Having enjoyed a skiing vacation with my sons and sitting in a vehicle driving for about 40 hours over the holidays I have many new ideas for my column. You can't imagine where my mind takes me sometimes while I am driving.
I want to talk about the incredible time we had at a mountain resort in Canada over the holidays and chance to watch the Fernie, B.C. Ghostriders beat the Bozeman Icedogs in a hockey game. Some day I may also share my journey home, which ranks as one of the worst drives in my life as I attempted to get back to Utah after three feet of snow was dumped on the northern part of the state.
But it's the first full week of the new year and what would be a column without a message about resolutions. I know the word scares most people who have no desire to change their actions or look at their lives, but most people do care about their lives and the new year is just one more day to step back and take at look at what's going on. I try and remember that it's just one day, one of 366 ahead of us in 2004, anyone which would be a great day to take a look at our attitudes, actions, thoughts and future.
But somehow the new year is the new beginning for most folks and even though the word resolution isn't always used, it's still a chance to step back a couple steps and assess what's happening. For me it's important to continually check my motives. I once heard that setting goals at least once a year is nothing more than updating your road map. How many people would embark on an adventure around the country without a road map? Few, but thousands of people head out everyday with absolutely no idea of where they are going or how to get there if they do know. It should come as no surprise that they seldom arrive and even if they do, few would recognize it.
I started writing this over the weekend, but was inspired Sunday morning in church when Rev. Courtney Shucker presented his version of the road map to the congregation at Ascension St. Matthew's Church. He pointed out the two favorite resolutions are diet and exercise. Even though they may also be the most often broken resolutions, many of us have changed our lives by hanging in there. I have given up things like donuts and bacon and french fries and it may have taken five years of on-again, off-again exercising but its been a habit now for so long that going to the gym is as natural and part of my day as going to work or eating a meal.
But Rev. Shucker had several other "rules" for living that really inspired me. First, he said is that we should strike a balance in our lives. He didn't suggest just going to church, but said it was as important to go to a ball game or attend the movies. The more balance you create in your life, the more stable your life will become.
The second suggestion he made was that we should stick with the truth even if it makes us look or feel bad. He reminded us that Will Rogers once said "Always speak in such a way that you could not be afraid to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."
His third suggestion is excellent because it reminds us to speak carefully, guarding what we say and always speaking with love and kindness. Gossip and criticism are still the two greatest causes that tear apart families and work places.
His fourth rule is to refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without their fare share of sorrow and misfortune. In the end it is what you do with it that really counts.
And number five comes in a variety of faiths or religions. Do not underestimate the ability of your God to straighten out tough situations in your life. Like our friends in the 12-step programs, which are not religious in nature, remind us, "you gotta give the problems over to God and you gotta give God a little time."
Resolve to stay fully involved with the living world and resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress. Fall in love with lots of things like children and books, sports cars, the theatre, music, hills, the sea, or gardening .... Everything but money.
Rule seven suggests we not hesitate to rely on the wisdom of others. There is no such thing as a free lunch and President Lincoln reminded us that "people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
The eighth suggestion is not to live in the past. People who have an unwholesome preoccupation with the old things of life and the past seem to live in a depressive state. Choose to live your life in the present, keeping one eye on the horizon. It is that eye that motivates me to choose healthy and productive goals for the new year.
Rule nine reminds us that life, which means things, events, and people, will change and all too often do, particularly when we are unprepared for it. Just when we are humming along a familiar road, something seems to happen and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. I guess it's not what happens that matters, but how we handle what happens that really counts.
And finally, take time to be alone. There is something about a quiet time in every day that soothes the soul. It's a time to ask questions, express opinions to oneself and just sit alone with your life as it is today. And part of this quietness is listening for the answers. They are there, if we just prepare our hearts to listen.
It's a new year, a new day, an excellent time to change tomorrow.