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Turning Over New Leaf

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reflections: A Positive 2013

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I wish everyone a Happy New Year. I have noticed, however, how many of my non-virtual friends are not as positive as I would like to see them. Over the last month, I have observed a general feeling of discontent everywhere I travel.

Last week, I agreed to accompany my wife and daughter on a shopping spree for the holidays. For me, shopping is not as much fun as passing a kidney stone, but they had Christmas spirit, so they dragged me along.

After entering the first store, I patiently wandered through the maze of holiday shoppers for nearly 5 minutes when I decided to head toward the pier to view the ships pulling into the harbor. I sat on a bench overlooking the inlet for almost two hours, and took the opportunity to reflect on my life and the world around me.

In the ordinary course of life, I usually just keep moving forward, but this holiday season, it appeared to me that the people around me were digging in for a year of negativity. I started to analyze why this was so, and the result of my reflections supplied me with the fuel to move forward for another great year.

This time of solitary contemplation was prompted by our failure to get anyone we know to make plans for celebrating the New Year. My wife and I are definitely not being shunned by the people we love. The problem is that everyone we wanted to celebrate with was just negative about life. I wondered why.

Before we left home that morning, I flipped on the TV, which is an activity I avoid as much as possible. In 15 minutes, I saw 4 mesothelioma commercials, 3 lawyer referral ads, 2 Super Beta Prostate offers, and an ad for Funeral Advantage insurance. The Partridge in the Pear Tree died after the second commercial. I never watched a show.

Pumped up and ready for 2013, we began calling our list of friends whose company we have enjoyed regularly for years. Carol and I made dinner reservations for New Year’s Eve and wanted to share our experience with those closest to us. Two of them had colds. Three were tired. One decided to stay home and reflect on the recent Connecticut tragedy. Several complained about the economy and gracefully declined. Several of our friends parted company due to conflicts over political ideologies surrounding the 2012 election and were afraid they would bump into their former close pals.

Another group of potentials decided to stay home to avoid the drunks on the road. That was understandable. Two couples did not want to miss the Ball dropping in Times Square at midnight. We planned to go straight home after dinner, but they didn’t want to take the chance.

Now if I were paranoid, I would think they didn’t like my wife. But I’m not. In fact, most of our friends called us on New Year’s Day and most of them invited us over to their homes. These are terrific people. Nevertheless, last month we were all at a post Halloween party and most of them spent the night discussing whether they should get “Shingles shots,” because they saw several TV commercials suggesting that if they had ever contracted Chicken Pox as a child (like almost 7 billion people on the planet), their bodies already contained the Shingles virus. Carol and I left the party early scratching, our heads that is, because we can’t figure out why almost everyone around us is just plain negative about life.

As I sat there by the harbor, I had the chance to speak with several people. Two young men had docked their 47 foot sailboat in St. Augustine and were on their way to a wedding in the Bahamas. In a ten minute conversation, they never strayed from their fears that they would run aground once they entered Bahamian waters. They even spoke of selling the craft when they returned, replacing it with a couple of fancy sports cars, but were fearful of the temptation to drive too quickly, which could result in a catastrophe.

I met a homeless woman. She appeared quite intelligent and well-spoken. She wanted to know if she could lie down on one of the harbor benches. My reply was simple enough. She did not need permission from me. However, she proceeded to tell me that all the benches in the town were uncomfortable. She never asked for anything, but complained from the minute she struck up the conversation until she left in search of a grassy spot down the road.

I thought about it a while. It really doesn’t seem to matter whether you travel the world on a $2 million dollar ship or sail into your own world on a bench in the park. If you are determined to be miserable, Nature herself can’t stop you.

Finally, I did what I have over the years conditioned myself never to do. I looked back at my own life. Did I do all the right things? That didn’t take long. No. Did I do the best I could raising my kids? Yes. Did I intentionally hurt people even if I didn’t know them? No. Were there any things I would do differently given a second chance? Absolutely.

