Trying to be a Better Person at the Last Minute

Hey…just think of how peaceful things will be. Not too shabby.

Well, this is it. Two-thousand and twelve. The end of the world. I suppose it’s been a good run for humanity. There have been some good times and bad. We had the Great Depression and the Crusades, but also the invention of penicillin and Star Wars, so I’d say it all balances out.

Wait, what? You say you don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s right, I can hear you through the newspaper. No, don’t try to test it, just accept. Well, take a gander at your 2012 Meso-American Long Count calendar, the one I just know you have sitting on your desk, and notice that there are no dates after Dec. 21. Nope, not a misprint. That’s the end, according to the Mayans. And we all know how punctual the Mayans were.

No more days, folks. Finito. Nada. Zilch. A period at the end of a really long sentence.

With the end of the world looming just over the horizon, the idea of setting some resolutions this year may seem a little frivolous. I mean, why not just live it up? Eat that fourth donut; sleep in late instead of helping the kids get ready for school; go ahead and jab that finger skyward when that 90-year-old lady cuts you off; swear until your tongue starts bleeding. It’s the end of days, friends. Have at it.

This is, of course, a ridiculous suggestion. Do not actually “have at it,” because no matter how late in the day, a person always has time to improve. Yes, even when facing his or her impending doom.

Remember at the end of Return of the Jedi when series baddie Darth Vader decided to toss his helmet in for the “Father of the Year” award and saved son Luke by tossing his boss down that hole even though he knew he would be totally killed for doing so? Well, there you go. Self-improvement in the face of imminent destruction. That could be you, pasty-faced and coughing out your last words inside an exploding Death Star. Now’s the time to start.

Me? I have several personal renovations in the planning for 2012. If there’s one thing growing older provided me, it’s a bit of self-actualization. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware of my faults. Numerous and large, I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t notice the darn things before is because they were staring me in the face…and discerning the obvious is one of those aforementioned faults. Let’s just make that resolution No. 1.

RESOLUTION No. 1 – Pay attention

I’m about to tell you something horrible. Last summer, I accidentally killed my cat, Mr. Bradbury, by shutting him in my wife’s car. Days later, I discovered him, curled on the floor of the passenger’s side. The guilt of the incident still swings into my gut like a hammer. I miss him terribly.

Bradbury’s death served as a grim and potent reminder that I need to be more mindful of my surroundings. Disasters are everywhere, just itching to happen. Normally, I traipse on through them, oblivious as they swing backwards like thin branches into the faces of my companions. It’s a foolish, thoughtless way to go through life, and thinking of Mr. B. reminds me that I need to change.

Along those same lines, I really need to be less clumsy. So…

RESOLUTION NO. 2 – Be less clumsy

There’s a common saying around my house, though it solely belongs to Mandy: “If something’s going to get broken, it’s going to be mine; if someone’s going to be hurt, it’s going to be me.”

There’s a reason this phrase and all those like it belong to Amanda and not me. I’m all wildly flailing limbs — jabbing elbows and stabby knees. My fingers are made of rubber and are attached to hands that also appear to be made out of rubber. I drop stuff…usually breakable stuff…more usually Mandy’s breakable stuff…and bump into her. I accidentally knock her around when we’re walking close together. I step on her feet. I’ve kneed her in the side. I think I head-butted her once or twice.

I promise, Mandy, I will stop. Hopefully. For your sake.

Wait, you know what would make Mandy feel better when I’ve broken all of her teeth with a misplaced elbow? Ice cream!

RESOLUTION NO. 3 – Eat more ice cream

I mean, the world’s going down anyway, right? Might as well let my physique do the same.

RESOLUTION NO. 4 – Get into shape

Well, that puts a damper on my ice cream eating resolution, doesn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t really leave me a lot to look forward to — a bunch of exercise with no ice cream. What’s the point of working out if some fantastical idea of what I’m supposed to look like doesn’t allow me to justify splurging immediately afterwards? It’s kind of depressing.

RESOLUTION NO. 5 – Be more positive

If anyone were to ask, and I don’t think they ever have, I’d probably label myself a pessimist. I’m not really sure why because good stuff tends to happen to me all the time, so having a negative outlook is kind of selfish of me, but …

RESOLUTION NO. 6 – Be less selfish

… Well, I really wasn’t done with the previous resolution, but I suppose I can move forward …

RESOLUTION NO. 7 – Write more succinctly

… OK, yes, it’s true. I do tend to drag things on. But, writing is one of those things that I truly enjoy. Take, for instance, when I was writing my novel last year …

RESOLUTION NO. 8 – Stop being so full of yourself

Sorry. I didn’t realize …

RESOLUTION NO. 9 – Pay MORE attention

Well, that’s a lot like the first one, isn’t it? If I’m already working on paying attention, it doesn’t really seem like I can work on paying even MORE attention …

RESOLUTION NO. 10 – Quit back-sassin’

Really, this has gotten out of hand. Most people, when asked for a resolution, respond by saying, “I don’t know.” When pressed, they say they want to “eat healthier” or something vague like that. But 10 things? I mean, that’s a lot right? Do I really have that much stuff to work on?

Of course I do. We all do. There are always things that can be fixed or fiddled with — little or big ways in which we can be better people, if not for ourselves then for all of those other folks who have to deal with us. In the end … and I suppose I mean that in the literal sense, what with the Mayans and all … we should really be looking for ways to better ourselves all the time.

Yeah, I’m not really sure why we choose to wait until a new year to start these kinds of projects. But I suppose Jan. 1 seems like as good a time as any to break out the duct tape and begin making repairs.

Better move quickly, though; there’s only so many boxes on the calender left to X out.

[This article was originally published in the Jan. 11, 2012 edition of The Itawamba County Times]

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