One thing that distinguishes human beings from aardvarks, apple trees and apes is the ability to choose. To consciously, rationally, wisely choose life partners, homes, careers, what to eat for breakfast. Big or small the decisions are ours. As are the consequences.
At no time is this ability to chart our own course, choose our own destiny, decide our own fate, more “in your face” than with the start of a New Year. The setting and subsequent breaking of resolutions is a cruel joke for most of us. Who among us doesn’t have a closet full of ghosts of resolutions past? It’s risky to think about, or heaven forbid, commit to, quitting smoking, losing weight, starting an exercise program, reading a book or working for world peace. The almost certain failure to follow through only adds to the knapsack of guilt most of us are dragging through life, year after year, decade after decade. Who needs that extra burden?
What I’m proposing is quite different. Use the new year as I use September 1st or Ground Hog Day or my birthday or a week from Tuesday. Use it to begin making better choices. Use it for fresh starts. Use this day, this moment, to begin again.
It may be a new column in a new paper. It might be the patch or gum or hypnotherapy. It may be yogurt and fruit instead of a donut and coke. It may be a gentler start to waking your kid for school. It may be kissing your wife like when you were dating. It might be ‘making do’ with the old air seeder or video game or dress. It might be as simple as putting down the Enquirer and buying a library card. It might be as tough as loving a mother-in-law or a step-somebody.
The choice is yours. From day to day, moment to moment, make a fresh start. No ghosts, no guilt, just small choices that add up to big, life-affirming changes. Most of us needn’t spend days in silent meditation at a retreat centre to know which of our attitudes and behaviours aren’t serving us well. Maybe it’s time to admit that the rush to judge or the inability to forgive or the hours watching the tube or the way we speak to our children is destructive to our health and well-being. Maybe we’ve left a trail of wounded souls in our wake. Maybe we’ve put off apologizing or saying I love you. Maybe we’re careless with seat belts and stop signs. Maybe we talk too much at the movies or don’t recycle our empties. Maybe we take the church for granted.
Perhaps we could start feeding the chickadees or a World Vision child. Perhaps we could clear our closets for Goodwill. Or balance our cheque books. Or plant a garden. Or register for a course. It’s all about fresh starts, from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission