It’s January 4th and I’m just finding the space to think about this new year, celebrate it in my small ways, step out on the land and marvel at the passage of time, the contrast between the ticking time of my physical heart and the sweep of geological ages. Isn’t it funny to be so young and fleeting compared to a wedge of towering basalt upon which ancient lichens grow? Life is full of juxtapositions. I can’t help but marvel at it all.
I have noticed the growing trend of choosing a word for the new year, a word that encapsulates what you’d like to become, what you’d like to work on, what you would like to let go of…and while I don’t have a specific word to apply to 2017 I have been ruminating on something I would like to practice in my life with even more fervor. This year, I intend to work even harder at remaining calm. When everything falls to pieces or when someone treats me terribly or when I don’t get my way in life or when I suffer total failure…I want to remain calm. Beyond practicing calmness, I want to find myself in the habit of immediately moving into a problem solving state of mind — I want to find myself recognizing the disaster and instead of reacting emotionally, I want to fluidly engage my ability to critically think and logically process my way through a dilemma.
I look at the world around me and I worry that North Americans have become prone to hysteria and hysteria feeds hysteria and even morphs into histrionics at times. I don’t like it. In point of fact, I find it self-indulgent, juvenile and even embarrassing to witness, especially in adults. Babies are allowed to totally lose it, not 25 year old men and women. Furthermore, I worry about the effect we have on children, adolescents and even our peers when we lose all self-control, drop everything and pitch a fit.
While Rob’s dad was staying with us and helping with renovations up at the house in November he said something during a conversation that stuck with me. We were discussing healthy eating and exercise and he said he likes to stay active and fit and be as healthy as possible because he feels he is an example to people around him. He’s retired but continues to work as a reading specialist with children in a backwoods town in the 49er country of California. His five kids are all grown up and a few of them have given him grandkids. Because he’s been an educator in every capacity in public schools his whole life, I believe he is hyper-aware of how adults mold children and youth, how our smallest actions and reactions are noticed and absorbed by the people around us — without even trying, perhaps by osmosis, we can have an effect on everyone we come in contact with.
I’ve been thinking about the responsibility we all have to not simply live for ourselves in an age when where is so much emphasis on self-_______________ . When an individual is suffering a crisis of the soul, I hear their friends say, “You just keep on doing you. Don’t worry about that person.” But…what if we did worry about others more — or at least the less obvious repercussions of our own actions? What if we looked at our lives in an honest way, what if we took a deep, scouring look at all our behaviors and were brave enough to realize what needs adjusting? What if we were courageous enough to actually MAKE those adjustments, how would it affect our relationships, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities…heck, our whole country?
I believe our kids would grow up braver, stronger, and smarter. Future generations would be creative, logical, deep feeling groups of people who practice calmness in crisis. I don’t simply want to improve myself for my own sake, but for the sake of the people I surround myself with. I want to be a good example, to the best of my abilities (despite the fact that I’m a terribly flawed human being) to the people in the world I live in. It’s hard, honest work. I’m up for the challenge.
Happy New Year to you all, go forth and conquer.