I’ve achieved my new year’s resolution every year for the last 30 years. Every year I resolve to not start smoking. I’ve never smoked and have absolutely no desire to smoke so it isn’t a hard resolution to keep. I realize that resolving to not do something is probably cheating in the great game of New Year’s resolutions.
After the first of the year the health club fills up with exercising people, presumably as a result of vows to “get in shape.” By March the club is no longer crowded and only the regulars, those who routinely exercise throughout the year, remain. There are, however, a few who do manage to change their lifestyle.
This week, the last of 2017, provides a good time to engage in the uniquely human activities of reflection and resolution. If we never take time to do that, we run the risk of failing to experience the fulfillment of our humanness, that which separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. My dog, Sam, is a completely happy border collie but he never takes time to reflect, nor can he, on the poignancy of life and experience the accompanying wisdom possible from reflection. Sadly, there are some people who seem to operate with the same general approach to life as Sam.
This can be a week to reflect on accomplishments in 2017, especially those that improved us as compassionate members of society. Hopefully we can call to mind a time this year when we helped someone, joined a good cause, contributed to bettering our world.
A time of reflection must also include recalling those who left us in 2017. Such memories can fill us with sadness and dread because it reminds us with stark clarity of our own mortality. Our society doesn’t do very well preparing us for the certainty of death. We tend to separate end of life from all other aspects of life, almost as if we are hoping that if we ignore it, it will go away. This means that when death enters our little personal sphere, we are often clueless, with no playbook from which to draw resources. Perhaps, because of death’s awful finality, it is not possible to prepare very much. Regardless, it is valuable to reflect on our own mortality and carefully evaluate how we want to spend whatever time we have left on this earth.
We know that change is terribly difficult to do, as evidenced by the absolutely predictable results mentioned above regarding “getting in shape.” Nevertheless, it is important to set goals and challenge ourselves to overcome the odds and become one of the few. It is absolutely certain that if we don’t even try, we won’t succeed, and will be that much the less for having not attempted the challenge. If you are at a loss for ideas about possible goals, let me suggest a vow to practice kindness. There certainly is not a glut of that in our world today.
Best wishes for 2018. May you be one of the few!
This column is dedicated to my daughter, Erin, who left us in 2017 as the result of a vehicle vs. pedestrian hit-and-run incident in Portland, Oregon. She was one of the few.