For Auld Lange Syne, My Dear

December 29, 2010

At the end of each December, we in the first world feel compelled to reflect, introspect, and project into the future. We think about the past 365 days, and all the nouns and verbs that have filled them.

Our linear human sensibilities provoke nostalgia over another measured segment of a relative concept. We think back on all the promises we made ourselves 52 weeks ago, and how successfully these goals were met. Realistically, we could pick any day to start over. To get a new job, a new lover, a new home. We could select any of the 364 “other” days to begin our diets, stop procrastinating, or spend more time with the kids.

But something about this singular date 1/1 incites within our ambitious little souls an urge for improvement. Something about this mid-winter’s day– after the excitement of the holidays has worn out it’s welcome, and the guests have all gone home– causes us to think about who we’ve been and, more importantly, who we want to be.

The word of the day is Resolution.

What can one do to be more, or different? What changes can be made, starting January first, to improve our lifestyles? To become better humans?

I spent the first 6 hours of 2010 inside my head. Sitting at the wheel of my car in a parking lot, with a friend I’ve had since highschool. We talked. And sat. We listened to one of my favorite Grateful Dead shows, loudly, and opened the moon roof in the snow. I thought about who I was sitting with. I thought about everyone I was not with. I thought about Phish launching their drummer from a cannon in Miami, my car, and the strides I made in 2009. I thought about work, about my family, and how long it had been since my last drink. And then I made some resolutions.

Stretch more, drink lots of water, and be nice to your car.

That was it. Those were the best, most reasonable resolutions I could envision for myself. Being more limber, hydrated, and ready for action. Baby steps.

Here, in the final stretch of 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a personally successful year. I kept all my resolutions, and then some. Early last January, I began spending time with a man whom has, many times over the past 12 months, been the sunshine in my otherwise overcast Rochester sky. In the spring, I started this blog which has, to date, well over 5,000 hits. In the summer I saw a bunch of shows, and began a large-scale writing project– which is still very much underway. In August, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some friends in Colorado, who are some of the most wonderful and inspiring people I know. I’ve lost ten pounds. I’ve only been sick once. I feel good about myself, inside and out.

And now, a year after sitting stagnant in my blue Subaru (which got 4 new tires and a new head-gasket in 2010) in a parking lot in my hometown, thinking about Phish and the world at large; I am getting in my car and driving to the biggest city on the east coast to see one of my favorite bands with friends from all over the country. For whatever negativity and complaining occurred (and I know I’m full of it), I feel overwhelming gratitude toward everyone and everything that has pushed this year toward it’s culmination.

For 2011, I am resolving to create more structure in my life outside of the 9-5. Join a yoga class, or a team (kickball in 2010 did happen), or volunteer some time. Getting in the habit of doing things I enjoy. I’m also promising myself I will write more and sleep better. That’s it.

Drink responsibly. Get home safely. Love and appreciate the life you’ve been given. Happy New Year, see you all in 2011.

“If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.” [[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]


Man With a Plan

April 14, 2010

Planning is an almost exclusively human compulsion. The drive to create linear order is an urge to control time and space– the past, present, and future, all at once.

We like to plan things, even those of us who believe we loathe it. We are a species capable of projecting our future selves. We can, in fact, even envision multiple future realities: best case and worst case scenarios being two very basic examples. In doing so, however, fear of failure, setbacks, and disappointment also become very real– right in the conceptual stage. Ego. Superego. Concern.

Once humans have envisioned our future selves, a cornerstone of “normal” psychological functioning, we immediately begin to worry about that distant being. Some sort of strategy for controlling the environment and circumstances of that individual is desired; after all, that person is you!

Maslow created an empirical hierarchy of needs. He postulated that humans spend their lives striving to meet these needs on a constant basis. Based on this widely accepted theory, members of our species must be capable of forecasting fate if we wish to advance and feel personally fulfilled. Just the act of being an intelligent life form is, then, its own struggle– not even to mention outside forces interfering with these pursuits.

So we plan.

We play the chess game. We make appointments and reservations. We save money and paid time off. We estimate costs. We use calendars and clocks. Time is of the essence until the future is the past. And we learn so we can plan better next time.

Some people are good at this; capable of ensuring that not only their needs are met, but the needs of those around them. These people are successful in controlling past perceptions, current events, and future opinions. There are whole fields of study and an occupational niche for these planners. Why?

Because, then there are people like myself, who spend so much of their lives connecting the past and the present, that the future becomes an afterthought (if that makes any sense?!). Sometimes, things go well and the universe just unfolds itself fortuitously for us. Other times, we are met with the disappointment and failure we may have been able to prevent, had we just thought ahead.

So? I suppose it pays to have a backup. A universal old go-to for the times when all else fails.

Me? My contingency plan is glitter.

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang oft agley.”