Sunday, January 1, 2017

Paying Better Attention

Everywhere I look around me I see people positively thrilled that 2016 is now behind us. Everyone was so eager for it to be over. Whatever. I didn't think it was that bad, actually. I spent an entire month in Maine on a lake in a beautiful house. How bad could it have been? I made it through the year without any life threatening illnesses or debilitating financial loss. No dear friend or family member passed away. The Cubs finally won a World Series. Not bad as years go, I'd say.

Of course, there was an election. But, the day that an election result ruins my entire year is the day that I need to find some decent hobbies. As Shakespeare once said, "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies." or something like that. Substitute politics for philosophies in that line and you will be introduced to a much more rich and meaningful exsistence, I think. Speaking of which, what follows are a list of objectives for the coming year. Notice that I do not use that horrible word, resolutions, it being so larded over with the baggage of failure. No, objectives sounds much more confident and possible.

1. So far, there are two vacation trips on the calendar. There's the biannual Dunnevant/Roop/Schwartz family beach trip to the Outer Banks, and a three week trip to Quantabacook Lake in Maine. To this I want to add a third trip, something unusual and adventurous. Maybe one of those adventure vacations I keep hearing about. White water rafting, or mountain climbing, or swimming with dolphins maybe. Of course, I could opt for real adventure and stay in an airbnb in south side Chicago.

2. This year will be the year that Pam and I get plugged in at Hope church. We've been attending for several months, but at some point you've got to do something besides window shop. We need to get involved, plugged in. Thus will end a thirty year run at Grove Avenue Baptist. We will part as friends, owing each other nothing.

3. This will be the year that I will go on my first ever diet. 2016 added ten pounds to the scales that I cannot seem to shed with exercise alone. I guess my metabolism has finally changed and I can no longer eat six rolls at dinner without suffering the consequences.

4. I will attempt to break a bad habit I have recently fallen into of reading nothing but news and information journals. I used to have a voracious appetite for literature, novels, history etc. but have largely given it up for functional reading, the least rewarding kind. This year will mark a return to pleasure reading. My mental and intellectual health demands it.

5. A conspiracy of events over the past three years has seen me largely give up competitive golf. Two shoulder surgeries will do that. I have missed it. Golf is more than just a five hour walk, it's a five hour walk...with friends. Maybe it's time to retire my old clubs, which are older than my children, and a constant source of embarrassment to my buddies. Maybe I'll take a lesson to help me transition back into the game. I used to carry about a 14-15 handicap. Who knows what it would be now?

6. Above all else, I intend to pay better attention in 2017. It's so easy to drift through life on it's repetitive currents, so easy to miss the beauty that exists in the details. I need to pay better attention to my friends, all the better to notice when they need help. Paying better attention to my wife and kids would allow me the benefit of being able to detect problems before they grow too large and unmanageable, but also help me to appreciate their little triumphs, their ordinary goodness that is so easy to overlook. But, paying better attention to total strangers would be nice too. Are there people headed my way who will need me in 2017, people who I will encounter serendipitously along the way, who will blow right past me if I'm not careful? Maybe it's God's plan for me to meet them and be a blessing. I would hate to foil his plans by my selfish indifference.

Ok, that's about it. Not a grand list, but utterly achievable. I better get to it!