Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Just another auld lang syne

Happy New Year!

As I looked back on New Year's past- how can you not when the next one is looming- I kid you not: I really only learned one thing that actually helped me at subsequent New Year's celebrations. The millisecond the midnight countdown hits one? Be sure you're standing up. Seriously. Stand up! If you are sitting, people are still going to want to hug and kiss you- it being the start of the new year and all- and if you are sitting, it means they have to lean over you to do so and they will spill their drink on you. This will happen as many times as it takes for you to spot the trend, which is often determined by how much you've had to drink.

Feel free to use this tip, though I'm guessing it's way too late to be of use this year.

Look, as holidays go, New Year's, can be okay. I think it's good that we convince ourselves that the New Year is like a giant do over. I mean that. No sarcasm. We get a fresh 365 days and the opportunities are endless. How can you not like an idea like that? I think it's especially helpful when, for whatever reason, we cannot find optimism in our own hearts. Some times it's just too tough. So why not borrow some? There's plenty floating around.

And, by the way, don't you think the optimism starts right at the stroke of midnight when party goers everywhere link arms and sing “Auld Lang Syne?” What does that even mean? I'm Scottish and I've always been a little vague on the Syne part myself. Auld is old, lang is long, you're on your own for Syne. I always take it to mean days past, as good a thing to sing in a new year with as any.

I think we invented New Year's resolutions as a way to keep our feeling of hope alive. After all, we get to start over. What better time to actually do some of the things we've been trying to talk ourselves into all year, or in some cases since our 2013 resolutions? Or 2012...

But when it comes right down to it, I personally put New Year's resolutions in the same basket as the Bucket List. If the subject of your resolution is important enough to make a new year's event of it, shouldn't it be important enough to take care of as you go along?

I admit to no particular science in the following theory. No poll data, no research whatsoever, just years of observing my own behavior and the behavior of others. But, that said, I would comfortably identify the three key resolutions, year after year, are: to lose weight, stop smoking and to stop/cut back on the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Of course, we all have personal demons we want to address and the resolve to deal with those would merit top priority. Generically speaking though, I think they would still top any national list.

Here's why I think putting something off until it can be made into a New Year's resolution can be worse than adding something to our Bucket Lists: it gives us the chance for “one last” which usually becomes more than one.

Allow me to speak from personal observation. I've struggled with weight issues most of my adult life. When I have succeeded in losing weight, I have decided to start on a Tuesday, or June 9th or now. If I waited until resolution time, I have invariably figured on “one last” pizza, before I started, cause soon... you know... I wouldn't be eating any. And, well, as long as I had a pizza, a couple of donuts would be good, cause soon... you know... And we have that leftover lasagna that shouldn't go waste and... you know. Well, there's nothing quite so motivationally crushing as putting on a bunch of weight when your head is full of diet. So, yeah, I guess losing weight can wait; that pizza tasted good anyway.

I can't really address stopping recreational drug use, but I do know that if I decided my resolutions would include stopping drinking alcohol, “one last” became, “I better rid the house of alcohol before New Year's Day, so I can start stopping,” cause soon... you know... No matter how much alcohol there was, drinking it reminded me of why I liked drinking in the first place. In that frame of mind, stopping seemed like a crappy idea. When I did stop, it was in the middle of winter on a weekday.

I never smoked cigarettes, but my dad and sister Moira did. They both died of lung cancer and were smoking until they lapsed into unconsciousness and death. They didn't try to stop all that often, usually only when they couldn't stand my mother's nagging anymore. I can tell you this, though, each decision to stop was preceded by smoking binges, cause soon... you know... Same with friends, especially faced with the New Year's resolution they had so hopefully committed to before the pain of stopping moved from the thought to the fact; from painless to painful.

Do I think people should stop making resolutions for the New Year? Why would I think that? If there is anything I've learned from 2013 it's that you have got to do everything you can to be positive; it's the best way to keep fear from messing with you. If a resolution helps you do that for days only, days only it is, and days matter.

So, how did Jim and Sheri spend this New Year's Eve? Well, for the first time in quite a while we were actually awake at midnight. Yeah baby! The Arnolds were awake... and watching a movie. We actually missed the whole ball dropping, Times Square, everybody dance now thing. But only by three minutes. Surely we get street cred for that? Madonna made a fabulous song out of four minutes. Anyway, we paused the movie and gave each other a big hug and kiss. Sheri looked me in the eye, and said, simply and as a matter of fact, not opinion, “This is going to be a good year.” I met her gaze, and said, as a matter of fact, not opinion, “Yeah. It is.”

We hope it is for you as well and lang mae yer lum reek.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere”