Every year like most of America (and probably people in other countries too, though I'm not so "in touch" with other cultures that I feel confident arguing on their behalf), I come up with a bullshit list of "resolutions" for the next year. I think about it for a few months leading up to New Year's Day, and once 1 January hits, I try real hard for about a month. Then, slowly, I slip back into my everyday habits. About the end of February, my conscience reminds me and I come screaming back to attention like you do when you're in a boring class and start to get the nap-jerks, and you wake back up only to draw ridiculous attention to yourself as you fling your pen across the room. But by late April, only a slight nagging thought wafts through the brain when faced with a thing I had intended to change and didn't follow through with. Months go by. But by October or November, my mind starts building up a new list of "resolutions." Well, this year I think I'm going to do something different. Instead of coming up with crap like that which only serves to make me feel like a loser when I fail at them, like diets and flossing every day and the like, I am creating a list of Ideals Worth Sacrificing For. These are all things which I believe in and know I achieve to one degree or another already. Things which ideally I would or could follow because the goal and purpose of these ideals are noble, worthwhile, and things I *want* to do, if only I weren't so lazy or cheap on occasion. Some of them I follow religiously, without issue. Others are a struggle; that which builds my character, so to speak. So I'm going to first explain what it is, why it's important (if explanation is needed), rate it with a star system as to how difficult it is to uphold (5 stars is WAY THE HELL HARD and 1 star is CAN DO IT WITH BOTH ARMS TIED BEHIND MY BACK AND A SPOON HANGING FROM MY NOSE), and explain WHY it's difficult to uphold, when it is. Concepts such as these, and one's ability to self-sacrifice and self-motivate in these areas, constitute what makes up a person, in my view (and what else is this but my little views anyway?! That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. Amen.) Let me know if I missed anything YOU think is important. Because after all, that's what the "COMMENTS" section is for - YOUR little views, your retaliations, additions, subtractions, yadda yadda.
1. Fidelity. (*)
Okay, everyone knows that this is important and why, in the context of a married relationship. But explanation is worthwhile here, because people define fidelity to one's partner in MANY different ways. I define it as a) you don't have any contact with another person which is in any way construed as "not platonic". You don't kiss someone else, and you certainly don't engage in any other sexually oriented acts with someone else. No paying for lap dances, no oral sex, no nothing like that. You may hug a friend of the opposite sex in a strictly friendly way, and you can flirt as long as it's clear to the other person you're not hitting on them and you're not INTERESTED in pursuing anything. You can look at other people naked without it being "cheating" (i.e. magazines, porn, or if you're dragged (as many people are) to a strip club for a bachelor/ette party) but not excessively, and not in lieu of whatever you should be getting from your spouse. Of course there are a zillion shades of gray on that, and too much of any of that is another kind of problem not meant for this post. And, (and this might be controversial to some), you cannot have a deep best-friend-level relationship that surpasses that with your spouse with another person of the opposite sex. It's emotional cheating, and I think it's also wrong. And I have zero problem with this one. But it amazes me how MANY people DO have trouble with it. In SO many ways.
2. Recycling (***)
By recycling I'm not talking about putting out a wad of stuff in your blue bin every week. Any fool can do that. I'm talking about being extremely dedicated to it. Actually rinsing out each tin can, each juice container, each plastic Danimals container, all junk mail, EVERYTHING which could be recycled, and making sure it gets to the right bins. Getting more bins, if needed. Recycling clothing by making something new out of them, or giving them away to thrift stores or Salvation Army or DAV or whatever charity you want. But keeping their usefulness in circulation and passing them on. SERIOUSLY recycling. It's hard, it is VERY hard sometimes, to do all of that. But I do continue to try.
3. Buying Local/American (****)
In general, I FULLY support buying local or American and even moreso, buying from my local community of craftspeople and Mom/Pop shops when I can do that. It costs more, but it supports local and national economy, it lets people make their OWN living instead of the profits being absorbed into a big corporation, and you are also not furthering the abuse of children and cheap adult labor in third world countries, making them work for NOTHING in factories just to survive. We've furthered this agenda in other countries because of the fact that we are always looking for a good deal, and I'm JUST AS MUCH TO BLAME for this, every time I purchase a $3 white t-shirt from WalMart. Probably every time I purchase ANYTHING from WalMart, actually. I do make a few exceptions, however. First: buying imports (food and goods) from companies which import craft goods from around the world and generally offer a fair price to the producers for them (I think Pier 1 and World Market both do this, as well as many local mom-and-pop import goods merchants, like Zanzibar here in Austin). Second issue is Costco, because they do use a lot of local products as well as some not, and I have read a lot that Costco is very good to their employees and conscientious as well. The other exception would be cars - we tend to only purchase cars which were actually manufactured in Japan. They don't pay their people total peanuts to make cars, and their exacting quality standards make their vehicles more reliable and well-built than American counterparts. That is an area I think America still needs to work on, and I have a lot of feelings about labor unions and what-not in association with that, but that's for another post.
