Once again, the New Year puts me in a reflective and optimistic mood.
As in the past, I’m taking to More to Come… to reflect on the year just past, account for my resolutions, and look ahead to 2016.
2015 was the year that both our children graduated from college, my father turned 90-years-old, and Candice and I had blessings too numerous to count.
While our family has been blessed on many fronts, the same isn’t true for so many of our fellow citizens of the world. The news we hear on a daily basis seems overwhelming in the nature and scope of the issues we face as a planet. As an example, my recent reading (the subject of an upcoming post) has focused on our country’s seeming inability to come to grips with our terrible history of racial divide and hatred. But I could just as easily be reading on income inequality, climate change, fake news, our increasingly broken political system, increases in poverty, or other similar challenges we face in this country and across the world.
Of course, if I really wanted to go negative, I could always take the Dave Barry approach. And I haven’t even mentioned the elephant in the Republican primary…
On the other hand, there is much to be thankful for this year. More Americans have health insurance – as of this writing nearly 90 percent – which is about as close to universal coverage as we have seen in a long while. And thanks to a supreme court ruling in June – where “Ideology came face to face with reality, and reality prevailed” – they can keep that coverage. We have had years of slow but solid job growth after facing down the Great Recession. As I wrote at the end of June, now both my children can marry the person they want, no matter where they live in America, thanks to the supreme court ruling on marriage equality. And it seems – although it occurs in fits and starts – that we are beginning to have the conversation on race that we should have been having for the past four centuries.
But I try to focus on more personal and family items in this year-end review, so I’ll step aside from all those major issues and look in the mirror. In my 2013 year-end post, I outlined seven rules for the next third of my life. For two years now I’ve looked at them on my computer wallpaper as I’ve logged on in the morning. Colleagues have seen them and made comments. The family has been supportive. So…how did I do this year? Let’s reflect:
1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life. 2015 has seen improvement on this front. Since early October I’ve exercised essentially every day of the week. Just as importantly, I’ve been getting more sleep on a regular basis. I still have a way to go, but I’m feeling as if I have begun to settle into the pattern I hoped for when I set this rule. Year-end report: Last year I was 10 pounds heavier at year-end than at the beginning of the year. As 2015 ends, I weigh ten pounds less than my heaviest weight of the year. Progress!
2. Listen more than you talk. In feedback from the person who would know best, I’ve regressed some in this area. It is always a challenge when I find myself in a place of some authority (either at work or home) not to grab the bully pulpit. Year-end report: Check myself regularly to ensure that I’m truly listening before trying to put forward my perspective.
3. Spend less than you make. Well, I didn’t buy any new guitars this year! Seriously, this is an area where I do okay, but I feel the need – as my retirement years loom on the horizon – to adjust some of my expectations in order to live with much less regular income in the not-too-distant future. Year-end report: Okay, but I can improve…and would probably benefit from a longer-term plan.
4. Quit eating crap! Eat less of everything else. Thanks to the support of Candice, Andrew, and Claire, I continue to make progress here. I still eat the occasional serving of french fries at lunch, but I generally make the wise choice. I just had my year-end physical, and while I need to work to ensure that I maintain a normal blood sugar level, I had a pretty-good check-up, all things considered. Year-end report: Doing well, but should focus on learning more about the details of a healthy diet.
5. Play music. As seems to be the case recently, this rule comes and goes. When we were in Staunton over Thanksgiving with our friends the Pearsons, Oakley brought together some friends and local musicians for a night of excellent music-making. The next morning my fingers hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt. I’ve now played a great deal over the holidays. When this happens, the world just seems a better place. Year-end report: I just need to remember that I can never play too much music.
6. Connect and commit. We made real progress in gathering people together this year on a regular basis – be it in our Foyers group at St. Albans, brunch with friends, or meals around our dining room table to get to know couples in a deeper way. Just as with rule #3, this is important to think about in the years to come. Year-end report: Keep up the good work…and do more good work.
7. Don’t be a Grumpy Old Man. Enjoy life! I think I had some issues here in 2015. Turning 60 had a more profound effect on me that I liked to admit. Things started aching that had never ached before (and not just from the ambulance encounter). Like every baby boomer, I think I’m about 7-10 years younger than my actual age. My issues with rule #2 seem to come into play here. When I hear comments about 1975, my first reaction is always “Well, that’s not so far in the past,” before I quickly do the math and realize that it was 40 years ago. I have a pretty wonderful life, all things considered, and I want to enjoy it. Year-end report: Slipped on this one, but ready to shake it off.
2016 holds a great deal of promise, as I’ll have my first sabbatical in a 38-year career. Candice and I are looking forward to six weeks away (with two more later in the year) without a focus on the day-to-day of work and home. Andrew is now singing professionally every weekend, and is thinking through his next steps in terms of work and education. Claire feels that her year of service through the Episcopal Service Corps was a great choice to help her determine her next steps.
I’ll end this with the same paragraph I used last year:
…feel free to call me when I come up short. Also, feel free to take one or more of these goals for your own and modify them as you wish. I’ll keep you posted…but let’s hope you start seeing more pictures of a smiling, slimmer DJB playing more music! Better yet, let’s hope you are with me, enjoying the food, music, wine, and company.
Happy New Year!
More to come…