Well, it's that time of year again. The classes are over, the Christmas holiday is past, and soon it will be the new year. I like New Year's. In a way, I like it just as much if not more than Christmas. Christmas is remembering the world's most awesome event (except, perhaps, for the Easter resurrection event). But New Year's is, in a way, a more personal event -- a chance to think about how the last year has gone, what has been good and not so good, and a chance to make some plans for the near future.
With that said, it's time to think about 2004, and to plan for 2005. I suppose it would be wise to start with a review of my 2004 resolutions. Looking back at the appropriate wise thoughts, my resolutions were:
Well, the first two resolutions were beneficial to think about, but never really materialized. I still kept busy, maybe too busy. I did find that some of the best moments of 2004 were spent communing (eg, reading "New Seeds of Contemplation" by Thomas Merton, watching hot air balloons, and saying "AMEN" for no reason other than event-free joy). As for weight, thanks to a little more careful eating habits (but only a little), and plenty of running in late summer and early fall, I lost about 15 pounds. Not quite my goal, but it was an accomplishment, and I've managed to keep it off for the last two or three months (despite the cheesy popcorn and pizza). And finally, I am still single (surprise surprise), but I did have plenty of opportunities to talk with various people about relationships, and it's pretty clear that I built a lot of new relationships and expanded old ones thanks to Watershed and PIGS. Amen to that. Maybe it's not the time to be attached, or maybe I'm just lazy, but in either case I think (I hope) I'm at least learning how to be a right kind of guy ("man"), and that may be the better goal anyway.
With the past year and recent events in mind, here are some ideas that I think would be wise to focus on in 2005.
Understand my attitudes about being social. As I've gotten involved in Watershed this summer and fall, it has honestly been a bittersweet time. Am I an introvert? Am I an extrovert? Well, it's fairly clear that I'm an introvert. And yet I always am writing about people and my thoughts about them. And I can have my crazy "bouncy" friendly moments, so I can feel like an extrovert at times too, but maybe I'm just trying to be something I'm not. Anyway, sometimes I "weird myself out" with the way I think. I want to be with people, but sometimes I just wanna stay at home. I want to love people and all, but sometimes I just wanna be selfish too. I like talking to people, but I find that talking on the phone, especially for long periods of time, is just kinda draining. Sometimes I feel like most of my friends aren't my peers exactly -- most aren't looking for friendship and conversation on the same level as I am -- but isn't that mean in some way? What's the deal with all that? I honestly haven't figured it out, but in a social setting like Watershed (and Hillside, to some extent), I need to work on these issues. Maybe it's just a call for time management -- to decide how much time to devote to big social things, and stick to it. Maybe it's a call for activity prioritization -- big group social things vs. smaller group socialization vs. one-on-one stuff vs. stuff with family vs. stuff by myself. That's all part of the equation. I don't have the answers yet, which is why it's a resolution. Think think think.
See people. I got the clue recently (again maybe) that I don't always really see people. This came about recently with Christmas presents. What should I get for those few special folks? I have NO CLUE, unless they made a list. How unobservant is that? I can blame it on a bad memory, or on lack of sleep, or some random thing, but I need to work on being more observant of those around me, especially those I claim to love in some fashion or other. In the midst of my thoughts and actions, I think I've tended to focus on my own concerns, my own activities. I intersect my life with the lives of others a lot, but do I really pay attention to them, do I really listen, do I really remember? Every once in a while I catch myself leaving a conversation and thinking, You know I never really even looked at them directly. Craziness. Or often I catch myself listening to people talk but not really LISTENING, if you know what I mean. I am a master at that, if "master" is the right word. I am so often distracted by stuff (computers, often), and so I try to talk on IM with someone, write an email, check a website, listen to music, listen to the TV, AND talk to someone in real life..at least 2 or 3 of those at a time often...it gets complicated quick. So I need to give people the time it takes to really listen, to have one conversation at a time, to focus on one thing at a time.
