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]]


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Make Your Own Luck

September 1, 2010

Confession: I have never been to Las Vegas. In fact, I’ve never even been to a casino.

Never have I pulled the lever on a slot machine; never have I tossed a set of dice on to a felt-covered table; and never have I lost track of the time in the bowels of a glitzy neon establishment, fueled by recycled air and free well-drinks.

Not for lack of proximity, au contraire, there are several casinos within mere hours of where I live. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to gamble with money. I don’t play cards for money, I don’t spin wheels for money, I don’t buy raffle tickets, and I don’t take anyones bets for anything, regardless of my certainty on the outcome. Neither of my parents were “gambling addicts,” nor are they in any way against it. It’s just a weird mental block I have. Deep in my psyche there is a voice that staunchly, and without compromise, prevents me from taking any of those definitive risks with my cash. I don’t even have a dime in the stock market. I just can’t do it.

Now, it could be argued that any time you spend your money, you are taking a risk. And that much is true to an extent, but when a transaction occurs and goods exchanged there is a level of tangibility. Even with online goods. Even with movie rentals, or concerts– which you don’t get to keep. I don’t think twice about spending $8 on a monster burrito, or the extra $2 to get organic foods. Rarely do I hesitate to purchase a $.99 app, or drop a dollar for a busker. In my mind, there is a reward for each of these scenarios, I am receiving a good or service (quality aside). With gambling, there is no guarantee– could be double or nothing.

I believe my aversion to financial risk-taking is rooted in my abhorrence of math and money in general. I just don’t understand it, none of it has ever made any sense. It bounces around my brain wildly, only to be regurgitated in a jumble of incorrect calculation and questionable logistics.

All I do know is that to live comfortably in capitalized America, I need money. To get money, I have to work. And working is not party time, even if it’s not treachery. Simply put, earning money is work.

Another word for gambling is “gaming.” A game is something you play. Gambling is, by definition, playing with money; winning means being awarded more money, losing means having your money taken away.

I know this all sounds incredibly redundant, but when I break it down to the basics, I can still find no appeal to gambling. I don’t even play carnival games, or the claw machine at the supermarket. When I invest, I want at least some type of guaranteed return– even if it’s just karmic. With gambling I don’t see most people leaving winners, otherwise casinos would probably be out of business, no?  I don’t imagine anyone there getting warm-fuzzies from knowing their cash is going to some noble cause. People just walk in, turn their government issued tender into plastic pieces with silly cartoons and fun colors, and toss it around as though it’s no longer the hour spent at their desk on Tuesday afternoon.

Gambling is about winning, if you are not winning, you are losing. In most sports, etc, it’s arguably “about playing the game,” but with gambling winning is the game. Spending money to sit in a chair spending money is not entertaining to me, and it seems a very strange attitude for a culture that laments a $.07 hike in gas prices.

Or, maybe I have this perspective because I am a loser.  I’m not trying to get down on myself here, I am simply speaking the truth.

While many find lady luck seductive, I find her management of my finances even worse than my own. You hire a landscaper for landscaping, not for accounting advice. I play games to have fun, laugh with my friends, and forget about responsibility– not lose my money (ie: time and effort). My luck has never come in the form of financial windfall, and I believe it’s best to accept this about myself than to fight it. My brand of luck is the sort that comes from contributing to the cosmic energy pool, not the financial one. My luck comes in strange coincidence and fortunate occurrences.

There is the guy who wins the lottery twice, then there is the guy who gets struck by lightning twice, and lives. I am more likely to be in that latter category, but as long as I don’t have to place any bets first, I’ll take luck however I can get it!