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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

**The Healthy Pragmatism of Resolutionary Procrastination

The Treadmill: The Rubber-Belted Purgatory

*Chicago Tribune, December 29. 2011
as "Don't dwell on defeats"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
December 30, 2010
as "Don't Dwell On Defeats"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

If we had no winter,
Spring would not be so pleasant.
If we did not sometimes taste of adversity,
Prosperity would not be so welcome.
--Anne Bradstreet

The arrival of the New Year has become a time of reflection and hope for many. It is a moment when people make the effort to put the past behind and dwell on the unspoiled hope of the future.

The turning of the calendar has always been seen as a time of renewal and rebirth; a convenient chronological waypoint where we can rid ourselves of the accumulated baggage of old attitudes and bad habits.

The practice of crafting New Year’s Resolutions is a common, if somewhat cynical event framing the all-too-human practice of dwelling on the negative; namely, our mistakes and errors in judgment. Most resolutions revolve around attempt to fix perceived flaws through such activities as weight loss, or exercise programs. Also, making the effort to reduce or eliminate vices such as smoking, drinking, gambling, and other unhealthy habits.

The unfortunate reality is for us to make these solemn January promises to ourselves, only to see those oaths run out of steam during the February blizzards.

Gym Rats are familiar with the January surge of “Resolutionists” who show up with new memberships, anxious to begin the work of sculpting the “new them.” The club denizens are also familiar with the inevitable ebb of that crowd around mid-February. I’ve gone that route before, unsuccessfully, a casualty of my attitude.

I don’t think there’s anything more boringly soul-crushing than those endless hours on a treadmill. I’m a practical person. If I’m going to walk three miles, I want to see the world go by. Plus, walking outside means I don’t have to wait for someone else to get off the country road before I can start.

Studies indicate that about 50% of us make resolutions, but only 12% succeed. I think part of that has to do with the time of year.

Winter lies too long in country towns;
It hangs on until it is stale and shabby,
Old and sullen.
--Willa Cather

January, February, and at least part of March (months I call “the Long, Dark Tunnel”) are when I am the least motivated to much more than catch up on reading, writing, and contemplation. I do get exercise; you can’t live in an area that gets over 8 feet of snow every year and avoid it. The old instincts for hibernation, buried deep in my DNA, take over, demanding early to bed, fighting early to rise, and attempting to seduce me with afternoon naps.

Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath
for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I learned a long time ago that, for me, the best time to make resolutions is in the spring. For me, the return of pleasant weather, green grass, and warm sunshine imparts a surge of energy accompanied by the strong desire to flee the now-claustrophobic house.

"Spring won't let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again. "
-- Gustav Mahler

Spring is the time when I’m forced into activity. The grass must be fertilized and mowed. The extensive garden we have requires soil preparation and the planting of annuals. The windows must be washed and flung open to lure the fresh breezes inside, the house must be cleaned and repaired, the boiler put to sleep for the year, and the accumulated layer of winter gunk washed out of the garage.

Then there are the more pleasant aspects, such as getting the motorcycle out of storage and getting it ready for another glorious riding season. We get out the baseball gloves, and carefully loosen up our stiff arms with a soul-satisfying game of catch.

It is a time when many people feel they are coming back to life, and therefore, the logical time to start building the new you. It’s harder to lose momentum in the light of the warm sun, especially where exercise is concerned.

If you feel defeated in February for not carrying out a New Year’s Resolution, don’t beat yourself up. Mentally and spiritually, it’s tough to do anything productive in the middle of winter. Hold off on your personal makeover until the glorious life-giving days of spring. Your success will be far easier to attain.

It is far better to savor victories, than dwell over defeats.
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