Present and Accounted For

Each year over the past decade or so, I’ve tried to come up with a New Year’s resolution. Some were half-serious, others were totally serious, and they’ve been met with varying levels of success. One year I vowed to “watch more TV.” I completely nailed that one. Another year I determined that I needed to “lose friends.” You’d be surprised how hard that one was to achieve. Some of the resolutions were probably not appropriate to describe on this family-friendly website, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that they too were mixed in their success rates.

This year’s goal falls more along the serious end of the spectrum. I’ve made it my goal for 2017 and beyond to be more present at all times. To borrow a phrase from a famous fisherman, I want to experience life “in the moment.”

Like most of you, I feel overscheduled. I have a full-time job, a second job that commands nearly as much time, a hobby that I’d like to be a full-time gig, and a wife and a dog. It’s very easy to think “if I can only get to the weekend” or “if I can survive until the next vacation” then everything will be all right. My goal in making this resolution is not necessarily to discount the things I’m looking forward to, but rather to try to be more engaged in the task or situation directly in front of my nose. So when I’m sitting at work, and the weekend fun is four days away, I want to be more directly focused on my work. It applies to the fun stuff, too. How many times have you been fishing down a bank and thinking ahead to the next cast rather than maximizing the effectiveness of your current one? Without completely ignoring what’s around the next bend, I want to maximize the effort I put into the current stretch of bank.

I started this resolution two months before the New Year, which I suppose is cheating a bit, but I figure it’s in the spirit of self-improvement so there’s no true foul. Heading into our trip to Africa, I was coming out of a dark six weeks where lots of things went wrong and my psyche was a mess. From the moment we got to the airport to head off on our adventure, I promised myself that I’d try to make each day, each hour and each minute its own bubble. When we were on the houseboat on the Chobe River, I tried not to think about what it would be like in the safari camp in Zimbabwe. When we arrived in Zimbabwe I tried not think about our stops on the Lower Zambezi. On a smaller scale, when we were on safari, I tried not to look forward to lunch and a nap, and while eating I tried to savor each meal rather than thinking about our next activity. It’s not always an easy attitude to implement, but I came home from Africa ready to embark on the home stretch of the year, and while some of the same impediments and struggles still exist, they haven’t weighed quite as heavily upon me.

I don’t think it will be an easy resolution to consistently uphold, but each incremental bit of success is important. The one thing that I’ve learned in this decade of semi-serious and occasionally-serious resolutions is that they’re not an all or nothing deal.