This is how I've spent most of my free time since 1970.
Friday, December 30, 2011
With 2012 looming, many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And by “many of us”, I mean “me”. Others too though. Transitioning from an old wall calendar with photos of bucolic country scenes on it provided free by your bank to a new wall calendar with photos of bucolic country scenes on it provided free by your bank has traditionally also been a time to make changes in one’s life. It seems like a healthy idea worth taking part in, assuming your resolutions for 2012 don’t include “Eat a car” or “Hug a gila monster”.
I have to say, I was quite successful in my resolutions for 2011. Actually, it was only one resolution: “Wait until next year to make resolutions.” Achievable goal achieved!
This year, I am setting my sights a bit higher, and making five resolutions. To make it more likely I will actually adhere to them, I am making them public here. They are, as follows:
1. Eat better.
Yeah, yeah, it’s such a cliché resolution, I know, but I seriously need to do this. I’ll be 42 years old in a few months, but my eating habits haven’t really changed since I was 17, and there are numerous discarded McWrappers on the floor of my chariot to prove it. Fortunately, I have a reasonably good metabolism and drink a lot of water as a rule, so my weight does not match up with the amount of garbage I typically inhale. Nonetheless, my poundage has been creeping up over the past few years. During a recent trip to the doctor’s office, I saw a chart that indicated that my current weight (200 pounds. I’ll admit that), attached to my frame (all 5’11” of it) is technically, just technically, categorized as “obese”. (Just technically.) I am almost certain that some tofu-eating nut devised that chart, but it still struck me as probably a good idea to keep the potato chips out of reach and step away from the cookie dough ice cream more often. Now I don’t plan on becoming a vegan or anything like that. I am not even formally planning a diet. You’ll notice the resolution is to “eat better”, not necessarily to “eat healthy”. In other words, I plan to eat less horribly to some degree. Avoiding junk food and processed food more often might be a good start. Now pass me that box of Twinkies. It's not 2012 yet!
2. Exercise more.
I get quite a bit of exercise in my work in the veterinary hospital. Part of what’s great about my job is that you make frequent use of both your mind and your body. For example, I am often thinking about how I am going to get out of this mess while I am climbing a cabinet to escape an enraged pit bull who is trying to kill me. See? Mind and body. However, outside of work, I haven’t been exercising much at all lately. I used to hike, ski, snowshoe, bike, and all kinds of things like that, but have been making excuses not to do them in recent months. The truth of the matter is, I hate sweating with a deep abiding passion. It doesn’t take much for me to start breaking a sweat either. The irony is that if I could get myself to exercise more, I’d be in better shape and likely sweat less. Sweat more to sweat less. Cruel joke, that is.
Incidentally, I will NOT join a gym, so don’t even go there. Exercising just for the sake of exercise is not my thing. Put me on a treadmill, and I will immediately start looking at my watch and obsess about how my glasses are starting to fog. Then my stupid brain will just start saying things to me like: “Kinda sweaty, aren’t you big boy?” or “That tweak in your right leg might be a hamstring ready to snap. You better back off pal!” or even “Wouldn’t a Whopper with cheese taste good right now?” It’s just miserable inside my head when I am in a gym, and all the muscle-bound, healthy-looking people around me do not help matters even a little. At best they give me a polite smile and an inferiority complex. Nope…if I am going to exercise, I want it to have a point to it and no small amount of mental diversion. Biking, for instance, actually gets you somewhere, and going out on snowshoes allows you to cheat death when you accidentally stumble upon a hibernating bear under a pile of brush.
As with resolution number one, note the wording: “Exercise more”. Not “exercise a lot”. I am not really doing any exercising at all now, so if I start doing any at all, then I’ve met my goal.
3. Get a dentist.
I have had every dental experience known to humankind in my lifetime. Cavities, root canals, caps and crowns, braces, retainers, wisdom teeth extracted, you name it. Somewhere in the Caribbean, there are several dental professionals with their own private islands thanks to me and my dental insurance. A few years ago though, my dental situation stabilized to the point where there was really nothing that needed doing aside from six-month checkups. So when I moved to a new town, I never bothered to sign on with a new dentist.
Well, I probably should. I still don’t have anything pressing going on with my teeth, aside from some coffee staining. I brush and rinse religiously numerous times a day, and floss often. I haven’t had a toothache in years. However, given that I’ve put so much pain and money into the old choppers over time, they really should be looked at more than once a decade. Trouble is, none of the local dentists are accepting new patients. So, I’ll have to do a little research and probably travel a little to be seen.
