I LIKE TO JOKE that I view this stage of life, the 60-somethings, as a kind of second-coming-of-age. In the first coming of age (moving into and through adolescence), some faith traditions talk about an “age of accountability”. The age of accountability begins when a child matures to the point of being able to think abstractly and to understand right from wrong. The thought being that now they are at the point of becoming accountable for their own thoughts, deeds, decisions, etc.
WHAT IF, in the second-coming-of-age, we entered an age of non-accountabilty? Oh wait. Maybe we do. We can pretty much eat what we want when we want. We go to bed when we want, and get up when we want (with the exception of those mandatory times in the middle of the night.)
So, for those of us living in the age of non-accountability, can we forget about the annual New Years Resolutions charade or at least call it something else?
Exactly one week after New Years Day, on January 8th, I will turn 60-something-else, and Elvis, with whom I share this birth-day, will still no longer be with us. While I don’t claim to speak for all 60-somethings, I can say that for me, significant life change predicated on personal effort is unlikely. Not that I’ve completely quit growing as a human, spiritually and emotionally (well, maybe emotionally. I probably quit growing emotionally at age 14 or so), it’s just that there is a lot of evidence to support the case for my inability to sustain resolve-driven behavior.
Regardless of how hard I resolve; I’m probably not going to eat better, exercise more diligently, behave better, floss daily, or watch less TV. So why set myself up for another dose of annual disappointment and dashing the hopes of my loved ones and dentist by pretending I might.
HERE’S AN IDEA: A LIFE THEME
I have a dear friend who told me of a psychiatrist friend of his who doesn’t make resolutions, but he has an annual “life theme”. One year, for example, his theme was, “I’m not going to give a s#%t this year.” The next year his theme was, “I’m going to give a s#%t, I’m just not going to do anything about it.” He even looked to the next year when he planned to “Celebrate his apathy, if he ever got around to it.”
MAYBE A LIFE PLAN WOULD HELP
I used to give a little sermonette to young teens who sat and stared at me with glazed over eyes, and mouths hanging half open. I would explain that when it comes to being an adolescent the Bible leaves us in the dark a bit about answering the important question “WWJD?” (What Would Jesus Do?). Scripture pretty much skips Jesus life from 12 to 30. It would have been really cool (and helpful) to know what he did do as a teen and young adult. But, no. Luke, in his gospel gives us a hint (Luke 2:52), writing of the tween-age Jesus: “And He grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” That’s all we get.
Then I would explain this to them: taking our cues from this small verse our ambition should be to grow: A.) mentally, B.) physically, C.) spiritually and D.) socially.
Using that outline for looking back and looking forward to a new day, a new year, I can see myself:
A.) Reading more and deeper, journaling more, not watching Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.
B.) Taking advantage of our travel to walk more, hike challenging trails, eat smarter.
C.) Read again the likes of Chesterton, Lewis, Rohr, etc. Take advantage of the solitude that age affords to meditate and pray more.
D.) Quit using my introversion as an excuse, meet people as we travel, party more, be bolder.
All of these sound practical and mostly enjoyable to me—like things I should be able to do without the hard work that discipline implies. But I still can’t bear to call them resolutions knowing that to do so would mean the main motivation for doing them would be the heavy cloud of guilt that would come from breaking the resolve.
I have the answer and a decree! They shall not be called “resolutions”. This will be The Grand Experiment of 2017. As one of my very favorite authors says:
“Calling it an experiment gives you permission to fail.” —A.J. Jacobs
Anyone up for an experiment?
P.S.: If 2016 has seemed longer for “some reason” than other years, that may be because it is; longer by one second.
“On December 31, the world’s timekeepers will add in a “leap second” to keep all our clocks in sync with the Earth’s rotation. They do this because the Earth technically takes a bit longer than 24 hours to complete a full rotation (86,400.002 seconds, to be exact). So a “leap second” gets added every few years.” Read more from VOX here.
WHAT WILL YOU DO with your extra second? I might suggest using it to get a head start on your 2017 Resolutions, or your 2017 Life Theme, or your 2017 Life Plan, or your 2017 Grand Experiment. Whichever you choose—Cheers and best wishes to you and yours from Pops, his Amazing-Missus, and the Grand-Girls (and their parents).