So what did two hours of contemplation get me? I walked away very satisfied that despite all the human errors I committed during my lifetime, I am a pretty happy guy. I have a terrific wife, family, and friends. My wife and I carved a path for ourselves as we journey through life, upon which we are content with what we have, and we will continue to walk it throughout 2013, even if those closest to us remain hell-bent on misery and self-pity. We still love pitiful, miserable people, and we’re in luck because they seem to be plentiful.
 
In my view, being discontented with the world is a choice. As they used to say in New Hampshire, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise,” I plan to enjoy a fantastic upcoming year. Life is not always easy, and we were not given guarantees. Problems will arise, and awful situations will confront us. However, the happiest people are those who don’t stick their heads in the sand like ostriches. The lions out there don’t seem to care. We either deal with unpleasantness and circumstances beyond our control, or we don’t. Either way, there are a lot of holes out there filled with nothing but ostrich heads.

 


25 comments:

  1. First Christmas that no one in the family wanted to buy gifts or even have a family get-together. Everyone just stayed home. I don't walk around like Ms. Gloom and Doom but I am aware of what 2013 is dangling in front of us. People have fear when their liberty is being taken away, one amendment at a time.

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    1. Manzi: I could not agree more. You might appreciate my other blog, http://politicsforaverageamericans.blogspot.com/. I would love to have your thoughts.

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    2. What a great post! Just what I needed to read. This really reinforces my resolve to watch less TV and read more . . . and try to keep a positive attitude!

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    3. Huh? I just wrote a glowing comment and then one glance at an incoming e-mail and it was gone. Poof! God I hate that. --But in a nutshell: Happy New Year from a couple who were forced to stay home; our sneezes and coughs turned people away. I'm not for turning them away due to shingles. I for the shot. Ellis I both got them a couple of years ago (after discussing how expensive they were for a year) at the corner CVS drug store. I had a hell-of-a case of chicken pox when I was a kid, so did Ellis and we had watched my MIL's illness trigger her demise. Shingle shots is a card to play to stay in the game. This gal positively intends to play my hand as smartly as I can. That's how you win, no matter sailboat or park bench problems. Great post--even greater sense of humor JJ.

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    4. Denise: Good plan. It really is a choice.

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    5. Linda: Well, of course. It's an individual thing. What is getting to me is that medical/doctor things are not fun activities. It is getting harder to find positive people.

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  2. It sounds like the two hours was very beneficial for you. I try to stay as positive as I can, but I know several negative people I can't always avoid.

    I look forward to all the new year has to offer and I'm happy I don't watch tv. Lol

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    1. Miranda: There is no doubt you will find happiness all year!

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  3. I say, 'don't question whether u raised your kids or the decisions you made'... At the time, it was the right way and the right decision... Time changes our views on what we did/did not do. Right? I too have found that friends have drifted.. I also notice more are more concerned about themselves, don't you think so?

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    1. KBF: I do agree. As we discussed on Alex's website, "give" is a terrific word for 2013. We could use a little less selfishness.

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  4. I have been down that same road lately, wondering where are all the happy people? They seem to be in the 5 and under age group in my life, probably why I spend so much time with my grand-delights, play on the floor or in the dirt (even got a greenhouse) as often as possible, don't watch the news, still send cards and letters in the real live mail, hope for some back :) play and hangout with my dogs, and my own children- go to the movies- (a lot)always jazz-up my dinner tables- use my china and wine glasses (often) I think you get the idea. It seems too many of the adults I know- want to discuss health/drugs/they should or shouldn't or are taking/and all the other woes that never solve anything. But I keep trudging on, as you said, strike up a conversation with friend or stranger and hope for the best. We certainly are what we think, and I like thinking HAPPY!

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    1. Karen: Welcome to my world. God, I love dogs!

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  5. I think that you are right about the pervasive sense of doom. People are feeling it. I can feel it. It is a big part of the reason that I chose SHINE as my word for this year. It is something to hold onto because I do feel the darkness closing in.

    I am a big believer in the "trickle down theory" and that it starts from the top. Our top guy is a Confidence Man and people are catching on and losing confidence. When you understand that the ground isn't solid beneath your feet, and that you've been sold a false bill of goods, that is something that spreads. What I think everyone is feeling is that knowing spreading. We know we have a Confidence Man in charge and it is unsettling.

