Up till now, I've mostly written about the past. But since the beginning of a new year is all about hope for the future, I'm going to take a crack at writing about that.
I'm not big on garden-variety new year's resolutions. I'm not going to resolve to lose 20 pounds this year (although...). Nor will I be resolving to exercise more. Nor watch less TV (yeah, right -- American Idol starts in 10 days).
Instead, I'm going to try to figure out ways to improve my life from the inside out. The big new thing in working out is strengthening your core. Well, if that's true then working on my real core -- my soul -- is probably equally important.
And to be honest, it's long overdue. If Esquire or Vanity Fair were going to publish an article on how to reach your full potential, they would do well to interview me for the "DON'T" section. The one top ten list I'm sure to make is the list of people that have squandered the most talent and opportunities during their lifetimes. But that has been changing recently. Since I HATE being reminded of things I said I was going to do and didn't, there's no better incentive than putting them down in black and white. I'm going to try to be brief with regard to most of them, because there's one big one at the end that I have more to say about. Here goes.
1. I resolve to make my quest for patience and tolerance a "whole body" mission. I only just realized how badly I need this one this morning. I was dragging my wheelie bag through the subway station when this woman changed direction sharply without looking and tripped over the bag, nearly taking a header. In the 1-2 seconds it took for me to register that the only person possibly hurt in this transaction was her, I shot that look. The best way I can describe the look is that it once caused my boyfriend at the time to respond, "Fine. You win. Just put your eyes away." I tried to recover and ask her if she was hurt, but the damage was done. She was cowering and apologizing as though she had run me over with her car. One of the books people trying to get sober often read talks about "restraint of tongue and pen". In my case, I need to expand that to restraint of tongue, pen, body language and facial expressions. Wish me luck.
2. I resolve to start growing up instead of simply getting older. I've been noticing lately that I'm always a little out of my comfort zone around people my own age. I have difficulty finding my way into their conversations because they are always discussing things that are still fairly foreign to me -- things like responsibilities and planning for the future. It's not that I don't have things I want to accomplish; but it's more my ability to scramble at the last minute than any planning skills that gets them done.
Someone recently suggested I create a work-back calendar for my move to San Diego. I'm sure everyone else knows what they are. They're those schedules that annoyingly organized people always have where they plot out everything that needs to be done and then start filling them into a schedule going backward from the completion date. It took me a moment to figure out he was actually serious. And then I blurted, "Have you even met me?" I'm the guy still packing boxes (maybe even still needing to buy boxes) when the movers show up. But maybe it's time to not be that guy anymore. It can't hurt to try.
3. I resolve to stop using my mind-reading power. This one is more practical than anything else. I love to read minds. I'm always sure I know exactly what you're thinking -- at least in regard to me. When I was at my most psychotic, I called a friend and breathlessly gushed, "Dude! I finally got my Charmed power (I'm a Charmed junkie). I always know exactly what people are feeling and thinking, but only about me. I'm a narcissist empath!" The reality is I read minds about as well as I sing, which is to say, terribly and with zero potential for improvement. So from here on out, I'm leaving the empathing to Alyssa Milano (although I still would not mind having the power either to orb or to freeze/blow things up).
4. I resolve to focus more on faith and less on fear. This is a corollary to number three (and probably number two as well). Every time I get an idea about something I want -- a job, to introduce myself to someone, to try anything new -- I get frozen by my fear. I let myself decide preemptively that I'm not qualified for the job, that person won't find me interesting and I'll fail at whatever I try.
This year, I'm going try to just act as if I have all the good qualities my friends tell me I have and not all the vile ones my brain thinks I embody.
5. I resolve to continue to (and even more proactively) seek ways to be of service in every situation. This is the biggie. Over the last year, I've learned that if I'm looking to understand the will of the universe (you may insert God or Higher Power, etc. here) in my life, the question I need to ask in every case is "How can I be of service?" and that will be my answer.
I have talked about this a great deal over the past six to nine months, but I'm clearly not explaining myself adequately, because I always get push back in the form of "Well, that wouldn't work for me. I do too much already." So, in the words of a Disney character whose name escapes me right now, allow me to elucidate.*
I am not resolving to put the needs of others ahead of my needs (although, the flip(ish) side of that is that I WILL try to put the needs of others ahead of my frivolous whims and fancies). For me, already woven into the fabric of being altruistic is the philosophy that if I don't take care of myself, I can be of no use to anyone else. I can only speak for myself here, but when I'm running around trying to do everything for everyone, I'm not being helpful, altruistic or of service. I'm simply indulging my martyr complex so I can wallow and luxuriate in that feeling that "no one appreciates how much I give of myself."
What I'm saying is, sometimes doing nothing is more helpful than doing something. One of my stock responses when friends ask me for advice (because it is almost always relevant) is that often the best way for me to be helpful in a certain situation is to just not add my flavor of crazy to the drama stew. In other words, keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. I honestly believe the world would be an exponentially better place if we chose this strategy every time we wanted to (unsolicited) start a sentence with, "Well, if I were you.."
Obviously, there will be times where more is required of me than just remaining quiet. With regard to those times, I'm going to get a little cheesy (at least I think it's cheesy). Every morning, I ask the universe (I suppose some would characterize this as praying) to help me be the best son, brother, uncle, employee and friend I can be. That covers an awful lot of ground right there. Then, just to be sure, I recite a prayer someone gave me (it's called Father Mychal's Prayer), modified for my "universe as sentient power" belief system: "Take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet; tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way."
One of the big ways I hope to improve on this goal is with a small change. I'm the guy who will always say, "If you need anything at all, just ask." I would like to be -- and will try to be -- the guy that always says, "What can I do to help?"
So that's it. Five things to work on in 2010. I'm sure the blog will keep you posted -- even if it's only indirectly -- on my progress. Anyone else making any resolutions. Wanna share them?
*I found the actual quote this morning. It is "Let me elucidate here," and Scat Cat said at the beginning of Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat in The Aristocats.