New Year's Resolutions Update
Joe Clark ~~ Jan 24, 2004

Well, it's been about 3 weeks now since my new year's resolutions went into effect. I have struggled with them, and overall my thoroughness in reaching them has not been very impressive. This fact, as well as life in general today (no specific reason -- just thoughts on my mind), prompt me to write about resolutions and life...

First off, I'll go through my resolutions and comment on the progress toward each one.

1) Communing with the outdoors at least three hours per week: Well, seeing as New Year's in Iowa ushers in some of the coldest weather of the year, this is more difficult than I thought. That's my excuse for now at least. I almost immediately decided to broaden my horizons on this issue. Now, instead of including only things outside, I also include social events and other...informal...occasions. Basically, it is becoming a resolution to allow myself to relax once in a while and not always be working on some task. Even with this in mind, it's hard to find the three hours of what I would call socializing or relaxation some weeks (stupid workaholism). So, my overall 3-week grade in this area is...C.

2) Marginalism. Righhhtttt. Before the holidays, I was getting up around 7:15 or so, which was a little later than I would have liked. So my goal in marginalizing turned out to be mainly about getting up earlier so I would have more time to "glide through life" to get to work, rather than rush around so much. (Marginalizing is a bigger topic than just getting up early, but getting up early is the best example I can think of.) The first week after break, my average time of getting up was probably 7:20 or 7:25 -- LESS margin rather than more. So, I give myself a D in this category.

3) Lose weight: Well, shortly after the beginning of the year I went and had a physical, so it was good in that regard to have a regular basic checkup. He suggested some things to keep in mind while trying to lose weight. Then, a week or so later I ordered a "body fat monitor" scale, which is another way to keep good measurements of healthiness. But, as is often my problem, I have been fairly good about recording data, but have not been nearly so good about taking the steps necessary to make the data *change* (eg, exercise and eating more healthily). I am thinking about it more, but so far my weight hasn't really changed and my attitude sadly hasn't much either. Grade: D.

4) Although not stated on the same wise thought page (but the focus of the next one after the new year's one), my 4th goal has been to seek out a girlfriend this year, and/or to think much more deeply about why I don't work harder at getting a girlfriend. Surprisingly enough, I think this is my most successful resolution so far. I have put some thought into it, and I will get into my results below. Grade for now: B.

Now, that's the executive summary. Here are some thoughts inspired by the past day or two at work or the past week or month or my life as it seems:

* One of the areas of marginalism that I take for granted is the amount of time I spend at work. I'm a workaholic!! Bad me! I need to practice leaving work earlier -- 8 hours instead of 10 or 11. Working is fun, and it's good to gain experience, but work should not be 90% of my entire life. I cannot solve all the world's (or one project's) problems, and most things can wait till tomorrow. Someday I hope to learn this lesson.

* Several people have mentioned to me that I should join an e-dating service. I have really been analyzing (okay, at least today I have) what my thoughts are on that idea. For whatever reason, I am resistant to an e-dating service. If it were just randomly instant messaging people, that would be fun, and if that developed into romance, well, great. And if one of my friends set me up on a blind date...it would be an adventure, something I would look forward to. But e-dating just seems too much like...a copout, I guess...to me. Part of it is the money (I can't find anyone, so I'll pay someone else to help). Part of it is the lack of adventure ("I can't find anyone so I'll let someone else do all the hard work for me"). Part of it is that people around me, good or bad, always seem more reachable than the people I don't even know -- kinda like the sending offerings to Africa principle -- I can donate money to worldwide charities, but I can't (or don't) *really* connect with them as well as with a local charity. In the same way, it's hard for me to be excited about meeting random people that I don't know at all. Finally, e-dating seems (bad me) a little like saying, "I'm desperate to find someone, so I'll ask for help." While I may think I'm desparate sometimes, my, uh, pride convinces me that I'm not really desparate -- at least not desparate enough to leave this part of life up to someone else. "I can find my own girlfriend thank you" -- even when I can't. My thoughts on this topic are ongoing, and I really want to continue to focus some of my mental energy on this topic.