Don't whine so much. This sounds simple enough. But as I've said before, I'm a whiny whiner! I still think it is (or was at one time at least) tied in with this youthful idealism thing I talk about, but I think at times it gets out of hand. Shut up and don't complain...ya know. It's another paradox I live with, the paradox between hope and joy and bitterness and whininess, which sometimes don't seem so much like a paradox but as parallel expressions of the same internal feeling (bitterness is little more than unrealistic expectations and deferred hope). I'm not being true to myself to deny either side of the equation. But I need to focus some attention on my whininess problem, because I don't think it's very becoming, and it's not a good "witness" and all that, and while I might not mind being "irreverent" in some respects, I would prefer that some more redeeming qualities would be the first in the minds of my friends and coworkers.
Be a man, but don't lose the youthful idealism. In a word to remember, "glitter". Who would have thought that an evening of talking briefly about liking glitter would end up as a New Year's resolution? But the talk of glitter generated a discussion about what is attractive for a guy and what's not, and glitter was not on the attractive list. This is just the tip of a bigger issue: the issue of being "manly". For some reason, I've never thought all that highly of being "manly". What, talk deep? Yell about sports? Run after wealth and fast cars? Yearn after getting to the top? Watch movies about people getting shot and thieves scheming and superheroes doing unrealistic things? All that is so shallow. Or maybe yell about the moral high ground? Or yell about doctrinal purity? Those are reasonable goals, but seem a little boring of themselves. And yet...remember Wild at Heart, that God placed something in me as a male. Maybe the call of manliness is what calls these typical things "shallow" and "boring". Whatever it is, I should figure it out. But I won't settle for being a lazy couch potato boring "all I know is sports and the weather" guy. I won't settle for a TV stereotype, or (gasp) a pop-church stereotype either. If I become a man, it will be on my (hopefully educated, hopefully careful, hopefully spiritual) terms, modified by the terms of those around me who I respect as good role models. And in this becoming I will attempt to keep my youthful idealism (as I call it), because I think that's one thing that makes me tick -- a hope, a dream -- those are manly things too I think.
Lose 20 pounds next year. Yeah, keep up the health. I've actually allowed myself to cut a lot of corners this year. "I'll be healthy tomorrow." Well, tomorrow (give or take a few days) is 2005. I'm not saying I'll be Mr. Health, but...I want to continue the good habit of keeping a focus on good health, and focus on tweaking my lifestyle to some extent. One goal I want to write down is to attempt to only drink 40 ounces (2 bottles) of pop per week. This is hard for me, because water is often "boring" (for lack of a better excuse). But pop, diet or not, is claimed to be rather bad for me, so good for me if I watch myself a little more and try to cut back some. And, of course, I want to keep exercising, running and biking and whatever else I find to do, for exercise and for that hobo freedom and for pushing myself toward a goal.
Read more books. Thomas Merton was good to me this year. Thank you Ida M for showing me his book. That book, along with Watershed, were probably my biggest events of the year. Such good things to say. Some books are boring, and all books take time, so I in my wispiness read bits of books now and then but don't focus on them very much. I want to focus more this year on first of all taking time to read books. For one, I fully intend to read through the Bible this year, along with several other Watershed people. But beyond that, I want to read some other good-sounding books too, such as other Merton books, Wild at Heart, the "Hobo" book, The Sacred Romance, and the rest that I can't think of or will add to the list later. Besides just the reading, the books force me to be quiet and stop moving and thinking about a hundred things at once, and make me be quiet and focus on one thing at a time -- that's a good thing for me.
There you have it. Resolutions for a new year. It's an exciting time. I feel stressed already thinking about working on them all (by the way, that's NOT the way to start the year out, so, the last resolution will be not to stress over the other ones..sigh). If life continues as it has been lately, the new year promises to bring some good conversations, both internally and externally, as well as some good growing experiences in other ways too. Peace be unto you, and may God's grace and peace and hope and love fill our lives as we journey together on this happific thing called life.