This is my longest post ever, but perhaps it will atone somewhat for the many weeks I've fallen silent on this blog over the past five months, a silence that has been necessary in order for me to ponder and absorb all the profound changes and new realities that have overtaken my life since summer. I have not been ready to process all of that through pen or keyboard up until now, but I feel it coming. So, old friends and Gentle Readers all, please do try to humor me in my folly, so to speak, as I meander through all the miscellany I've attempted to tie together in one post. Hopefully it all comes around to a whole thought in the end. Maybe. Somehow or another. I leave that for you to decide. Okay, end of Preface. Proceedcake.
Maybe my affection for New Year's springs from my perpetual weariness of being a sinner. I relish the promise and relief of that moment when Old Father Time hands me a clean slate. Yes, it's largely psychological. So what? God Himself acknowledged the human need for calendar-specific renewal, hence the concept of sabbath. In ordaining the Year of Jubilee, we see His tender accommodation of the human need for the solid promise of a chance to start over -- a promise with not just a purpose but a date affixed to it. That's a pretty fair definition for New Year's resolutions.
That the rolling of time offers us natural points for starting over is a gift of a merciful God. At the end of a year, what mortal wouldn't stand to gain from a moment of reckoning the ways in which we could make this one life more worthy of the time and effort it takes to live it? If a fresh clean slate can inspire you to start over and shoot for a better life, you better grab it and hold on as long as you can, even if you only make it last through February. Even at that, you will still have lived a better life for 1/6 of the year.
And even when you make a resolution that falls short of the span of the year, you will have cast your cosmic vote that the personal pursuit of what is good and worthy is still good and worthy. There's something to be said for that.
And yet, wherever there is any attempt to set a small corner of the world back to rights, there will always be the inevitable naysayers who either yawn or bristle at the suggestion that they should take part. I count in that number those codgers who are resolute in not making resolutions. They will invariably say they never keep them, so what's the point? I say they could at least resolve to make a bona fide daily effort to face life with more courage and cheer for a whole year. Then maybe next New Year's Eve their newfound grit and optimism would inspire them to pick up pen and paper and give some clear-eyed consideration to other ways they might make optimal use of the space they take up in this thing called Life. "He that is faithful in that which is least will be made ruler over much." You just never know what might happen.
Then there are the folks who would kinda sorta like to play along, but prefer to soften the terror of failure by recasting the traditional notion of resolutions into something more tame and removed, such as planning projects or trying new customs, both of which some bloggers I read have touted as better alternatives to making big bad resolutions in the past day or two (don't ask me where, I don't remember). Fine, okay, whatever works for you, YMMV, blah blah blah, but just for a little perspective, humor me here and try to imagine that sort of jargon emanating from the mouths of Washington or Churchill or Maggie Thatcher or John Wayne or, heh, for the many of you who know him, my very own father. That's right, go ahead and snort. It IS funny. Why? Because you know in your gut that people made of their kind of stuff don't flinch at the prospect of mustering up some good old-fashioned resolve.
Even when I fall short, I still like the way resolve feels. It's fire in the belly. I like it.
So, this being my little blog where I am free to present the universe as I see it, I wish to grouse for just a moment about this little fad of replacing resolutions with the likes of projects: Ho and indeed hum. Doesn't that reduce the whole pursuit to the peskiness of just one more gnat to swat? And the lion yawns.
Having a project doesn't imply that you must steel up your will in an Improving Sort of Way. Nor does it necessarily require that you work to alter yourself; it just requires that you work on a thing. A very different idea. Not a bad idea, but let's not pretend it takes the place of personal resolve.
And as for this business of replacing resolve with new customs, well, to me that just smells a bit too symptomatic of this present plague of Facebook culture that worships at the altar of daily (hourly?) self-definition. "Mackenzie Davenport is now doing Pilates! Updated at 10:32." Woo hoo. Poke me when the new custom is so last week, 'kay?
Sorry, but none of that does it for me. I still go for the good old-fashioned steely grit that anchors the weight of the word "resolution." Self-improvement still requires will-driven internal resolve. Always has and always will, as long as human nature remains fallen. Having resolve is a matter of spirit. Resolve implies knowing the change you seek is right, not just better.
So why did I entitle this post My Resolutions for 1997? Hang on, I'm getting there. Honest.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the implications of resolve. And about my choices dating back to around 1997. And about how things might have been different for me for the rest of my life had I exercised more of this thing called resolve in my choices a decade ago. You might argue that there's no point in hypothetically rearranging the past and torturing yourself with what-ifs, and you would be right. That is not what I'm doing here. I am reconsidering the past in light of what I know now in order that I might learn from it and pursue a better future. And I am writing about it in the humble hope that you might consider me as a cautionary tale and do the same.
