We have left a year behind where we were battered and bruised on many fronts only to find that the first three weeks of 2021 haven’t been the panacea that people had hoped would end our global run of bad luck. There is a continued assault on our health that just won’t diminish despite the roll out of several vaccines against Covid 19 along with social isolation. And then we witnessed a deadly assault on a great bastion of democracy of the world. We need the wisdom of Solomon to discern what is true, what is spin and what is an outright lie from what we see, read and hear. And here, at home, three beloved pets of our Casa Nelda family have passed away in the last ten days. No, it’s not a very auspicious start to a new year by any means.
And yet, I do not despair. I know that in the cycle of life there is always balance; a tip of the scale one way is matched by something on the other side. A pendulum always swings back. There are many cycles of life ever spinning, spiraling, drawing intricate patterns on the notebooks of our lives. When we feel out of balance, in the times that challenge us and our values, we can use this time to strengthen our resolve or shift our course in order to restore the equilibrium. I have spent the last ten months looking deeply at who I am and what I believe. I have read over thirty books, followed a dozen course programs, and listened to countless podcasts and YouTube videos to create a better version of myself. I have taken to heart and soul Socrates admonition that, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Am I perfect? Of course not. Am I satisfied with the results? Yes, though that does not mean that I am finished with myself. I now have a list of character traits that I aspire to. I also have three core values that have helped me to find purpose in my life. I am examining many of my beliefs and philosophies, challenging some, revising a few. I’m also chucking some beliefs that I are either no longer valid or never were true to begin with. Most importantly in all of this, I have come to realize the most fundamental aspect of my life: I am responsible for me; this is my life and making the most of this life is up to me, no one else.
“Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves,
their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues.
Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.”
–Sydney J. Harris
I could look at my life and list countless things that have happened ‘to me’. I could blame my past, my parents, my geography, my sexuality, my race, my teachers, my partners, and my religion for feeling that I have not excelled in life, that I am not happy. I can find many excuses in so many categories for the mistakes I have made in life, the bad decision and the poor choices. But ultimately, I am responsible. Sometimes I said yes because I thought that is what other wanted me to do. Other times I gave permission to be used by others. I didn’t look before I leapt into unknown risks. Now, I have to acknowledge that I made those mistakes. I was the one who screwed up royally. Me! No one else. I am responsible. Sometimes I didn’t know better, because I didn’t do the needed research. Other times I was just lazy and allowed myself to be carried along by the flow of people, places and things. Often I didn’t make an actual decision and let happen what happened without realizing that not making a decision is really a decision in itself. In all cases, when things took me to places that were not to my liking, resulting in feelings I didn’t like, I had only one person to blame: the guy who stares back at me from the mirror.
So now the same guy is the guy who is working daily to improve himself, become a better version of himself. Yes. I am putting into practice what I am learning. I am moving my life forward. I am applying what I am learning in the courses. Like the gym membership card that so many buy in January won’t automatically confer the dream body, neither will all the self-help books, courses and videos make one iota of difference unless their suggestions are actually applied to one’s life. If I don’t make a change in my behaviour, it is guaranteed that my life will not change. And if things stay the same, I am the one who is responsible for the stagnation. However, if I do the work, then I can enjoy the fruits of those changes in my life.
This year may not have begun with the huge turn around that many hoped would miraculously happen. Changes don’t often come quickly. They plod along, step by step, day by day. When you change your course by one degree every day, in three months you are heading in a completely different direction. I can’t control the world, I can’t control other people. I can only exercise control over what I am responsible for: ME. And I am expecting great things of myself in the next twelve months!