Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Yinch Who Stole New Years

The words Scrooge, Grinch and Bah Humbug are commonly used to describe people who are not in the Christmas spirit. Is there one to describe someone who loathes New Years? A yinch (Grinch + year)? Whatever the word may be, I became it this year. I was despondent about the year 2010 and all of the sadness and grief my family experienced in its wake. When I reflected on the year, the circumstances surrounding my husband's unemployment, a commuter marriage, and my grandfather's death outweighed all of the accomplishments. I realized that the temporal nature of New Year's was majorly affecting my attitude. I was measuring my life by the subjective failure of a year, instead of seeing my life with varying degrees of triumph and failure, birth and death, struggle and tranquility. So, I decided to think about "Life Resolutions" instead of "New Year's Resolutions".

Thinking about life resolutions naturally leads me to think of how I want to grow in life and what I want my children to witness each day. Hence, I look to one of the greatest teachers and parents in my life; my pop. Here is some of what he would want me to tell you:

  1. Reach out – Pop formed communities. He was a long time member of Quaker City String Band in Philadelphia and his friends from the club were very much his family. Pop was also the neighborhood enthusiast and he could tell you about all of the kids on the block and what they were doing in school. He even formed a community of friends at the diner, The Dynasty, where he and mommom would eat breakfast. He loved everyone and everyone loved him back. He reached out and formed friendships and relationships that sustained him in very rough times. The four principles of resilience are overcoming, steering through, bouncing back and reaching out. People who reach out know themselves well and find meaning and purpose in their lives. Reaching out is risky, especially after overcoming and bouncing back after hard times, but it strengthens you. Pop was a pillar of strength.
  2. Believe in something greater than you - I don't think I've ever seen someone pray as hard as Pop did. He was a man of extreme faith and spirituality. His time in Alcoholics Anonymous helped solidify his faith and reaffirm the belief that "the universe is not just about me".
  3. Give – Whether it was St. Jude's, The Poor Claire's or a neighborhood kid, Pop loved giving to people. He not only gave monetarily; the greatest gifts were his time, attention and love. He was an extremely generous man. If anyone experienced a helper's high, it was Pop when he saw the expression of joy on your face when opening a gift.
  4. Pursue a Passion. There were many things Pop loved. He was a skilled mechanic and enjoyed working on cars. He also loved his boat Gemini and fishing while at the shore. I remember sitting with him and crabbing for hours on end. He loved wood working. My sisters and I each have a set of handmade wooden trains that we place under our trees each Christmas. Earlier in his life one of his passions was dancing. His nickname was Crazy Legs and he won many competitions on the dance floor. No matter the hobby, Pop was always engaged in something that he found passionate and enjoyable.
  5. Get outside and sit in the sun – If it was sunny outside and not too cold, you would find Pop sitting outside in the sun. He loved sitting on the stoop, which he insisted on doing even when he was bound to a wheelchair. I think the sun made him feel alive.

The commercialization of New Years prompts us to think about the year behind and the year ahead, instead of realizing that life is a summation of minutes, days, weeks, years and decades. It is not just the culmination of the 52 weeks we experience every December 31st. I am hoping for a much better 2011, but I realize that I don't need to know how the year will end, because I know how it is starting; with reaching out, giving, praying, playing, and sunning. Pop helped me be a little less yinchy this year, and I hope you find resolutions that will become part of your life too, not just your 2011.