Resolutions anyone?

Those who know me know I like to make resolutions, practical ones I know I am actually going to achieve, like buy a new car.

As you may recall, two years ago, in December 2019, I circulated a poll to help me resolve what should be the tenor of my upcoming year.

I thought I should be more positive. And then the Covid thing happened. I did not even think to do a poll in 2020 for 2021. (Discouraged? I guess!)

…anyway, I’ve created a new poll, below, a little less about me. Can we choose how we want to be in the world? How would you like to be in 2022?

A theme for your 2022
  • A year of being unsure whether to put others before yourself 100%, 1 vote
    1 vote 100%
    1 vote - 100% of all votes
  • A year of thinking of others 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • A year of thinking only of yourself 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • Another year of trying to sort out who exactly is an 'other' 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • A year of expunging the word 'other' from your vocabulary because it is a remnant of oppressive binary thinking 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 1
January 22, 2022 - February 14, 2022
Voting is closed

Thank you for voting. You can change your mind and your vote. Poll closes Valentine's Day 🙂

But of course all this is just a pretext to say “Best wishes to you and yours for the new year ahead!”

P.S. My positivity goals for 2020 did not really work out. I did write a little media criticism, and posted some things to Medium until I realized all that’s about is them making money from others’ unpaid labour. Anyway, I ended off the 2019 post by giving Mr. Talking Head a boost: they are still talking, to whom one wonders, but still:

Trump’s post-Covid re-birth

October 23, 2020, New York – In a surprising 180 degree turnaround US President Donald Trump has completely reversed his position on Covid-19. Better known for mocking the science, pandering to anti-maskers and blaming cities on both coasts for spikes in corona virus cases, Trump has emerged from his own “deathbed experience” of the virus apparently transformed.

In a hastily staged press conference in New York, a city he has not visited since the pandemic was declared in March, Trump stated, “Having experienced it first hand myself, I know, I know, how devastating this illness can be.”

In order to assist with the pandemic, Trump announced he has donated the crown jewel of his real estate empire, Trump International Hotel, to the City of New York, to help in the battle against the COVID-19 virus.

Known for his close yet rarely scrutinized ties to the construction industry, Trump was almost miraculously able to swing the trades into action to renovate; the top 25 floors of the hotel were converted virtually overnight into hospital facilities with state-of-the art ventilators in every suite. Minimal renovation was required to the lower floors which are being used for palliative care patients considered to be terminal.

“I felt I should do what I can,” the President said during the press conference announcing, “I want New Yorkers afflicted by this horrible thing to have the best, up to the end if it comes to that, and we hope it doesn’t, but it can, we know that.”

Accompanied by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, who had all but given up on any kind of reasonable engagement with the President after Trump referred to New York as “a shithole,” the Mayor remarked on the turn around, “There are many, many people in the 1%, in the .1%, who know they can help but are just not doing it. It is gratifying to see the President leading by example. Who knows, maybe through all this he’s growing as a person.”

“The hotel industry is taking a beating with this thing anyway,” Trump added, “We’re dying. The towers of New York are empty. Nobody’s coming. And we don’t know where this is going. After it’s over, if it’s ever over, the City can give it back. We’ll fumigate and be back in business in no time. It’s a win-win.”


Where am I going? How do I get there?

These are big questions that can be overwhelming.

Some people seem to cruise on through. Graduate from high school. Get some further schooling or training. Get a job. Get married. Have some kids. Retire.

In between, the details can be messy but if you stick to the broad strokes, things should work out and often do, as our vast suburbs prove. It might be a tad hard to tell one house, crescent or cul-de-sac from the other, but life in the ‘burbs is by most measures good. Somewhere just north of half of all Americans enjoy the prosperity of suburban life: good quality housing, access to services, jobs and education. They pay their taxes and benefit from roads, public transportation, government, policing and defence.

And if you don’t live there or still feel lost?

There is a vast literature of self-help, personal coaches or even this school to turn to, ostentatiously called The School of Life, started by philosopher Alain de Botton:

And then, if you’re really lost, there’s GPS.

When I moved up to the small community where I live on the edge of the Canadian wilderness, I thought I would be able to wander about more or less freely. I expected to find myself and my way.

Turns out to be not so simple. If you are not on a paved road, or a logging road, or a quad trail through the bush or a marked hiking trail, you (I mean me) are lost. Or you (me) might be; who wants to find out?

Today, we are in a conflicted position about the wilderness. There is no edge between civilization and wilderness. Satellites have destoyed remoteness. At least as long as you have a device. God help you if you don’t; ‘The Wild’ is indifferent to your survival and will destroy you as much as soon as give you the time of day.

There’s something to that, to this tension between known and unknown, technology and native (raw?) knowledge. Orienteering. Wayfinding.

And buried within this duality, there is something to be learned about positivity.

Global Positioning System (GPS) on Wikipedia.




Acting positively

LA based illustrator Mauro Gatti has started a positivity project for much the same reasons I’ve started this Year of Thinking Positively blog thread. He gleans good news from around the world then does an illustration and posts it to Instagram here, The Happiness Broadcast –

I like that word “broadcast”. From a time when journalism meant something.

