New Year's resolutions. We all make at least one, whether we like it or not. "I'm going to exercise more" or "I'm going to finally take that trip." The first day of January has a certain crispness about it, a freshness that is different from the rest. It's the time to say such things, to plan something new.
It reminds me a bit of Catholic reconciliation. Confess your sins to the priest and a load lifts off your shoulders. Start anew. But in either case, the planning and release is great and all, but means nothing if you aren't willing to change and put effort into it. You can plan and plan and plan to lose 5 pounds, but I doubt it will come off if you don't get off that couch and put down that bag of chips. You can confess your sins to whomever you choose, but if you don't stop doing whatever is so bad, you aren't going to be any better of a person (or more worthy in God's eyes). So that first day, that first confession is just that. The beginning.
Recently, a former writer for "Saturday Night Live" tragically died. In his last blog post, Joe Bodolai asks in the title, "If This Was Your Last Day Alive What Would You Do?" In the post, he listed personal items under "Things I Think Will Happen Next Year," "Stuff I Would Like to Have Seen in My Life," "Things I Regret" and "Things I am Proud Of." While the man definitely had made some mistakes in his life, he had a long list of accomplishments. It's heartbreakingly sad to see such a person's life laid out in such a way. But reality was right there on the computer screen. And like the ton of bricks it was, it hit me pretty hard. This life isn't going to go on forever - and I won't know how much time is allotted for me on this earth. Andy from "The Shawshank Redemption" said it best: Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Death, an uncomfortable topic. But it's real and when it happens to someone close to us, it takes our breath away. You ask all the questions in your head, without ever saying them out loud. Was that person happy at this point in their life? Was there something they wish they had done, or something they had pressing inside that they wish they had said? Would they have done something differently?
No one likes talking about that stuff. Because that stuff is politely supposed to be shoved back in some dark corner, never to be brought up again.
But what if we lived our lives a bit more like that? Asking those questions of ourselves, no matter how difficult it may be. What do I regret? What are some of things I have enjoyed most? And what do I want to accomplish in the future? Not to dwell on the past or to covet something that will never happen. But to find out what is really there inside, your deepest desires and fears.
So what if this was your last day on earth? Or if 2012 was your last year to live? What if we start our resolutions like that?
We can list, plan and wish upon a star for various things on Jan. 1. Or we could start putting some plans into action. We will always have regrets in this lifetime, that is assured. But regretting never trying is something that no one wants to live with.
This year, act on those goals or ideas. Don't just say, but do; it's almost guaranteed that there will be mistakes, defeats and disappointments. But there will also be a chance for something good. For change.
Every man dies. Not every man really lives. - William Wallace
Carrie Olson is a staff writer at the Daily Freeman-Journal.