A New Year’s wish
My three-year-old son just fell asleep on my chest.
It’s gray outside, spitting little wet snowflakes and rain on cold ground. It’s the kind of weather that makes you sleepy no matter how much time you’ve spent in bed. My son, a boy who only stops moving long enough to shift gears, took deep, full breaths. He drifted toward somewhere else and fell fast toward a deeper gray, some sort of natural respite from the chaos of his mind and the adult world around him. From the perspective of a man who has felt really, really good in countless and storied ways, I can assure you there is no more pure and good feeling than the slow steady breath of your sleeping child against your neck. It was the most perfect moment I’ve experienced in as long as I can remember, and it gave me a few minutes to think.
We’re all reflecting today in our own way. It’s a natural–if completely arbitrary–response to the last day of the calendar year. We think about the weight we’ve put on. We think about the people we’ve lost. We think about how we can be better and how we can work not to lose the people we love. Moreover, we think about how can save ourselves from immoderation, weakness, and sloth. We think about how we can be better, stronger, or smarter.
I’m thinking all of these things, too. I see myself aging. I see myself getting slower, weaker, and less ambitious. I struggle with it all–the guilt, the weakness, the fear. I resolve to achieve much in the coming year. It’s all ambitious and insane, but I’ve come to appreciate that I’m capable of far more than I ever thought possible. The only things at risk are my brittle bones and doughy pride. I’d like to be much better than I am, because otherwise I’m just getting worse. I’ve been worse, and it’s much less fun.
To you, my goals are irrelevant, and I’m cool with that, but I can’t let this arbitrary and gray day of reflection pass without telling you about what I hope for all of us. This is my New Year’s wish for you, yours, me, and mine.
Hug more. Hug hello. Hug goodbye. Hug as much as you can, because if you find yourself doing it enough, it’s because you are spending time with the people you love enough to hug. That may seem completely obvious, but the simple fact is that it’s not. Whether by circumstance or habit, we often surround ourselves with people for whom we have no affection. The life around us becomes stale and void of anything that resembles real caring and love. Eventually, that starts to feel normal. It doesn’t have to be. We don’t always have a choice, but when we when do, we can make the right one more often if we try.
Hide the switch. There are people who–for reasons of insecurity, fear, or abject meanness–spend their days looking for your switch. They are life’s trolls. They identify the things you hold dear and try to make you feel bad for your passions and beliefs. They are incapable of listening. They are incapable of admitting they could be wrong. Their only fuel is your outrage. Don’t give it to them. Hide your outrage switch. Stop fighting with people who have become the modern versions of people who go into bars looking for a scrap. Outrage is exhausting and frequently misplaced. What’s more, those quick to rage diminish the times when true outrage is necessary. Ignore the switch-seekers and believe in yourself enough that you don’t have to fight.
Do something. Do something new. Do something you used to do. Just do something. It’s so incredibly easy to think about how little time we have in the day. As a guy who has seen his free time shrink to almost zero, I can attest that you’re unlikely to find more discretionary time as you get older. That shouldn’t stop you. Do something that makes you feel good. You can’t be good to the people who need you without doing something for yourself. Ask yourself today what you want to do but don’t have the time to do. Now…make the time.
Be nice. Say “please.” Say “thank you.” Say “excuse me.” It will freak people out. They will look at you like you came from another generation. Do it anyway.
Say “I’m sorry.” And say it right. No apology begins, “I’m sorry you…” Every good apology begins, “I’m sorry I…” Look for times you think you might have wronged somebody, and make sure they know you’re sorry. The other day, a friend of mine apologized to me for a minor offense that I’d forgotten about by the next day. I likely won’t remember the offense a month from now, but I will always remember he took the time to say he was sorry. Contrition isn’t weakness. It’s strength of the highest order. The real weak people are those who either fail to recognize the need to apologize, or those who refuse to do so, regardless.
I know there are people who will read this, roll their eyes, and think me naive. If there weren’t those people, there would’ve been no reason to write this in the first place. I know those people are out there, and I hope at least one of them takes something here to heart. The day I’m forced to believe hope is synonymous with naivety is that day I close the shutters on this little spot and everything else.
Both of my children are now napping in beds with the hopes of staying up until midnight. It will be a low-key night for us. It’s what we needed this year. We’ll spend it with people we love before setting off to see what 2013 has to offer. It’s my hope that I can achieve all of the above and more. My hope is that you can, too.