Ah, it’s New Year’s Day and here we go again: retooling, tweaking, course correcting and generally polishing up our less-than-perfect lives. New Year’s Day is, in essence, the giant do-over. I’m taking a pass on resolutions this year. (I’m always trying to lose weight. What’s to resolve?) But there are a few things kicking around in my heart and mind as we step out, step up and step into 2011.
Life as a Tango
For Christmas, my son Emmett gave me an Astor Piazzolla recording. (“The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night” to be exact.) I believe that this is some of the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard in my life; it is passionate, lush, vivid and vibrant. Each note is like a tiny universe, teeming with old stories, wild love and infinite mysteries. As I listen, I realize that I want my life to be like that music.
Due to significant changes on the personal front, the past three years for me have been about reorganization. While this time has been necessary and productive, it’s also been hard. My focus has been on surviving but not necessarily on thriving. This year, I am not content to watch the parade from the sidelines. I am grabbing a banner and joining the dance. I want to paint the walls cobalt blue and wear silver jewelry. I want to eat Greek food with friends at a table with a vase of fresh lilacs at its center. On hot summer nights, I want Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” or Piazolla’s “Libertango” to spill out of the open windows of my apartment and float up to the smiling moon. I want to know every molecule of this life that there is to know. I have had the experience of survival. I am ready now to investigate living.
Other people’s approval is overrated.
One of the things I admired about my father was that he didn’t really give a damn about other people’s approval. Emmett is the same way. I think there’s something to this. It’s a kind of freedom. No matter how brightly you burn, there are always going to be a few morons who just won’t see it. They’ll dismiss you. They’ll criticize you. They’ll question your plans, especially if you don’t operate from the same tired playbook. They’ll doubt your brilliance or try to freak you out with scary stories about failure and ruin. Trying to win them over can be like a shackle; it doesn’t get the ball down the field, or the rocket launched or the blog written. At 48 years old, I figure I’ve earned the right to do things my way. The people that matter don’t need convincing. As for the naysayers, I have a Cee Lo Green tune for them.
Compassion and Kindness
These are requisite. It’s how we’re wired but we forget sometimes. Leading with compassion and kindness makes everything better and ultimately more workable. In the mean duress of the grind, it can be tough sometimes, I know. I think it’s important to remember to have compassion for ourselves. We’ve all seen the kid on the baseball field-the one whose overbearing dad yells at him when he messes up. Stuff like that makes me wince. But sometimes when I fumble, I do that shit to myself. I can be the horrific critic or the editor from hell, nagging away incessantly about every unfortunate foible. We need to be as kind to ourselves as our best friends are. If we can show ourselves unconditional compassion and kindness, then I’m pretty damn sure that we’ll be better able to put it out there to our fellow human beings. It’s a hunch I have. Maybe we could all practice it this year and compare notes in December?
Doing It Anyway
Life constantly asks us to dig deeper, to cultivate patience and refine endurance. It invites us to play with fire and dabble in magic, all the while demanding that we become intimate with ambiguity. Every day, it presents us with a blossom of possibility. When I look at the sky, I can finally see stars shifting, aligning and connecting. I know the hard edges but this year, I want to run my fingers over the soft curves. Things are still pretty fucked up out there, I know. And personally, I haven’t quite cleaned up all my inner messes. But I think I need to jump in anyway. I think we all do. In order to push back effectively, we need to be tenacious and brave and happy.
It’s 2011. And I’m going all in.