Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Playing in the background: "Downfall," the feel-good movie of the 2008 holiday season, featuring Hitler going crazy in his bunker and one dutiful secretary writing it all down. In German with subtitles.
Meters swum in 2008: 170.2. YEAH!!! WOO HOO!!! GO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the words of the inimitable Alison Bechdel, "If you can't celebrate the new year, you can at least be happy that the old one is finally over." She was talking about 1991, but a lot of the same conditions apply. A Bush was in office and we were at war with Iraq, for one thing. The Democratic Party was about to sweep the country and put a handsome youngish guy in office, for another. Oh, wait, that part already happened. There was a float in the Rose Parade this morning from Anchorage, Alaska, and I was thinking, "Geez, what if McCain had won the election and Sarah Palin was riding in that thing?" (shudder) I mean, the mind boggles.

But, it's 2009, I just hung up my new calendar (Buddha in 96 eye catching colors!) and there's a lot to look forward to. Another 170 miles in the pool, for one thing (y'all think I can make it 180 this year? I'm gonna try). In 18 more days, the new guy will be President and, hopefully, we'll start to dig ourselves out of this mess we're in. It's entirely possible I'll find myself still married come March. Best of all, there's only one work day left before the weekend. Gotta love that.

A lot of folks seem to make what are called "resolutions" around this time of year. Things they're going to do differently or better, goals, ideas, stuff like that. Cool as this may be, it's still a setup for the Big Letdown on January 21. Didn't know that date was significant, did ya? Actually, the specific date is under debate. According to this article, the most depressing day of the year is January 21. Fellow British psychologist Cliff Arnell pinpointed the 24th. Why a specific day? The reasons vary. For most of the Western world, the weather is terrible. Here in Dallas we tend to have ice storms in January. I'fact our winter precip records are usually set between January 21 and 24 (take 1978, for example; 1.5 feet of snow on Jan. 22.) It's also a very dark time, just after the Winter Solstice, when the days are starting to get a tiny bit lighter but it'll be a month before anybody notices. The credit card bills from the Christmas season are starting to roll in. And, of course, by now most people who started off with New Years resolutions have discarded them. There's something about a daily five-mile run that sounds great on December 31st when you're drunk right before the ball falls in New York, but that sucks rocks at 6 am the following day when you're lacing on your running shoes to go out in the dark and cold.

Back when I did this, I had a surefire formula for keeping my resolutions. I would always make just one: to just wing it and see what happens. Without fail, I kept my resolutions every year. Howsomever, since I ain't gettin' any younger and the world's not exactly getting kinder, I have been undertaking certain attempts at developing better habits. We're not calling these resolutions, though. I don't wanna wake up on January 21st, take one look at a list of stuff I'm not doing and crawl right back under the covers.

In October, I decided to get into the habit of Writing In My Journal. Every Night. Without Fail. And it's going pretty well. I miss a night here and there, but overall, I'm logging the pages once more. Journal Writing is one of those things We People In Recovery are supposed to be doing. Something about gaining perspective or whatever the hell. I just like slopping my guts out on a page nobody's ever going to read and calling people names and being a bitch and so on without anybody finding out. Everybody needs an outlet somewhere.

In November I started Reading Some Scripture Before Bed. I haven't made it through that book of Buddhist scriptures my brother-in-law sent to me yet. Sometimes it's a paragraph at a time; the Book of Numbers is more interesting - but I am doing it most nights. In December I started entering what I'm eating each day into the online food journal, The Daily Plate. That hasn't gone quite as well but I'm not losing any sleep over it. If I miss a day I just pick it up and move on.

That last, I think, is the key to changing any habit. When it comes to the big resolutions people make (losing weight, quitting smoking, etc) it seems like if you mistakenly have an early-morning cigarette or eat a piece of pie, you tend to say, "Oh, fuck it" and go on with the rest of the pack (or pie). People aren't nearly as forgiving of themselves as they need to be. Okay, so you had that cigarette or that piece of pie. Doesn't mean you have to have the next one, or the one after that. Pick up and move on. Do better next time. It's got to be better to keep trying than it is to go back to something you know is going to harm you.

So anyway, here's my challenge to y'all. If you wake up on January 21 (or 24) and realize you're not doing the 15 things you wrote on your little list of resolutions, pick one that would help you the most and just start doing it, from that day forward. If you miss a day, who cares. Do it the next day. I promise, a year from now you'll feel a lot better about yourself than you will if you try to keep all 15 and end up saying, "Oh, fuck it."

Myself, my Habit To Change For January is to go to bed at 10pm on school nights, instead of staying up and, I dunno, blogging. And tonight is a school night, so I'm gonna say, "Oh, fuck it" and close here. Cheers!

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