I have always been ridiculously healthy and strong. When I was diagnosed with cancer this past summer, my perspective on everything in my past, present and future was unalterably changed in a moment. I mentally reticulated my whole adult life upon this new framework of cancer, desperate to recall some wildly carcinogenic moment at which I could point an accusing or at least explanatory finger. Alas, nothing. And nobody on my brilliant team of doctors can tell me what likely triggered my body to turn against me; nothing in my physical history points to even one risk factor for the menace that took possession of my left breast and threatened to take my life.
But they all agree that the cancer probably started growing around ten years ago. 1997.
Fast-forward to 2007, much of which I've spent reading books and research abstracts to learn what sorts of things have been proven to significantly lower the chance of developing cancer, and/or have the capacity to effect apoptosis -- the death of a cancer cell.
And as I learn, it strikes me that many -- MANY -- of the measures research has smiled upon are commonsense things we all know we should be doing. Things that made an appearance on my list of New Year's Resolutions in 1997. And 1998. And 1999. And in 2000. And so on.
Those Januaries and Februaries that I zealously minded my once-again-new, healthy resolutions undoubtedly weighed in my favor in the long run -- every day we treat our bodies right counts. By all rights, I should be Stage IV incurable at this point, and I am instead classified NED -- no evidence of disease. My doctors have marvelled at my fantastic and unusual recovery, and I can only believe that all the times I Did The Right Thing in my life have contributed to my ability to heal.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that in every one of those ten years or so that cancer was silently growing in my flesh, I did not follow through long-term on those resolutions I made that, if I had seen them through, would have made my body a significantly more hostile environment to cancer. And now I can only wonder... what if I had?
Again, I am not beating myself with an organic whole grain wet noodle. I am learning. Please learn with me.
Who has not resolved at some point to exercise regularly? Most of us do it with an eye toward a smaller pair of jeans or a more impressive race chip, not with an eye toward lowering our risk of cancer by something like 50%. But that's what regular exercise does, even if your jeans size and your race time remain unchanged. Do I now think all my past exercise resolutions were more worthy of sticking to? Three hard surgeries and much terror later, yes. Oh my. Yes.
Exercise strikes an equally devastating blow to the risk of cancer recurrence. Do you think I am now resolved to exercise regularly for the rest of my life? Oh my. All I have to do is imagine the faces of my unborn grandchildren beaming up at me, grandchildren I have a 50% better chance of seeing if I will just get out and log 10,000 steps on my new pedometer every day. Does that make it all look worthy of true resolve now? Oh my. Yes. A billion times yes.
Hearing the words "You Have Cancer" has got to be the quickest cure imaginable for chronic lack of resolve. The day after my diagnosis was like twenty New Year's Days all crashed into one.
I immediately purged our bathroom shelves of a whole garbage bag full of products containing parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, butylene esters, etc), a preservative that has lately shown up in breast tumors in laboratories. I replaced those with organic products that have recognizable ingredients. Stuff I would not be afraid to ingest, in other words. I had been taught years ago that it's unwise to put stuff all over your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth -- the body is absorbing it either way -- but had I ever done anything about it? Nah. It was just another future project I would get around to someday. But I heard the word cancer and suddenly it was a matter of resolve. I actually grabbed a trash bag.
Without blinking, without looking back, without wavering and without regret, I made all the dietary changes overnight that I know I should have made years ago. I traded my liquid vices -- soft drinks, coffee, black tea, bottled water, sugary processed juices -- for filtered water, green tea and fresh carrot juice. I went cold turkey off sugar, the favorite fuel of cancer cells. Ditched all processed foods, white flour and fried foods, all of which compromise the body's ability to fight back. Replaced red meat with cold water fish. Organic vegetables, fruits and whole grains became my mainstays. (I now make a few planned exceptions, such as a dessert on special occasions, but my yen for sweets is greatly faded by now. And I will eat steak when Great Scot grills for company. I also allow myself one cup of coffee on Saturday morning, and find I enjoy that one cup far more than the 14+ cups per week that I used to quaff down.)
In 1997, around the time that first cancer cell silently settled in my left breast, I resolved at New Year's to do better about all these things. I made that same resolution every year following. And we did gradually make improvements in our diet each year as a result of my bringing those things into consciousness annually. Making those resolutions was never a waste of time or effort. But I know now that I saw them more as a projects than as true resolutions.
I will never know the answer to the big what-ifs. But I now know why all those resolutions were important, critical even. And I now know more about what resolve actually is. And I now know for sure what I resolve to do about it for the next ten years. Or as many years as the Lord allows me breath.
In 2008, my friends, please resolve to do what you know you ought to be doing anyway. Resolve to right some wrongs. Resolve not to look back in 2018 and wonder why you didn't resolve with a little more grit and determination in 2008.
And while you're at it, resolve to seize more joy. To love people like you don't have all the time in the world, because you don't. And that's okay, God's in charge of that, and He's always right.
And we'd love it if you'd resolve to leave more comments in 2008. :-)
God Bless You All and Happy New Year from the Beehive!