* One thing that scares me is that I see the shadows of old patterns in my mind. I am not currently really focusing on any one person in particular as far as the infatuation game goes. But I have had a heightened sensivity to it, partly with resolution#4 in mind. And lately, as that focus has intensified just a bit (see my wise thought from a couple nights ago about Valentine's Day), I sense in my mind the beginnings of craziness. What I mean is that normally, I am relatively stable. Outwardly, I am crazy complaining or crazy singing or crazy silly, but those are covers for the logical rational me that is fairly stable. However, when I choose to play the infatuation game (which I always do it seems when anything close to "dating" comes to mind), I head down a slippery slope. I have not slid down the slope for a year or more, but I have just enough of a glimpse of it at the moment to realize that in all my ... year ... of growing and maturing and all that hopeful stuff, I still have the ice of the slope in my life. Recurring patterns like something from the Twilight Zone. My "stability" double-crosses me by chaining me to the unstable patterns in my life that I would love to be rid of. I would love to have a "normal" dating life (whatever that means), but I always draw conclusions where they are not warranted, and it just drives situations to stupidity. I need to get a handle on that and control my emotions and all, but I don't know how, except through painful experience (and, due to the pattern, probably more than just one or two). "God help me."

* I've also seen this three weeks that, still, I am addicted to computers. I work with them, play on them, learn on them, write on them, get mad at them, am impressed by them, grieve for them (occasionally)....the full range of emotions it would seem. But what I seem to fail to realize is that the Computer Life is not really much of a life. It is knowledge and problem-solving, but not a lot of meatiness. Really, I think that the best I can do with my computer knowledge is earn a living to fund myself and others, and to help others in their own computer issues, and (sometimes) allow computers to be a tool for entertainment and relaxation. As I the beautification engineer should know, life is about people and relationships, not computers. I need to get out more and stop wasting my life on computer topics all the time.

* I wrote an article a year or two ago about "steak & cheese" in my life, particularly at work. What I meant then was that I am often cheesy (silly) at work, but I am also steak-like (deep and rich in intellect). And at work I still exercise my weirdness and silliness frequently. But, as time has gone on the last several months, I think I've become more and more complaint-oriented. I think people are coming to expect me to complain about everything. And these complaints are not always reasoned out arguments about a topic with a clear aim towards bettering the situation. Some are just whining, and some are beginning to hint at a hopeless, "Topic X is hopelessly messed up and I hate it" attitude. None of this is very becoming of a beautification engineer. And I need to do better. On the other hand, the BE attitude can easily lead to the "complain about everything" attitude because of the idealism inherent in BE-ing. If I have a dream of the world I'd like to see, of the software I'd like to code, of the hardware I'd like to use, of the person I'd like to be...well, that dream world is most likely not reality, and if I'm not careful living in the "real world" will cause me to grow bitter. I think I've always been "bitter-sweet" aka idealistic, but bad for me if I ever start turning into a cynic, a hopeless pessimist, destroying what might be the very root of beautification engineering (hope).

* I also want to comment on rejection. Resolution#4 tells me I should ask people on dates. Why don't I? Cuz I'm stupid! In my life, asking people such things has always been a lose-lose situation. Usually they say no, which I'm told is normal, but it annoys me, and it produces awkwardness. This is not made any easier by the fact for me that I'd like to actually know someone before asking them out, but dating your friends is a common recipe for having less friends in the end. If anyone were to not say no, I'm afraid I would relive old patterns (see above) and do something stupid to mess up the situation, either thinking too far ahead or not thinking enough about the future direction, or just not thinking at all. So, yes, I fear rejection. But I also fear the lack of rejection, because it is a foreign concept to me, and perhaps a situation that I've never truly imagined myself in, because I've always been bitter about the rejection. Resolution#4 is supposed to aid in this by helping me think critically about the whole dating thing and where I want it to take me and how to act while within and not within the hypothetical dating relationship.

