Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reflecting and Resolving

The recent publication of The Payne-Butrick Papers is one of the greatest contributions to Cherokee scholarship we’ve seen in a long time. Much of the material was gathered in the 1830s, prior to the Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears. Here’s one short sentence from a section on “Sacred Places and Things”:

December and January are the most holy months.

I have no idea why the Cherokees considered those the two most holy months, but I won’t let that prevent me from imposing my own interpretation. Those months can be auspicious because they mark the end of one year and the start of the next: a time to look back and a time to look ahead.

My intention to read the great books in 2012 is a glorified New Year’s resolution, and I recognize that most resolutions fade as quickly as they emerge. Yes, lots of us look ahead and vow to adjust our course into the future, but few of us look back on year almost done and contemplate the journey that brought us here.

I wonder if well-meaning vows for the new year would fare better if we took more time to consider where we’ve been. For me, 2011 has been one of the best years I can remember. If I had the power to exchange it for any of the years that had come before, I would not do it. As a moderately neurotic person with the anxieties common to my age, I slogged through what I had to slog through. Medical concerns, actual and potential, raised various degrees of alarm for me in 2011. Thankfully, it motivated me to make significant changes in my life. I started to recognize that my autonomic nervous system was all out of whack, and a source of intensified fears and elevated blood pressure. So I modified my diet, started going to gym, did deep breathing exercises and Pilates, lost weight and felt better than I had in years. I started running 5-K races. I hiked to places that had been on my to-do list for 20 or 30 years. I went backpacking for the first time in a long time. And my blood pressure came down dramatically, without the use of those nasty pharmaceuticals the doctors like to prescribe. Meanwhile, my levels of equinimity and contentment moved in a positive direction.

Discipline has never been my strong suit, but looking back on 2011, I see that I mustered enough discipline to reap great rewards from new habits of diet and exercise...and frame of mind. Maybe, just maybe, I can apply some of that new-found discipline to complete my reading plan in 2012.

Wouldn't that be nice to reflect upon, a year from now?

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