4. Eating organic foods (**)
This is one that I'm not 100% bleeding-heart on, in terms of thinking I SHOULD try to eat everything under the sun organic. Let's face it - some of the most wonderful things in the world just don't COME in organic. That cheese in the packet of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is probably RADIOACTIVE, but damn, it's tasty. I can buy organic Mac and Cheese, but it just doesn't taste the same. There are many other examples. But, generally speaking, organics and free-range items taste better to me (especially categories like produce and meats/fish), and make me feel better about what I'm putting into my body as well as my family's body. But I also think one can go overboard on that. There are likely whole categories where there's not much difference between organic and not. But in some areas, it's huge. If you dig too deeply into how non-organic meats come into existence, you'll get a HUMONGOUS case of the heeby jeebies, and you'll probably never eat meat again. Like chickens. OHMYGOD how horrible their little lives are before they are slaughtered. Not like they face a fate any better than an organic free-range chicken, but their lives are so much more pitiful and conditions so much more disgusting than organic animal farmers provide their animals while they're waiting for the slaughter. I try not to think about these things at all because HAVE YOU EVER HAD REALLY GOOD BARBEQUE? Like the SALT LICK? No? Well, you'd have a damn hard time being a vegetarian if you had. And I really doubt they are "organic." So I don't put vegetarianism on my list, but Lordy, I can see why people do. So this is why I call this something to work toward, rather than an absolute.
5. Avoiding television for little children (****)
While this isn't IMPOSSIBLE, some days it is SO FRIGGING HARD! I WANT so much to just have my child sit around with homemade toys and lots of books, entertaining herself or letting me teach her things, a la Little House on the Prairie. That would be awesome. And would also significantly reduce the quantity of "Mommy I need [fill in the blank plastic character toy]" at the store. And many days we watch little to no television. But some days I just don't have it in me to interact all day long or handle the incessant "Mommy play with me" requests I get, because she hasn't yet learned to entertain herself, and when she's sick or over-tired, she's not exactly pleasant to be around. I think the goal is terrific, and one I strive for repeatedly. I'm just not terribly good at it yet. As a mitigating factor, I try to limit it to educational programs and a little bit of Dora here and there. But only because my daughter SO LOVES DORA that I know she'd implode if I took her away. AND, I think Dora's little vignettes are somewhat educational. MORESO THAN FRIGGING SPONGEBOB anyway. I don't care for him.
6. Simple is Better (***)
Living a simple life, having a simple home, uncluttered and uncomplicated, preparing simple food, enjoying simple pleasures. I strive in this direction all the time. Hard to know if a person has actually achieved it since it's a total continuum. But I go through once per season and purge all of the clothing that hasn't been worn in a full year, and donate them to charity. I go through my knicknacks and kitchen things and stuff cluttering my house and pare it all down, putting out less and less each time I redo everything. Keeping things which have sentimental value over aesthetic value, if there's a choice. If I have something to say, I try and say it kindly but plainly, without a bunch of sugar coating around it (I could use major improvement here but I am trying). And I try to cook fairly simply and healthily. My mother might argue about the simple part - she's the queen of simple home cooking. I can always learn a lot from her.
7. Don't Judge Others, and Keep My Opinion to Myself (****)
I SO think this is a valuable trait to have. So many times people just want to tell their story, without someone criticizing their choices, especially if they haven't asked for advice or input. Just having someone to listen. But even moreso, I think it is admirable when people realize that there are multiple "right" answers and ways to go about living, without judging others for not doing things as they would do them. I find myself critiquing others in my head more than I think is really right or necessary, and continually remind myself that even if I wouldn't do as they are doing, it doesn't concern me, and I need not even have an opinion, much less attach myself to the outcome.
8. Travel via means other than personal vehicle where feasible (***)
This isn't horribly difficult in my neighborhood, because I live right in the middle of town, with access to restaurants, a little neighborhood grocery, Walgreens, a big gourmet market, parks, and public transport. BUT, having a child makes things more complicated in that regard, to where I often will drive instead of walking because it's a colossal undertaking with Hootie in tow, and she clammors to be held or carried a lot. But the other day our second vehicle was in the shop, my husband took my Forester, and I was carless. I walked to Central Market. I walked Hootie to school and back, and retrieved her on foot also. It was a bright, sunny, cool day and I felt very envigorated. But on the other hand, MOST of our friends live so far away one must drive to get there, so we use the car a lot. And clearly one cannot do weekly grocery shopping without a vehicle, and Costco? Well, that's just way out of the question. But this is a terrific ideal to work toward.
9. Take responsibility for your own actions (**)
This is one of the things I find SO important to do, and something I intend over the course of my child's upbringing to continue to impress upon her. We all have choices to make in our lives, and we have the freedom to make them. We ought to always own up to the choices we have made, and take whatever consequences come from them, good or bad. It's hard when you know you done MESSED UP on something, to own up to it and admit it, especially if it incurs wrath or disappointment or even worse, the loss of a relationship. But in the end it is such a sign of good character to just do it and feel like you were honest and responsible. In areas of relationship interaction, I find this is a really insidious one. People will tend to blame their upbringing on why they do things a certain way, even if they agree there's a better way to do it or not do it at all. "That was how I was raised" is the catch phrase. "I can't help it." No, a person can't help it if they have poor eyesight or hearing loss or multiple sclerosis or are short. But there are a lot of things that a person CAN help, if only they cared to pay attention and try to break the habit, and set a new pattern for themselves.
10. Healthy Exercise (**)
For so many reasons, getting a healthy dose of exercise into one's weekly routine is such a good thing. For the mind, the body, the spirit. It has such good effects all the way around, I can't see why it is so hard to always work it in. I think the key (which has been true for me) is finding something you can do that you love. For me, it used to be running. Easy to do just about anywhere, cheap, doesn't require special equipment or anything. But I got out of the habit of it when I got pregnant. However, since then, I have found yoga, and it is just as rewarding and easy for me to squeeze into my week, because I love it so.
So there are my 10 things. There are, I am sure, so many more. Fill me in.