This Christmas, I asked my kids to just show up and we'd call it good. That's all I wanted from them in terms of gifts: To just sit around together, reminisce, dream and be reminded how out of touch I am with today's youth-driven culture. (I'm a cool dad; this wasn't supposed to ever happen.)
They weren't having that, though — wrapped gifts must be under the tree with my name on them, they declared, even though they've finally admitted that, yes, I apparently have no need or desire for material things I can't drive, float in or spend. I have collected enough socks to outfit the California National Guard.
Forced to provide gift-hints, however, I eventually confessed that I would not be unhappy unwrapping food and drink.
Well, the kids came through, almost obscenely so. I'm stocked for the next six months, and that's just in the cheese department.
Which brings me to Dec. 26, which is basically the first day of the new year. The calendar has no remaining, concrete obligations for most of us other than finalizing plans to celebrate (or hunker down for) the evening of Dec. 31. Then it's 2019. So, by the day after Christmas, 2018 has essentially come to an end.
And for me, like many, the dawning of the new year renews that familiar determination associated with new beginnings. A better self than the one who pigged out at Bill Lee's last week and couldn't tie his shoes the next day. A better self with abdominal muscles: They're still somewhere in there, it's rumored.
A six-month supply of cheese, appreciated though it might be, is not going to help in that regard.
Yes, even though I keep reading it's a silly pursuit, even though nutritionists, psychologists and assorted other "ists" remind us every December that New Year's resolutions are promises usually broken within days, if not hours, I always allow them to occupy my imagination around this time.
So, here, I'll say it: I need to lose 15 pounds. My pants don't fit like they did 12 months ago and I refuse to buy fat pants. Maybe I need to use that gym membership I've been paying for.
But that aspiration for 2019 is just typical, end-of-year stuff. It's an aspiration that's only about my physical being. A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind and spirit, no question, but I need to be making resolutions that are entirely inner cranial, too.
Resolutions like this:
I will differentiate between values and objectives. Objectives are good, essential even, but they can and should change continuously. Either we check off that particular box and move on down the list, or the goal morphs into something more relevant or better defined.
Values don't change. Our focus might ebb, but values can't be abandoned. If we are honest about it, we'll need to periodically remind ourselves of those values, but they're constants.
Contribute. Leave it better than you found it. Don't lie. Don't be vain. Listen. Appreciate. Strive.
Those are some of mine.
Striving is an important one, because it crosses over into the realm of objective. And, sure, I've got objectives that are a little more complicated than reaching a particular belt notch.
Number one: Write that screenplay. This is the golden age of television, what with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO and Showtime cranking out more content than any one person can, or should, ever hope to consume. Is there room on that train for me? Probably not, but I'll regret not having tried.
Two: Write that next book. It's been fun playing things out in my mind all these years, but I keep flipping through the calendar and nothing gets done. If living without regret is the ultimate goal, procrastination is the ultimate goal killer.
Thank you for coming this far with me as I talk to myself. Do you need to talk to yourself, too? Go ahead; don't mind me.
That's good for the time being, I think. Now: Brie or Gruyere?