I don’t really mind the dentist, though I used to hate going. As a kid, I would start dreading dental appointments several weeks in advance. That was in the age before common use of fluoride, and I was always found with at least one cavity every six months. Not fond of needles as a child, I had my teeth drilled and filled without any anesthetic at all. If I had only believed that what I was subjecting myself to was so much worse than the brief sting of a needle of Novocain! My dentist and parents tried to convince me of it, but I was nothing if not stubborn. I was not to be reasoned with. Adding insult to injury was the fact that I had to walk several blocks to and from the dentist’s office all by myself, since my dad was working all day and my mother had several small children and no vehicle at her disposal. It was the Bataan dental death march. The temptation to not show up at the dentist and go hang out somewhere for a while was great, make no mistake about it. However, the Catholic guilt was strong in me, even at that tender age, so I dragged myself there without fail every time.
I could go on and on about my rather unique dental history, but that is probably best left to a future blog post for those with strong stomachs.
4. Take writing more seriously.
Ha, ha! Look! I am doing this one right now! I am writing! Whoo hoo! Wheee! Write, write write!
Well, I did include seriously in this resolution, so that sentence probably doesn’t count.
I’ve loved to write since I was a kid, and have always been told I have a knack for it, as I outlined in a previous post. Only recently have I set some of my writings in front of others and received some strong pushes to do more and share it more widely. There’s this blog, which is growing slowly and steadily. And there’s the novel I am working on in a tandem project with a previously published author. It’s still pretty hush-hush at this point, but we are well into the first draft. We are teaching each other a lot, and I really enjoy working with him. I have to admit that there are days I want to drag him backwards through a keyhole, and he probably wants to do even worse to me. In the end though, we usually see that we’ve brought something better out by putting our heads together, so it’s worth it. In 2012, I hope to finish work on that novel and get it out there for you, and then start work on a solo project. I want to grow this blog some more and publish posts more frequently. You, my readerly friend, can directly help me get motivated to do that by coming back here to visit often.
On a more basic level, I am resolving to write at least a little bit every day. I’ve been in touch with a number of writers, and every one of them separately has told me that same thing. They also told me to read a lot, especially in the genres in which I am writing. I plan to do that also.
Although I am 41 and not 16, I have requisitioned this particular modern buzzword from the younger set. I use it quite often, actually. To “chill”, according to the Urban Dictionary website, means "to calm down" or "to be easygoing". In other words, to take the time to do things that are good for me and those I care about, and less time on counterproductive worry. I need to do this in the worst way, and that’s generally how I’ve done it. Make no mistake, I don’t mean that I plan to spend hours on end in the recliner watching TV or sleeping until noon. That’s just lazy. Nor do I plan to close my eyes to things that require attention. That’s just stupid.
You see, however, I am a chronic worrier, and always have been. I worry about big things, like paying the bills and the health of family and friends, but also the little things, like whether the food I put in the freezer will get freezer burn, or whether the mechanic working on my car will judge me for the Rick Springfield CDs I have kicking around the passenger seat. (To borrow a line from columnist Dave Barry, I am not making this up!) The thing is, worrying has very seldom made anything that I was actually worrying about any better. In fact, the anticipation for me is often twice as bad as the actual object of my worry. So, I need to chill. Not become oblivious by any stretch, but keep things in proper perspective more effectively. Just chill.
There are some who may criticize my resolutions. Some of my former colleagues in the education field (mainly the wonky, I-have-no-life types) would surely say “Resolutions are goals, and they must be quantifiable. How can you measure them? How will you know you’ve reached them?” To those people, I would recommend they resolve to shut up.
Seriously though, I worded my resolutions vaguely on purpose because I do not want to have a finish line to cross. I want to enjoy the journey, without focusing entirely on the destination. If I skip dessert for a few days in a row, then I am making progress toward eating better. If I get out on the snowshoes a few more times this winter than last, I’ll be moving in the direction of exercising more. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to adhere to those resolutions if I merely do those things. By leaving them open ended, the resolutions become more like directional signs for my life, to help me move toward becoming the person I want to be.
Whether you are one to make resolutions for New Year’s or not, I hope 2012 is a year of peace, achievement and opportunity for you. And don’t hug any gila monsters.