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Best attitude possible, that will be good enough

Good intentions precede the making of resolutions and swearing of oaths. Several years, I set out again on one of my frequent get-in-shape missions. Starting January 2, I went to the community center and lifted weights, used the stair-stepper, and swam. Boy, did I feel great. Tired and great.

Then, it wasn’t so great. Stiff and sore, I stumbled to the center every day for a week. About the time I was getting into a stride, life started to intrude. Writing, teaching, being a father and husband took precedence over the daily exercise. I decided that every day was too much. Every other day was good. Then, three times a week. By the end of the month, my good intentions could only take me so far. Come February, I gave it up.

An old guy I saw every day at the center met me on the street one day a couple of weeks later. “New Years’ resolution?” he asked.

Yep, I said.

“Thought so. It’ll be all right. You changed your life a little bit.”

He was right. I had changed my life. I had turned things around in a couple of ways. I found I had plenty to keep me busy, and those things mattered. I was a good teacher, and I spent time and energy with the lessons and lectures. My son and wife took my attentions. I wrote more and better than before I formed my resolution.

Plus, I found I put more time into other physical pursuits. I was walking the dogs at least two miles every day. I upped that to three or four, and faster, so I could feel my heart churn and lungs struggle to fill with air.

So, yeah, I broke my resolution but gained quite a bit more.

I’m looking down the barrel of another New Year and I take pause. I don’t really have a resolution. Today afforded a great deal of time for contemplation. I cast about for ways to change life for the better and I realized:

I make resolutions every night. About the end of the daily tasks and work, I sit down to my journal, whether I’ve written that day or not. The actions, events, and thoughts all get time. Sometimes, it winds up being more diary than journal. Regardless of my rambling, I think about a couple of things. When, during the day, was I fearful, angry, selfish, or afraid? I list these things as honestly as I can and think about what I can do better next time.

I ask myself if I did the best I could that day. I have to be careful, as there are conditions to “best.” For instance, my best sometimes isn’t so hot. I may have been sick, hobbled, or ignorant of something. But it’s a good question to ask. It keeps me on my toes.

Then, I think about the 24 hours ahead. What is it that I want to get accomplished? What appointments do I have? How can I approach my routines and responsibilities with the most open mind I can? What can I do to be of service and help to others?

I resolve, I suppose, in all this, to approach the activities of the next day with the best attitude I can muster. That’s almost everything for me. If I decide I’m going to have a crummy time, I will. But if I don’t decide anything, and get into everything with a spirit of adventure and curiosity, then I can almost never lose.

Greet every day like a new lifetime, I say. Most of the day will be regular stuff—washing dishes, feeding dogs, doing laundry, etc. But I get to do what almost nobody I know gets to do. I get to write, as little money and fame as that brings. I may not feel inspired or brilliant. I may, in fact, feel like crap about what I write. Still, life’s a damn sight better when I write than when I don’t.

Then, there’re times that aren’t so great. For instance, this week, I suffered a debilitating case of the flu. I fell into feeling sorry for myself, getting frustrated, waiting for the pest to lift.

Then, I quit messing around. I shifted my attitude. So what? People get sick. But then they get better. As long as it won’t kill me, the flu will run its course. It just takes time. I decided I would approach this illness the way I do other things that make me miserable. No matter how unhappy the situation, I will only suffer this way one time in my life. I might as well enjoy the uniqueness of the experience.

As I think about New Year, I believe I have one day or so of the flu left in me. In two days, when I wake up, I will be well. I will have ended one year in sickness and begin another in healthy.

And, with that blessing, anything is possible.

Maybe this year, I just do what I’m supposed to as a writer, teacher, and family man. How about if I just do those things every day the best I can? That’s a good resolution. I can do that.

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