The Ultimate Resolution
When it's time to take on the most important resolution: Life
I’ve made it this far. I’m not dead yet, and I still have a chance.
The term “resolution” never seemed the right word. To resolve means to “find an answer,” to “reach a firm decision about,” to “deal with successfully.” See. It doesn’t make sense to “resolve,” does it? We make resolutions and the word’s definition has already put us at a deficit, a hole from which we have to climb. The word’s definition claims we must be “successful.” Truth is, most resolutions fail by February. Psychologists say if we truly want to change something about ourselves and our behavior, we’ve got to do the work. Experts insist this means shifting from understanding what we do to a deeper form of understanding about why we do it. And that is not easy.
But I’ll say it again: I still have a chance.
A few weeks ago, I had my annual medical check up.
“Do you smoke?” the nurse asked as she performed the usual update for the doctor’s records.
“An occasional cigar,” I said, answering the question the same way I have for the past 20 years. And I received the same non-verbal response I’ve always been given, an accusatory scowl.
I guess I shouldn’t be smoking cigars.
But just so you know, I’m going to smoke an occasional cigar.
The appointment went fine. No major issues for an older guy. I’m grateful for that. (By the way, the doctor never mentioned the cigars. I guess the cigars won’t kill me.) When I left the offices, I thought about Dylan Thomas and his words, “raging against the dying of the light,” from his famous poem, the one written for his father. It was on my mind not because I was thinking of death, although as we age we all tend to do that more often, but instead because I was considering life.
Thomas’ poem, on its surface, appears to be about fighting against our inevitable final act, “raging” against death. But there have been many other interpretations of his famous words that suggest Thomas was not urging us to “rage” against death, but rather to “rage” in our living. How could any of us embrace this gift we have been given if we don’t fully live robustly, with purpose? We are all going to die, so why not live our days with all we got?
Do not go gentle into that good night, Thomas wrote.
Do not settle for the mundane. Grab life and shake it.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
And there it is. Don’t “learn too late,” he wrote. When we are in our final hours, dying, it’s hard to live with all the brilliance of our earlier days. So, “rage” now against the unexamined, uncelebrated life.
Examine it. Celebrate it.
Thomas, I like to think despite his reputation, was not suggesting we be reckless with our life. Instead he wanted us to celebrate it in all the ways we can. Part of that celebration, for me, is that “occasional cigar.” That glass of wine with dinner. That good Irish whiskey. It also means embracing nature, plus long walks and exercise to keep your body up for the full celebration of being in this world. It means to be tolerant, kind, and joyful. But also accepting grief and sorrow when it comes, knowing they, too, are part of a full and interesting life.
Resolution? Maybe I’ll resolve to continue to “rage,” to attempt to never forget that all of this is temporary, that life should be multi-colored, vibrant even when it can be dulled with life’s grays. Life is both the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the deep dark empty sky and the shining star.
When I returned home after the doctor’s appointment, I was renewed. Not dead yet; still have a chance. It reminded me that not everyone gets a chance to live this life as we had intended.
I didn’t have Thomas’ poem to reread in the car on the way home from the medical offices, but maybe I should have considered a little music. The Buddy Holly song “Not Fade Away,” made immortal by The Rolling Stones and later by The Grateful Dead, is a simple song about love’s enduring possibilities. It would have been the perfect tune to play on that day, the volume control up as high as the system would allow, for the song is the Everyman’s call not to live life lightly, but rather to “rage” on, and to “not fade away.”
Photo: Rakicevic Nenad