With my (nearly) annual New Year’s Day ritual of diving into the 37 degree waters of the Susquehanna River now in the books, it is time to get on with setting my goals for the New Year. Like many, I am wired to ‘measure and compare’ everything I deem meaningful. My reality is that making resolutions often doesn’t produce desired results.

plunge wave 2013

 Admittedly, I have been rationalizing my own mediocrity by qualifying the success of others for so long; I am quite adept at overlooking my own shortcomings. But I don’t give up. For example, today I’ve already berated myself (again) for allowing my expense receipts for the last seven months of 2012 pile up on, or near, my desk. Yet, I forge ahead with cheerful optimism at developing reasonable, attainable goals, which include, “Do not commingle 2012 receipts with 2013 receipts”. We’ll see how that goes.

Over the years I’ve written simple one-sentence goals on a yellow post-it note, as well as complex, integrated goal programs worthy of a 3-dimensional spreadsheet and a PowerPoint slide presentation. In terms of appearances on the list, money, exercise, and professional goals lead the pack while cultural, family and spiritual goals in the rear. Although I start each new “Goal Year” with the best intention and maximum passion, for all of my love of measuring and comparing, there aren’t many goals I can specifically recall achieving. The nice thing about failure, however, is if done enough times, certain rules for future goal-setting can be made. Some of my personal favorites include:

– “Before” pictures, weigh-ins, and gym commitments are not authorized prior to the end of College Football Bowl season.

– Financial goals should not be based on me hitting the lottery (Although, I admit this is my primary retirement plan).

– Goals involving classical literature don’t count against me. In 2009 I vowed to read 1 classic each month. By the end of February, I finished Homer’s Odyssey. The second book, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is still on the nightstand beneath John Irving and Hafiz.

– Spiritual goals are best. They can’t be measured (no failure) and they can be good codes that make me feel good.

Over time, some goals naturally evolve. Here is a peek of our first budget (circa 1981) on roughly $1000/month net income:

  • Rent: $250/mo
    Beer: $250/mo
    Entertainment: $250/mo
    Arcade (Ms Pac Man): $100/mo
    Food: $65/mo
    Long Distance telephone: $75
    Savings: $10

Obviously, that was before the Powerball Lottery. Needless to say, our expenses have changed since 1981.

Not all resolutions are written or even rationally thought through; sometimes they just get blurted out. 25 years ago this week, after ‘awakening’ in a hospital emergency room, I swore to myself I would never drink again. (Technically, I considered myself a good drinker. Drinking, however, really wasn’t the problem, stopping was). This was not the first time I had that thought. It would be, God-only knows why, the last time. If I measured the success of this resolution by simply ‘not drinking’ I’ve been successful. If I measured it by other expected results, I probably wouldn’t compare very well. For instance, if I expected good health, I’ve failed; since 1988, I have been diagnosed with cancer, shingles, hemochromatosis and sleep apnea. If ‘not drinking’ should have been good for a steady professional career, I just have to look at the 12 different business cards, two stints in the Cumberland County unemployment line, and the time spent on the edge of declaring bankruptcy to dispel that notion. If I measured my ‘not drinking’ goal in terms of achieving Sainthood, I have also failed. I am, however, quite certain I am a happier man and a better man for keeping this resolution each day.

In 2009 I made a resolution to take an on-line writing course, which ultimately led to this blog. My affinity for writing, a quest for meaningfulness, and the primordial need to periodically embarrass my children have kept me going. One benefit of blogging is technology facilitates my need to ‘measure and compare’. In 2012, I published 23 stories, each born out of some random inspiration. As I look back, some have a more lasting effect than others.

Easily my top inspiration was learning I’m going to be a grandfather. Even after writing a letter to my unborn grandchild (Love Always), I cannot find the words to describe how special this is for me. My eyes well up and I smile as I write this.

The Bib

 The memoir of our 12 Day tour through Ireland (Irish Rumble Strips) remains remarkable for how little  a slice of the experience I could share, and by how much more of the Emerald Isle I want to explore. Ireland is a richly beautiful country with an incredibly warm culture. I shall return.

Irish Countryside
Irish Countryside

Finally, there is the piece on suicide (The Day After). There was a time Leigh and I thought we had come to know our friend quite well. We didn’t. I am left questioning just how much I can know anybody, as well as how much I hide from those around me. The thought that my perceived bond with Elizabeth was merely a common impenetrable loneliness scares me. The sad truth is ‘The Day After’ just won’t end.

For the year ahead, I’ve laid out reasonable financial goals, I’ve lightened up on the work-out routine, and I’m committed to re-reading at least two of my all-time favorite books. (This way if I don’t finish, I’ll at least know how they end!)

I will keep writing.

On the spiritual plane, I’m stealing something from my friend Mike who recently told me, “The ego attacks and defends. The soul loves and tolerates.” Love and tolerance of others seems like a good code; I think I’ll stick with that.

What’s the Powerball up to this week?

3 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Forward

  1. Thanks Pat and love the quote from Mike. My GOAL this year and onward is to allow others to fully experience their life experiences without me trying to fix, alter or otherwise interfere where I am not needed. I will try not to do for others what they can do for themselves! Happy New Year! It may be the year of the snake for some but it is the year of the grandchild for you. Much love to you and your family, Pat!

  2. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Some of your finest work! 🙂

    Sainthood? Perhaps not. However, you’re always as okay as you can be. It’s really quite admirable.

    Thanks for inviting us in!


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