    What people must realize is that it becomes more important to settle your own core and become solid. The world has always been shaky. Your job is to shine, bloom, grow, be a beacon no matter what the weather. It doesn't matter whether you have a Confidence Man running the show or a truly Great Leader. This world has spun around with both types in charge. You can be outstanding in either event. Or you can fail miserably in either event. You just have to decide to be outstanding. And Shine.

    BTW, I think that Shingles Shot is a fantastic idea. My mom had shingles and it was miserable. But there is no point in talking about it forever; just get the shot already if it is important to you. Same goes for the Pneumonia Shot, particularly for the elderly or those who suffer with chronic problems. Just get the dang shot. Less talk, more action!

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    1. Robin: "Your job is to shine, bloom, grow, be a beacon no matter what the weather." Very profound. It is the essence of my post, and what I believe is necessary for long-term happiness. As for Shingles, the shot might be necessary, but discussing it makes for a crappy holiday party.

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  6. Excellent post! And a brilliant observation about the similarity between the young men with the yacht and the homeless woman -- both miserable.

    My husband and I sometimes feel as if we don't have many friends or much of a social life -- because attempts to make plans with people often come to naught, just as you described here. Now I feel a little better.

    Luckily, we did end up making last minute plans with old friend for New Years, even if those plans did involve eating snacks at home with a couple martinis while watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. We may be nerds, but we were content and we had a nice time.

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    1. Dianne: I know the feeling. One of the reasons I blog so much is that I get to exchange ideas with positive people. Thanks for your kind words.

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  7. I think all these folks need to try the Complaint Free Challenge, started by a church which, as a congregation, decided to stop complaining. The idea is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining. Anecdotal tales from the church suggest that it takes an average of six to eight months to successfully go 21 consecutive days without a complaint. I admit in the months I tried it, I never achieved the full 21 days, but I did become very aware of complaining, my own and others'. I was able to go days without complaining, and when I slipped, I caught it right away and started counting again! It's a great program, and they have a website called A Complaint Free World.

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    1. What a great idea! I must look up that website.

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  8. PS--Or, they just need to read your blog!

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    1. Galen: Thank you. Or they can read your book!

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  9. I like your optimistic look on things and I agree with you. We either deal with unpleasantries or we don't! I can relate to that. Today I came face to face with a very big "unpleasant" situation and somehow I was able to deal with it with surprising calm, which isn't always the case. I think the unpleasantries will always be there, but it's our choice what we do with them ^_^! Lovely to find your blog. I'm also an author and writing 365 Inspirations on my blog over at http://www.lessonsfromthemonkimarried.blogspot.com! Happy to follow you here!

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  10. Katherine: Thank you so much. I will definitely check out your blog. We need more optimism in the world.

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  11. Katherine: Thank you so much. I will definitely check out your blog. We need more optimism in the world.

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  12. Hi JJ .. interesting post - I think I'm just lucky that I am by nature positive and have always and will always bounce right back up - having experienced some rather extremes of life ... granted not being on a park bench ... in recent years I've just got on with it ... life doesn't hang around for us and enjoying what we can is essential. Look on the bright side - an essential ...

    Have a happy 2013 - I'm sure you will do .. cheers Hilary

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  13. We spent time bringing in the New Year at a bowling alley in Palm Springs as we had my nephew along so couldn't go to a bar or club. It was fun and we had enjoyed a lovely meal earlier in the day. We followed our time at the bowling alley with some rousing rounds of poker back at our condo. I was determined not to give in to the feelings I have had that this is the first new year that I don't feel very optimistic about. I'm glad we did what we could to have fun and try to ignore the negativity in the world today.
    It's just hard and yet there is no excuse for being a downer. It doesn't help and it's a waste of time for whatever this world has to offer us. I'm uncertain about the future and still I refuse to give in to being negative. It is one thing to face reality and totally another to just be negative all the time.
    I do like the way that you related your observations to all different walks of life. We can certainly be about as happy as we choose to, no matter what our lot in life.

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