We all have come face to face with what John Oliver calls “the worst” holiday–New Year’s Eve. If you haven’t seen John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, you should. I hate to jump on a bandwagon, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll fall, but Oliver is worth a listen. As I listened to him say exactly how I feel about New Year’s, it came to me that I hadn’t thought about my resolutions. They would probably be typical–get more exercise, drink more water, stop procrastinating. I then thought–NO. What I really need to do is give everybody else a list. It doesn’t matter what I do. I can never keep the resolutions. What really matters is what everybody else does.
So…I have kindly put together a list of resolutions for you all that should make your (and my) experiences better. First, I realize this may seem too far for me to go, but I’m a teacher. Teachers are always correcting others. We’re PAID to correct and evaluate others. I have spent many an irritating hour trying to find helpful ways to force students to stop making stupid and embarrassing mistakes. I have even had a small amount of success at this, at times, with God’s help.
I want you to understand that this list is one made up of things I already do easily or am completely dedicated to trying. I have put nothing on here that I won’t find utterly simple to keep.
Enough framing. Here we go:
1. Get better sleep. Stop falling asleep in front of the TV, computer, iPad, iPhone or refrigerator. We all need to start using a pattern of behaviors that signal we are going to bed and going to sleep. Electronic light and sound both prevent good sleeping habits and suppress REM sleep. Thus, each year we are a little more stupid, foolish, confused and sleepy. Turn off everything. Make sure the doors are locked. Get a paperback book, nothing too interesting or well written; get in bed under a dimmish incandescent bulb and fall asleep. Oprah gets good sleep. Don’t you deserve as good a rest as Oprah?
2. No littering. A friend of mine says his neighbors drink a lot of beer, and (evidently) when they empty a can they simply let it drop from their (his words) “cold, nerveless grip.” I found a Budwiser can in my driveway, and I don’t even drink beer. Why am I looking at some moron’s empty beer can in MY driveway? We should all of us try to avoid making a mess that someone else has to clean up. More importantly, we should not break the minor laws against littering. They are good laws. We should keep them. While we’re at it, don’t spit gum on the sidewalk or stick it under tables or desks. Wrap it in a little piece of paper and put it in the trash can. Same for boogers.
3. Attack at least one cliché, and try to destroy it. Old worn out sayings and ideas offer little to the listener and make the speaker appear simple-minded. I am attacking “give 110%.” Saying that shows the speaker doesn’t understand the mathematical concept of factions or percentages. One cannot have more that 100% if a whole thing. By muddying a basic mathematical principal, one muddies thinking in general, and I am against that. I don’t really care which cliché you attack, just pick one and target it every time it appears. Good luck with this.
4. Shut-up about gluten. Look, Celiac disease is a real, but RARE, condition. People who suffer with this disease really suffer. It’s not some fad in which they are participating. The rest of all you people who are attempting to exercise your will or grab attention by being fussy eaters need to grow up. If you don’t want to eat something, don’t eat it. There is no need to make others bend to your will or the story of how you can’t “process” wheat. It’s not “process,” it’s digest. Most humans digest wheat just fine. That’s why is has been baked into so many pies and cakes and danish and hamburger buns. Try to think more about the people around you than your guts.
5. Value face-to-face interaction. It’s enough already with the texting and the snap-chatting and the social media and the video games. If you want to do those things, that’s fine, but when we are visiting face-to-face, let’s visit. There’s no need to split attention and make the person in the room feel crappy because I am not a tiny pulsing light or tinny tune coming out of your phone. (Students will take their phones out DURING a class and try to text or play games or whatever. It’s maddening!) I know this is a sore point for a great many people, but the truth is those virtual experiences, while fun, are ephemera. They rightly belong in your private time when they do not have to detract from your interaction with others who are literally there with you. This does not mean I don’t think you should take pictures of yourself and others at memorable events. The pictures are fine. The on-going narrative may actually detract from the experience, so make mental notes, or physical notes if you must, but wait and let your ideas percolate before you share them with the world. I suggest both types of experience will be enriched by this small modicum of restraint. (I doubt anyone will manage to keep this resolution.)
6. Pick a podcast and become a fan. I know I’m late to become a fan of podcasts, but at least I have a few I like. My current list is This American Life and Serial. This coming year I am going to listen to Judge John Hodgman and The Nerdist. Podcasts are great because they require one to listen, a skill this world may be trying to kill.
7. Pray at weird times for the weird things. This may seem silly, but it’s the most serious one on the list. Many people of faith have discovered the value of regular prayer and/or meditation. They set specific times to read and pray and contemplate. This is great. Now add the weird time and place. In the book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom describes how her sister encouraged her to thank God for ALL things, even the fleas that infested their clothes and beds. Corrie refused to thank God for the fleas. Later in the book, her sister is proved right. Corrie should have been thanking God for the fleas. It’s weird, right? So, that’s the last (and best) resolution. Pray at both the right and weird moments. It’s bound to turn out best.
There you go, my fellow citizens. There’s your list of solid, healthy, worthwhile New Year’s resolutions. You, of course, know best about your life and your needs, but if you take these you will probably have a better life and fewer unmet needs. I just saying…