Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolution

When I was 23 and living in Boulder, Colorado, I decided one autumn afternoon that I would drive back east to my college Homecoming/Reunion.  I spent a few hours swapping shifts at work and withdrawing almost all of the four hundred or so dollars I had in my savings account at the time, and by 9 o’clock that night I had reached Denver and turned east on Route 70 headed all the way to Washington, D.C.  It was not a thing I’d necessarily recommend to 23 year olds right now.  I guess I’ve gotten a little old…probably I’d utter things like, “Why would you do that in this economy?” or “Do you really think your 20 year old Volkswagen can make it there and back?”  (For the record, it did make it there…just not the back part, and I returned two weeks later via Greyhound.)

But I bring it up because one of the most special moments in my life occurred on that trip.  For two and a half days I drove for a few hours until the engine began to get too hot, then I’d pull over and read for a while, or sleep for a while - sometimes in an open field, sometimes in the car itself.  By the afternoon of the third day, I had reached the short rolling hills of eastern Kentucky, with the sun maybe an hour from setting almost directly behind me.  It was late October, but it was still warm enough to roll the windows down and breathe in the reflective glory as the sun’s light bounced off the autumn foliage all around.  I’d headed off to a smaller country highway and the traffic was so light that it lent an air of exclusivity to me and my fellow travelers, as if only we would be privileged enough to see all of this.  And to top it all off, I had John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to act as the soundtrack for a little more than an hour as the sun set and the gloaming gave way to darkness.  It was the last in a series of maybe three or four transcendent moments around that time in my life which would later act as a sort of spiritual, geometrical theorem providing me with all the proof I needed that God did indeed exist.  And I never was, before or since, as grateful to be alive.

Obviously I have never forgotten that moment.  But I think in the two decades that have followed, I have held on to it in mostly the wrong way.  I have searched for a repeat performance, wanting to be lifted up to such spiritually transforming heights, once again.  And I have been disappointed time after time in that pursuit.  Even getting my first novel published has not done the trick, instead yielding concerns of whether it will sell enough to allow the publishing of my second, and such.  It is reflective of how I have come to think, and, if I may stretch it beyond myself, how we as a society have come to think.

We are all imperfect people, broken in some way or another.  And we live in an imperfect world that is broken in many ways.  One need only turn on the television or thumb through a magazine to be reminded of our imperfections.  Pharmaceutical companies tell us to ask our doctors if we should be on their medications, there are ads to grow hair, remove unwanted hair, whiten our teeth, lose weight, look younger, get rid of acne, and on and on and on. 

Now, I’m not calling for an end to capitalism as we know it, just pointing out that it’s a greater challenge today, in this age of hyper-convenience, to actually feel good about ourselves, our friends and families, and the world around us.  What used to be a New Year’s tradition of making a resolution, has now grown into a year-round industry.  And we, as a result, are never given a minute just to be content, and truly grateful to be alive.
So in comes 2012, and time for resolutions to be made.  In thinking about it these last few days, I formulated the usual sorts of things.  But just yesterday my thoughts took me back to that drive from Colorado to D.C.  I thought about that magical hour through eastern Kentucky, and my resolution, my real resolution was formed.  I concede that I will never look, nor think, like that 23 year old again.  And I’m OK with that.  One time around is enough, if there is true growth involved, and gratitude.  I know I have grown as a person since then and will continue to do so.  Now, this first day of 2012, I resolve to be not as focused on the brokenness, the incompleteness.  Instead, I will try every day, to be truly grateful, for what I have, for the moments of clarity and confusion, for the perfect and imperfect alike.  And most of all, for the chance to enjoy the ride.