I’m not one who writes “resolution” posts very often. In fact, I typically write humorous new year’s resolutions about starting smoking, gaining weight and getting a little deeper in debt. Truth is, I’ve become somewhat of a cynic, and I find it hard to believe that a little fairy dust and lip service to promises is really going to change much–therein lies my problem.
This year, I spent a few minutes looking back at my journal from 2012. In all candor (more than I would typically publish), I was scared of the year to come. I can’t identify one fear over the other–maybe it was the end of the Mayan calendar or the impending failure of the US economy. Honestly, I don’t know the exact fear, but I felt like I was laying in wait for doom. Before long, this fear shaped my attitude about everything in my life: my job, my family and my attitude about blessings (or good fortune). Truth is, it’s much easier to doubt than it is to believe.
Pessimism is sort of like boiling a frog, you don’t realize that the water’s getting too hot until it’s too late. Needless to say, by 12/21/12, I was already cooked.
Then, my friend Alex Lavidge posted this infographic on January 1st:
In my journal, I addressed each of the items of the “Successful People.” Honestly and privately, I assessed each of the items where I excelled and the items where I could focus my energy. What bubbled up to the top was the optimism vs. pessimism factor. For whatever reason: work circumstances, the news, or the kids being sick, I began to seemingly gain a guilty delight by peering into the abyss of negativity. Like cancer’s exponential cellular reproduction, pessimism is a cancer of the heart robbing one of the hope of life.
This was odd and foreign to me because all of my life I had the most incredible optimist that one could desire. My dad could turn any bad situation into the best day of my life, and it extended far beyond the perimeter of our family. He once told me about a fugitive that he had arrested when he was with the FBI. The guy was armed, rough and wanted. After restraining the criminal, the man said how he would have rather died than go to jail. Finding a few minutes alone with the man, my father began to genuinely talk to him as a man and not a criminal. He asked him about his childhood and the hope and promises of his life (and what had gone wrong). Like a levee in the lower ninth ward, the man broke, and he began to describe his mother as a beautiful, angelic woman that he had hurt his whole life. Finally, he asked my father for one favor, he wanted my dad, the arresting officer, to visit his mom and tell him about their conversation and tell her that he loved her. My dad made good on the promise.
For my dad, everything in his life was a gift greater than he deserved, and he was thankful. As he recounted his life, you could feel the pulse of his wonder and amazement. He was a little country boy with “chicken legs” from Harriman, Tennessee–the son of a salesman–that grew the legs of giants and toured the world, lived in the bright lights and big city of New York and one day landed in home of his dreams back in the hills of East Tennessee. He was always aware that regardless of the present circumstances, he was in the best possible situation. If you questioned him, he would rattle off 5 other places that you most assuredly would not want to be, and thus he would for me, each time that I hinted at complaint. He would remind me that I was not in the hundred-degree heat of the desert dressed in full military gear or worse. But more than just making unfair comparisons (like parents often do), he genuinely believed that the “best” was always possible. Even hours before his death, he asked the doctor, “hey doc, when do you think I can get out of here?” You could not shake his belief.
So I’m led to this: it is not my legacy to doubt. There are always more problems around me than promises. But the promises are my hope, and I will believe. I owe it to him that came before me…
A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…
May We Share in this Blessing for 2013…
May you see the goodness all around you
May your memories be filled with wonder and amazement
May your paths be clear
May your belly be full
May your heart be filled with song
May your mouth be full of laughter
May you know as you are known
May you believe