The New Year is a time for renewal and promise, of resolutions for improvement and expectations of how these next 12 months will be better than the last. The overriding theme is optimism, which frankly does not suit me well.
I’m not, by nature, a very optimistic person. I hope for favorable outcomes, but can’t say that I always expect them. Things go wrong. Stuff breaks. People get hurt. Hey, sometimes you’re just disappointed, even heartbroken, and I find at those times the best philosophy is “how you feel is how you feel.”
I remember once, during a difficult time in my life, asking a wise person how long I could expect to feel bad. Her response: “Until you feel better.” That made sense to me, and I adopted the logic of Robert Frost who said, “The best way out is through.”
That leads me to my next core belief about life: Show up, which Woody Allen supposedly said was 80 percent of life. I think about growing up on a dairy farm where the cows had to be milked twice a day, every day. My father went one seven year stretch without missing a milking.
I don’t recall him ever specifically talking to me about the importance of reliability, but it was indelibly imprinted on me.
Once when my son was in college he called at the end of a semester to report a marginal GPA. “Did you go to all your classes?” I asked him. After a pause he replied sheepishly, “Most of them.” He got the message, and today possesses a commendable work ethic.
Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate optimists. Ronald Reagan used to love to tell the story about the boy who, upon seeing a pile of horse manure, let out an excited squeal and started digging, saying “With all this manure there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
That wouldn’t have been me. However, I would have been willing to pitch in and clean up the mess and when finished, felt pretty good about the accomplishment.
No, none of this sounds like an inspiring New Year’s message, yet I am in good spirits as we begin 2017 because the practiced caution and dogged routine of previous years have served me well so far. They have provided a strong sense of stability and well-being that help me deal with the disappointments, but also embrace and enjoy the blessings.
That’s my plan for 2017. Show up, work hard and see what happens. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I am hopeful.