As 2017 limps to a close and 2018 looms, many of us have New Year’s resolutions dancing in our heads. Some of them are things to do—this year I will eat more blueberries, kale, and salmon, exercise 5 days a week, keep my desk tidy—and others are things not to do—this year I will not eat so much refined sugar, I won’t press the snooze alarm, and I won’t engage in arguments over trivial matters at work.
Self-improvement resolutions aren’t a bad idea for some people, and they may inspire positive change. Of course, most of us forget our New Year’s resolutions within a few days.
I have been thinking about another type of resolution, however. Not a resolution to do or not do a particular thing, but instead resolutions as statements of (my) truth.
I was a member of the UVM debate team, back in the day (Class of ’91). The debates centered on resolutions, or controversial claims that a reasonable person could consider to have both advantages and disadvantages or strengths and weaknesses. Teams took turns supporting (affirmative) and rejecting (negative) the resolution. For example: “The US Supreme Court, on balance, has granted excessive power to law enforcement agencies.” This is arguably true in some cases and clearly not in others, creating the potential for good debates.
I loved debate—and I married one of my teammates—so it’s no surprise that I have, shall we say, strong resolutions about a lot of social and political issues, and that I am typically quite happy to debate. Admittedly, my ability to engage in productive debate has never been as sorely tested as it has during the 2016 presidential election and its fallout. “Alternative facts” and fun-house-mirror versions of reality offered up as truth by elected officials and Fox “News” exhaust and frighten me.
As I move into 2018, I want to embrace some core resolutions, things I know to be true. Inspired by writer Anne Lamott’s TED Talk, here are some things that I resolve to be true.
Bad things—like cancer, earthquakes, and traffic accidents—happen, often for no reason. Blaming ourselves or a scapegoat feels safer than living with the horrifying truth that we cannot protect ourselves from randomness or chance, but it is not.
Forgive whenever you can possibly bring yourself to do so—not because you owe it to the person or because it will get you into heaven or because your family wants you to, but because the refusal to forgive eats away at our hearts, marinating us in bitterness and pain. (Note: forgiveness does NOT include allowing someone to continue to mistreat you.)
Fur babies are awesome. Yes, they take some care, and some of your friends are allergic to them, and the vet bills can be a burden, but the joy they bring nearly every day cannot be overestimated. Westley and Buttercup make me laugh, offer comfort, help me to relax, remind me to play, and keep me company.
Books are powerful—novels, creative nonfiction, biographies, memoir, short story collections, scholarly texts—and necessary. Books help us reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and what other possibilities exist. Books are places to rest, to escape, to imagine, to rebuild, to explore, to hope.
The world looks, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels different, based on our social positions. Everyone’s perspective is partial, and members of less powerful groups live with what W.E.B. DuBois called double-consciousness, or their own view of the world and that of the dominant group.
Egalitarian partner relationships based on mutual love, respect, and kindness are possible, and they are also tons of work to establish and maintain.
Language matters. We need to name experiences, claim identities, articulate viewpoints, and express our feelings and desires. Language continually evolves as we speak our truths.
The Beatles lied when they said, “all you need is love.” Love is great, but you also need a lot of other stuff, and love alone does not solve huge problems such as poverty, racism, and drought.
Chocolate is its own, wonderful food group.
Anytime we divide the world up into only two categories (women and men, gay and straight, the 99% and the 1%, North and South, black and white), we are lying, or at least distorting truth. Reality is always more complicated than that.
These are my resolutions, what I believe in my heart, soul, mind, and gut to be true. I want to hold them close in 2018, no matter what happens.
What are your resolutions of truth?