It is not at all new to admit it to you, dear reader, but New Year’s resolutions are terribly unbearable; even in the best conditions.
But I have to say that this year, there’s a uniquely hollow, dark comic quality to having Immortal Death himself (or, as we’ve all grown more comfortable referring to him in American English: Ryan Seacrest comes to you to experience New Years Eve!) encourage all of us to put on a brave face and new sweatpants for the New Year!
Of course, Ryan, you haven’t aged in 20 years, and none of our pants fit after we’ve made our way all the way to the bottom of several pints of Ben & Jerry’s looking at some news footage on it. insurgency last January, and the slow flow of constant disruption that follows any changes in the number of cases, exhibits, closed schools and child care services, not to mention the past two years of plans. canceled, projections and possibilities in the wake of an ongoing and never-ending pandemic apocalypse.
Or, more succinctly, in the immortal words of Clark Griswold: “Hallelujah, the hell, where’s the Tylenol ?!”
To be fair to Seacrest, however, there aren’t enough Top 40 JAMZs and corporate bowtie platitudes to really take us off the precipice of what it’s been like to be human in the past couple of years. years. I’m saying all of this as a geriatric Millennial who cried through a Google ad between midnight performances of pop stars I don’t recognize.
Living in the present
But one thing that I think could, perhaps, with the proper caveats, be helpful in turning the page from a weird day in December 2021 to another weird day in January 2022 is not that this annual transition has me. kind of lets suddenly manifest my preferred future were I’m going to start listening to more #selfcare podcasts and stop self-medicating with Krispy-Kreme, but that I could use this change in schedule to start living in the present instead of the past or some less horrific imaginary version of the future (which, if we’re being honest, is probably just a different version of the past, but with maybe better phones).
Let’s be clear, what I’m advocating is not a wise New Year’s party punctuated with some kind of overcooked nervousness. New Yorker cynicism that ends up undermining another well-being American cultural expression of willful optimism (a position I’m boring for, at least to regular news readers almost entirely Baptist in nature). Instead, this year I’m aiming for some sort of new resolution to no longer continue to produce solutions for the future based on problems from the past.
Which is weird for a psychotherapist who talks about the family stories of people on time for a living, but listen to me.
For most of us, the pain that lifted us up, maimed us, shaped us, grew up with, and learned to exercise effectively against those who would harm us, develops a sort of emotional gravity later in life. I say it roots us and our reactions to the world around us whenever we find ourselves in stress. Not in a way that is terribly useful for the times that lie ahead right now, but in a way that has probably helped us survive the (probably) out of control, dangerous and unfair situations that have been forced upon us as young people.
“Because now is different than it was then, and frankly so am I. And frankly the world around me is different.” “
That’s why, even now, I have this cellular fear of being misunderstood and alone in the world that activates all kinds of unnecessary coping responses that look a lot like what they were when I was a pimply teenager in the beginning. . I retreat, sulk, listen to a lot of Sufjan, and devote myself to work that I think will save me, heal me, and carve out a place for me in the world that can never be taken away.
It didn’t work then, and it sure doesn’t work now. Because now is different than it was then, and frankly so am I. And frankly the world around me is different.
Good script, bad players
These days I find myself, as a still somewhat pimply grown man of 36 years, surrounded by people who choose me over and over again, even when I sulk and log out and listen badly. Sufjan’s mood a lot and that I overwork myself to the edge. of oblivion. These people are different from those who raised me, and when I keep responding to them in the midst of stress and conflict as if they can fix the pain I grew up with, I keep the injustice and lack of security that I lived a long time ago circulating both now and for the future.
As a therapy mentor, I like to say, “Our pain has the right scenario, just the wrong players. “
This isn’t just true for navel-blue millennial dads who envision their ever-changing mortality at the start of the New Year, it’s true of families, institutions, nation states, and all religious traditions.
When we respond to the problems of the present as if the present were the past, our solutions are not only anachronistic and unnecessary, they will, over time, destroy our chance to have a future with the people looking straight at us. eyes. now.
“When we respond to the problems of the present as if the present were the past, our solutions are not only anachronistic and unnecessary, they will, over time, destroy our chance to have a future with the people watching us in the streets. eyes at the moment. “
Individually, it could be like when a father’s childhood pain of never being good enough to get what he needed from those who mattered most keeps him from being fully present, patient, and open his hands with him. the success, the failures and the quiet wonder of his own young sons.
I know because it happened to me, and if I’m not careful it could happen to my son.
Collectively, it might look like when communities are so terribly afraid of losing a sense of security and stability that has been missing for years now, sacrifice the well-being and future development of the most vulnerable around them by demanding that the life returns to normal IMMEDIATELY NO MATTER THE COST.
To claim that building a $ 75,000 army of electric vehicles will save a land that is losing ground every day to the oceans that surround it is as foolishly outdated as to believe that refusing to teach eighth graders America’s long history of racially motivated theft, exploitation and violence will resolve the lack of stability each of us feels in the face of the state of affairs unfolding around us at this time.
Angrily refusing to treat this pandemic as a real reality because you worry about your loss of identity and your safety in a world gone mad doesn’t actually protect you from the novel coronavirus or a sclerotic democracy, it just does destroy your chance to have a future with the people who are looking you in the eye right now.
I know because it happened in my family.
Or, perhaps more specifically for a readership brimming with Baptists, responding to the acute needs of today’s world with a version of institutional American Christianity primarily interested in effectively dealing with the pain of segregationists, moral majorities, and a white middle class. endangered a loss of cultural cache, the stability and disintegration of the world as they know it will, in time, destroy American Christianity’s chance to have a future with the people who look it in the eye in this moment.
I know because I am one of those people.
Put away childish things
So, as Saint Paul once reminded people entering a whole new world (which still looks strangely like the old one they remember), it’s time to put the childish things away.
Childish things are not your pain, or what happened to you in the past. To be clear, childish things are whenever we pretend that the way we have dealt with the injustice we have experienced as children will solve whatever is happening to us as adults right now.
“We will never go back, and no serious resolution can change that.”
This New Year especially, I am desperate for us to decide to tell the truth about what we have all been through and are currently trying to survive; to listen to what he does to us and what he does to us, and what solutions he asks of us, now and not in an imaginary version of our past projected into the future with probably better phones.
We will never go back, and no serious resolution can change that. We can only move forward knowing that whatever awaits us next will meet someone, or a whole group of people, who have grown up, who are no longer alone and who are able to be honest about what they have. lived without pretending or performing.
Because those adults are resolutely living the moment that awaits them, armed with the truth that it is not their pain that desperately needs a little energy #selfcare and #sick and squeak, it’s the present itself- even, who engulfs us all, who is in desperate need of our lucid collective resolve to change what we see happening to all of us.
May you, and me, and we be so resolved this year.
Eric Minton is a writer, pastor and therapist living with his family in Knoxville, Tennessee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree in divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a master’s of science in clinical mental health counseling from Carson-Newman University.