I always get quiet in that period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I use that time to think carefully about what has transpired and what is before me. Part of my ritual at the end of every year is where I take stock of the previous year’s activities and try to think about what I did wrong, what I did right, how I assisted others in their lives and what that assistance did for them. I consider how I can do better in the next year, how I can improve my relationships with others. Leaning heavily towards the Buddhist side of my thinking, I try to live my life in a way that “does no harm to others.” I have added to that philosophy by also learning to love myself and to do no harm to myself.
Many of the changes I made consciously, some were forced upon me and I had to adapt quickly, nimbly so that I could continue to function at my higher self, for myself. The changes I made were incremental and some still in progress. They speak volumes of my mental improvement, how I see myself, and how others choose to see me. I have reconciled that some things I cannot change so I have to not give a damn about what others think because it’s my journey. I have always been my own man and I will be damned if I apologize for my actions where it isn’t warranted; I will not attempt to appease people who have clearly shown that they don’t think the best of me only because they have preconceived notions and haven’t tried to get to know the real me. I have determined that while I am “open” and easy to get to know, some things you will have to ask me and I will openly tell you. Some people can’t get with that.
I stopped avoiding loss and have learned to accept it.
Loss is hard. This year I lost my Mother, I lost a personal intimate relationship that mattered to me (may not have been “good” for me, but it mattered greatly), and I examined and purposely pared down on friends. Loss is an inevitable part of life. sometimes you’re prepared for it and sometimes you are blindsided by it. Shit happens, and sometimes, when it does. it makes the moments you have with the people you care for more important. Loss is change, and while you can’t change the loss at any level you can manage how you deal with it. I know what it takes to make myself adapt to change, it may not be perfect, but it works for me. It’s my process and it means that I step back, I analyze my role in the loss, my feelings, and recharge and regroup so that I can accept and embrace the loss, but not let it overwhelm me.
I have learned to be more authentic and unapologetic in matters that are important to me.
I have stepped up my “real quotient.” I focus on the people I love and want to know better. I have honed my communication skills to the point that I embrace people new and old who are of value to me, and for whom I add value. I follow through on my word, and I only want people in my life who take the same risks I do in regards to being authentic. Real matters to me, if I even smell a hint of horse manure, I shut down, I say thanks but no thanks and I move on. No time wasters wanted here. I will not be a waster of anyone else’s time either.
I have recognized that my empathic sensitivity is my strength and not a weakness.
In every major romantic relationship, I have had. I have been called “too emotional.” In my business life, I am humanistic and empathetic, but when it’s time to make the hard decisions I do so without looking back, and once I make a decision I stand by it. But I have learned that I have an Achilles heel and that resides with the people I love. I am sensitive to their feelings and their needs. I try to be a listening ear and, like it or not, I absorb what it is that they feel due to my connection with them. I embrace the people who matter to me passionately. I love loyally and I don’t turn my back on them. I may miss a mark, miss a point—I am human, I am teachable—but what some see as a weakness, I see as a chance to stand tall and be a different type of man. The type of man I want to be is strong, protective and safe for the people who need a safe harbor.
I made changes to my health regimen.
This is ongoing. I remember that, while growing up, my Mom was always on a “diet.” You name the diet, she probably tried it. I personally liked the one where you ate bacon as a base, but that couldn’t possibly end well. In any event, I learned that I had to change my lifestyle, and I am still changing it. I am just trying not to eat crap. I didn’t deny myself during the holidays— I ate and drank exceedingly well—but did so in moderation on most days. I have been incorporating more salads, chicken, and fish into my diet and have been working toward eliminating sugar altogether. I am not too hard on myself, nor am I perfect, but I am doing much better than I ever have.
When I do eat or drink something bad for me, it’s really GOOD bad stuff. So when it’s Vodka? It’s a top-shelf brand (offer me house vodka and I will look at you as if you had two heads), when I drink Scotch, give me the best 15-year-old Scotch whiskey. If you have to be bad, make it the best bad possible—in moderation, of course.
I embrace conflict now as an agent of change.
I used to try to avoid conflict as much as I reasonably could, I believe most humans do that. I never avoided conflict in business, but I did so in my personal life and learned that my avoidance strategy didn’t serve me well. It took a bad breakup to get me to that realization. So now, I speak my peace gently, with love and conviction, and I let the chips fall where they may. I have realized that you have to respect yourself and while some compromise is good, too much is hazardous to your health. Seriously. If someone really cares about you, you can say what you need to say to them as long as you do so respectfully. However, if you are unable to communicate and have your feelings or thoughts acknowledged, then that is not “your person.” Note, I didn’t say they had to agree with you…just acknowledge your feelings and respect them. No one likes conflict in their personal life. But again, how YOU handle the conflict is what you can control.
I have accepted the fact that love really matters and I don’t fear that.
Real love matters to men. Yes, you heard me, despite rumors of what makes man real love does matter to us if it didn’t the more unstable of our species wouldn’t feel so destroyed when love is unrequited. Even the more stable of us have great difficulty in dealing with matters of the heart. A friend of mine introduced me to a saying by the author Bell Hooks that I have carried with me since I heard it:
The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.
This quote was a game changer for me. It caused me to resuscitate that part of myself that society has been trying to kill since my birth my “emotional self. Simply put, men NEED feminism too.
I have realized that real men can communicate anything.
I have learned “the men you befriend is the man you are.” I always knew this, but I have embraced it to a much higher level. In Cro-Magnon speak, that translates as follows: If you hang out with assholes, guess what you are?” It’s never been so evident to me in my life as it is now. I have worked hard to strip away friends who only “want” from you. I have embraced friends who only want to see me grow. Who only want to see me flourish and will assist me in doing so. Friends who kno, I do the same for them.
My close friend Blair has seen me through probably the roughest year I have ever had. His wife has embraced me and counseled me in a way that I never expected—I got a “two-fer” with them. My Bromance with Blair is one steeped in complete honesty without ever having to say so. Blair hails from the mid-west of Canada called Saskatchewan where they grow them honest, straightforward, hardworking, exceedingly welcoming, and kind. I can say ANYTHING to Blair, talk about ANYTHING and it’s safe, honored and honest. I have another “new” friend, a brilliant doctor and humanist who is a true genius when it comes to saving lives, but is so achingly human and open, that you see the man, and the doctor is just what he does. He has layers, layers that are so worth knowing and honoring.
So, no resolutions for me except one: I resolve to improve myself, love my friends, my family, and myself as I never have before. I want each moment to matter, and quite frankly, I am just glad to still be here and be relatively sane.
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