* I've noticed a slight undercurrent among those at work that might best be phrased the search for doing *good*. Specifically at work, it deals with creating a project that will truly meet our goals, not just limp along well enough to make something that works marginally well. In a broader sense, I have my days when I wonder what amount of good I actually do. I write programs...yippee. I go to church...joy. I help people with their computers for hours on end (can we say being used...maybe). I support charity. These are all okay things, but of what *good* are they? This is I guess where the eternity word comes in again. And with it comes the idea of people. Only people & God are eternal, and only eternal things really matter. Temporal things are ok, and hey, we've got to pass the moments somehow, but I wonder how often I get stuck thinking and doing things that are just stuff and filler and the "packing foam" of life. I long to do what is truly *good* and eternal and life-changing, but the combination of suitable opportunities and my willingness to take advantage of them is hard to come by.

* I am also getting my fill lately of corporate politics. Documentation, money, "best practices", schedules, personalities, distractions, bad decisions -- what a drain on productivity and liveliness those are! I must be a technogeek, because while I enjoy to some extent working on these items, they seem to get so politically charged as to be completely stupid at times. At those times, I don't really want to have any part of them, and that's when I just go write software and get some real work done (and at other times too of course). Grr...sometimes you have to stop all the politics and just break out the compilers.

* One thing I've noticed about my resolutions the last three weeks is that I have crafted a system whereby I can keep fairly good track of my progress rather easily. I have purchased some tools (the body fat monitor, a calendar, a pen, a light above my bed) to make this documentation simple. So, in typical engineer fashion, I have the tools to draw graphs and "see the progress." However, I am much much more reluctant to MAKE THE PROGRESS! I can talk about food all I want, and talk about fat, and talk about exercise, and talk about being sedentary, and talk about getting up early, and talk about being outside, and talk about girlfriends, until I can't speak another word! But if I don't act on them, what good is it? If I never resist a craving for food, if I never go for a walk, if I never stop sitting behind a computer, if I never drag myself out of bed before 7am, if I never do things outside, and if I never ask people out on dates, how can I expect anything to change? This is one of those patterns in my life I suppose. I can be committed to a goal, and dream about the desired result, but I often don't put in the hard work and hard decision making steps to meet the goal. Big talk, little action. Hence the self-reprimanding name "weak-willed fool".

* Another thing that I've been thinking about is the legacy that I am building in my wise thoughts. I know I'm long-winded. I know I write too much on these pages. I know that people will rarely read all this stuff that I write. People say they enjoy the topics, but do they really read them and "savor" them, or do they just skim it to be nice? "Who will be enthralled with me and my thoughts?" It's a question I've been asking for a long time. I have no good answer. It's a lonely question, and a lonely lack of answers. But, on the other hand, it's in the lonely moments that I remember the quote from a book (I've mentioned it before) where an old man dances on the beach saying, "The Father is very fond of me." To be loved by the Creator Himself...my ultimate goal, whether I realize it or not. I can entertain myself with the realization (or hope) that God Himself enjoys reading these, even if no one else has the time or the interest.

* Finally (finally!) in the midst of all these thoughts today, I was contemplating soon being lost in the details of life. Life is not crazy busy today, but in the next weeks it may be, with more travel for work on the horizon, and some hard math to learn for the class I'm taking, and other miscellaneous activities and things politely demanding my attention. It seems unfair that while I'm thinking about change and how hard it is, it is also those times when I am swept down the stream of life by all the random things I need to be doing, leaving little time to think about the higher ground on the timeless shores along the stream of life, let alone time to actively struggle to swim towards them.

* Final note: If you haven't noticed this is one of those whiny self-deprecating wise thoughts. I think I'll blame it on not getting quite as much sleep the last few nights as I should have. I hope you can still see the beautification engineering (idealism, sunsets, hope) in the midst of my whining and self examination. I hope *I* can still see it for that matter. "This too shall pass." If you choose to think a little less of me because of my thoughts and self-disclosure, well, so be it. As Captain Picard said (with one or two more colorful metaphors) "If we're going to be condemned, let's be condemned for who we really are."