage to every passing moment as the grey hairs and wrinkles accumulate, along with some modicum of wisdom.
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