Friday, January 1, 2010

Best Intentions*

Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.
–Aldous Huxley

At the dawn of a new year and a new decade, I find myself in a puzzling place. On one hand: what better time to do an extreme makeover on my life? On the other hand: It's never worked before, so why would it work now?

I have spent my entire life making and breaking resolutions. There were resolutions to exercise, lose weight, write letters, take the GRE, stop using credit cards, write more, take a class, send cards and letters by post, keep my room clean, keep my car clean, organize my files once and for all, open my mail, spend less time on the internet, stop drinking, stop smoking, meditate, control my temper and emotions, build up a savings account, stop cussing, get up early, stop making excuses, stay on schedule with oil changes for the car, stop drinking coffee, stop eating meat.

And that only takes us back through about tenth grade.

Throughout the past decade, I have certainly learned much about myself and how I operate. I have actually kept some of those resolutions up there. But some of them have chased me for over ten years and I still can't seem to make them work. So, this year, as we launch into another decade, I have started to think that it might be time to break up with some of my best intentions. Let's take curbing my emotions, for example.

"She feels her feelings when she feels them. Feelings come up and she actually feels them, which is great."
–Tommy, Home for the Holidays

I am Irish and Italian and Polish. And when I feel my feelings, I actually feel them. They rip through me like a bracing wind can feel like it's ripping through your clothes. But, just as the wind eventually calms, so do I. When I have some kind of emotional outburst, as long as I don't make any important decisions, send any e-mails, make any phone calls, or touch anything fragile during that time, things are back to normal within a matter of minutes. Other than these occasional times when I have feelings and I feel them, I am a happy person. I'm not an angry person or a sad person. I'm a happy, likeable (I like to think), approachable, kindhearted person. Why would I try to change that?

My point, if I really have one, is that it's silly of me to focus on things that seem to be inherently who I am. I am one of those organized mess kind of people. I can tell you in which what pile that piece of paper I'm looking for resides. The exception to that is today, when I can't find my registration that I have to start using this month. And also, I somehow lost a pair of glasses this year. OK, so the organization thing maybe isn't a good example.

I love coffee. I love sleep. Why have I been spending the past 10 years intermittently resolving to deprive myself of the things I love? I don't lead a punishing life. I am free to do as I please within the confines of the laws of the land. Yet, I understand the pull to become better. I feel it so deeply in my bones. I understand that the life I am living now is at a fraction of where it could be.

So I devote energy to self-improvement. I suck it in here, tuck it in there, and lop that off all together. And, in doing that, the only thing I really achieve is getting to a terrible place I have come to call "stuck inside my head," and to understand what it's like in there, please reference the quote at the top of the page. It's a living hell. I torture myself with unachievable or unreasonable (or just downright ascetic) expectations and then beat myself up for falling short.

This year, this decade, is going to be different. Eric said something to me the other day, and it resonated so deeply within me that it actually shook me into action. He said, "You have so much to say and so much that's keeping you from saying it." He was talking about writing, specifically, but it applies across my entire life. I have spent so long telling myself that I can't do this or that I can't have that. Now I have turned into a person who simply can't. I can't get it out. I can't get over it. I can't.

I have always hated the word, "can't." Maybe it's because of the poster that my grade school art teacher had up in his classroom. It had a picture of Spider-Man and a quote resembling, "Never say can't… try." This quote was closely followed up in my young life by Yoda's "There is no try. Do or do not."

So, from a young age, I was applying the transitive property without knowing it.

Don't bother with can't. I think that is going to be my resolution this year.


*I'm challenging myself to write a post every day for the month of January for NaBloPoMo. January's theme is "best." Feel free to poke, prod, coax, or otherwise cajole me if you see me NOT posting in January.