Let’s add Gatti’s efforts to those of David Byrne whose project Reasons to be Cheerful – is similarly bringing alternate media, critical yet positive, into the mainstream.

Starting fresh

So many of my friends sent me personal messages of encouragement and advice in response to my plea for help in setting my direction for the next year, it was very touching. A few of their comments are below. It seems that “positivity” isn’t just that; it’s connected to things like ‘noticing’ and ‘gratitude’. And it isn’t just one or the other, optimism or pessimism, there’s that thing called balance.

A: “It is hard to just “think more positively” without a how do you do that which then would lead me to agreeing with “noticing more” and yet I would take it one step farther to say what do you do when you notice? So my suggestion would be in order to practice thinking more positively, notice more and follow it up with uttering “thank you” or expressing gratitude for every little thing you notice that makes you stop and think. I have found the practice of Gratitude for the everyday events and persons crossing your path are the caveat to feeling more peaceful, joyful and dare I say positive about life.‎”

B: “I like A Year of Not Thinking.‎ Have you read ‘On Having No Head’ by Douglas Harding? No advice except to do the writing at same time every day without exception.

“Or to watch negative thoughts unjudgementally and see where they come from and where they go and just relegate them to your other thoughts and feelings and sensations and not give them any special role to influence actions and speech. And remember you can change how you feel in an instant. It doesn’t take longer.

“How to be positive in Hell is another title.

“Everyone thinks their own age is the worst in history but ours really is!

“Reading from others who have dealt with the same issue would be good I think of Montaigne’s essays as an example.”

‎C: “I think pessimisism can have much more depth and wit than optimism, but then you have to live without much joy. Somewhere there is balance.”

New year’s resolutions

Last year I resolved to give up on God. It was a struggle but with perseverance, I think I got most of the way there.

I had been leaning on prayer to quell my anxiety enough to get me through the day instead of getting to the root of the anxiety, which was more about how I was spending my time and less about me. I’m spending my time differently now.

Prayer does offer solace. It is calming and goes deep. I’ll probably never give it up entirely but I am still confused about who one prays to or why.‎ A few weeks ago I wrote to my older brother, who is quite amused by my complaints about God. I said to him, “We might as well worship the sun, all powerful, all present and just as indifferent to the plight of human kind.” To which he replied, “That’s okay, I’ve got you covered. I’m praying for you.”

I hardly know what to make of that. I guess that’s what older brothers are for, back stopping.

‎Anyway, resolution-wise, I have a long list of things I would like to accomplish this year and generally in life, whatever’s left of it. But I’m still feeling I could maybe go less for the specific and practical and more for the intangible and spiritual.‎ See how that works out.


Seasons Greetings – Help!

A family member recently commented on how critical I am. The comment wasn’t meant as criticism but I was taken aback none the less. I don’t feel that I’m overly critical. But then I tried to think of the last time I had something good to say about anything without a caveat. Ohmigosh, she was right!

I began to consider (possibly for the first time) how having a grey to black view of the world might be affecting my general mood and modus operandi, i.e. feelings of doubt and general insecurity, to say nothing of often wobbly decision-making vis a vis self-care.

Then and there I resolved to be better! This is something I can fix, I thought, by, for example, just being more positive!

Then I thought: I should write about this, write positive things, for a year, that would be a good New Year’s resolution (and you know how I like resolutions).

I am pretty sure I’m prepared to write something every day for the next year, and were such writing to be organized, thematically let’s say, it might become something, ostensibly a book, I’m just not so sure about what. Criticality is tricky. You don’t want to give it up entirely and become some sort of fawning dope, but neither do you want to devolve into the Grinch or Scrooge (however innocently).

Which is where you, my family and good friends, come in. I need you to help me decide where on the spectrum between Pollyana and Wicked Witch I should aim.

I’ve created some options below. Please help me by voting for one of the potential themes for my New Year’s project:

The theme of Robert's year ahead (2020)
  • A Year of Thinking Positively 44%, 4 votes
    4 votes 44%
    4 votes - 44% of all votes
  • A Year of Thinking, Period 22%, 2 votes
    2 votes 22%
    2 votes - 22% of all votes
  • A Year of Not Thinking 11%, 1 vote
    1 vote 11%
    1 vote - 11% of all votes
  • A year of what was I thinking when I was sleeping* 11%, 1 vote
    1 vote 11%
    1 vote - 11% of all votes
  • It's a toss up between #3 and #5..... a year of noticing* 11%, 1 vote
    1 vote 11%
    1 vote - 11% of all votes
  • A Year of "What was I thinking?!" 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 9
January 1, 2020 - January 27, 2020
Voting is closed

Add your own ideas if you must.

I must say I’m feeling pretty good about this. I can actually imagine writing something on any one of these themes every day for the next 365 days.‎ After all, I’m motivated: I have all of you to account to now.

But of course all I really wanted to say to you is:

Best wishes to you and yours this Holiday Season, and for the New Year ahead (however you may choose to think about it).

P.S. Perhaps you heard David Byrne on CBC this morning (repeated from when? September? How many times? alas, poor pathetic CBC… but that’s a topic/resolution for another time). Anyway, Mr. Talking Head has started a not thematically unrelated magazine: