Thoughts on the first week of the NEW YEAR…

It’s been a rocky start here in the good ole USA. It’s no wonder folks are at a breaking point. We have been locked in our houses with no contact with family and friends (well, those who are not mask-vaccine-climate change deniers anyway). We have hopelessly watched as the American  justice system failed people of color. We’ve watch as our citizens declared war on the truth. And, finally, to start the year off, we watched as our country and democracy unraveled as an insurrection was mounted on our Nation’s Capital. If you didn’t have anxiety issues before, you probably do now.  So, that’s where we are…and that’s just the first week!

Now, rewind to around March 2020…

I started out last year, 2020, with the idea of posting to this blog at least every other week. Well, as you all know, we were hit with a global pandemic and I had to quickly “pivot,” as we called it in higher ed, to fully online classes, virtual events and meetings, and contactless daily tasks. It was quite the mess. And, as luck would have it, I was only a couple of months into a new position at the university; one that had been my dream-job for almost 20 years. So, here we were. Working virtually. My new office in the administration building traded for my “home office” in a bedroom so full of guitars and music equipment it was hard to find the desk. Not only was I learning a new job, I felt like I was doing it blindfolded. But, just like all of us, I did it all and did it well!

As for this blog…I had most of the website created by the time all of that happened last year but, because of Covid, I didn’t get it where I wanted until the middle of April. Since so much was happening with the pandemic and the state of our very imperfect Union, it also took me a while to find the words to write. I just couldn’t focus. It was befitting that the name of my inaugural post in May 2020 was entitled “Welcome to My Nightmare” and the second was a recipe for a very stout cocktail. I posted a vegan recipe with some basic vegan education after that but that was the extent of my foray into the blogosphere. I ended my run of blogging wisdom last year when I posted about turning 55 in June accompanied by a recipe for the birthday cake my wife baked me. I realized that this was quickly becoming a blog about eating, drinking, and the madness of confinement during a pandemic that was riddled with political strife and social injustice. Depressing, huh? Who the hell wants to read about that mayhem? It’s not at all what I intended for this blog either. But, since I am THAT person who keeps of trying until I get it right, here I am again…a new year and another chance!

So, that’s where I was, here’s where I am, and we will have to see where I am going…

2020 ends and 2021 begins; Out with the old, in with the new; and all that…

About eight years ago, we adopted the tradition of sending out the year on the Winter Solstice rather than December 31. We start off by putting on a pot of root vegetable stew early in the day, like all goddesses of the earth do (I am not sure that’s what we really are, but it sounds good for a blog post, so humor me). Since it’s the shortest day of the year, we build a fire in the pit just before sundown (Around 4pm CDT), mix some sort of winter-appropriate cocktail, and start writing down all the things that went sideways that year (yes, it usually takes a while). Once the fire is blazing and the sun has set, we throw our paper full of follies into the fire and cast all of the negative energy into the universe – to be gone forever (well, that’s the hope anyway; don’t what that crap back). That might sound a little out there, but it’s pretty awesome and it does feel pretty good to shed the baggage in a symbolic way! From the Winter Solstice to New Year’s Eve, we think about what we like to accomplish in the next year. On New Year’s Day, we compile a list of the wishes and intentions for the upcoming year; all we hope to accomplish! Then we tuck back the hand-written list in a wallet, or someplace safe, so we can bring it out on New Year’s Day the following year and see how we did. I always think I am going to be disappointed in myself (I tend to be hard on me), but it’s usually a pleasant surprise.

This year there was a lot to cast out, which I am sure it true for most folks. We lost folks we loved, we were isolated from our friends, and we were sharply divided along political lines. No matter how you slice it, it was a really hard year. As I sat down to write my “wish” or “to do” list for 2021, I was struck by the notion of trying to do and be better in 2021. Could I really take on more things to do? In addition to all the terms like “Coronavirus,” “Pandemic,” and “Unprecedented” that were Googled incessantly in 2020, phrases like “I just don’t have the band-with,” and “my plate is so full right now” have to be up there as well. I heard those two phrases almost every day from the middle of March until we left work for the holiday break in December. So, why exactly do I want to push myself to do MORE? The analogy of the full plate, just in general, insinuates that adding MORE will pile it so high that you can never finish it all. And, if you try, it might make you feel horrible or, even worse, it could make you physically ill. If we dig even deeper into the metaphor and look at what’s on the plate, what do we see? Is it balanced? Is it healthy? Is it filled with empty calories? It became clear to me that the reason the best laid plans for New Year’s resolutions fail is because there is no room on the plate to begin with – how do you add more? And why? We want to add exercise, work harder, lose weight, get a promotion, give more, be better, do better, dress better, be a better partner, spend more time with others, make more money, save more money…it’s just too much! How many of us resolve to do less, move less, think less, work less, be less? But, in truth, isn’t that what most of us really need? So, I made the decision to get out a new plate. Think about what is balanced and healthy then slowly, in a balanced fashion, add to that plate this year. Think about the things that make me less anxious and bring me peace. For starters, this blog is something I could never seem to find time for in 2020 because my plate was too full; I will try to make good on this one. As for the rest, you’ll have to come back to find out!


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