Finding Goodness in Unexpected Places

“Someone give me some good news,” she said.

She wasn’t exasperated; she didn’t have that frustrated edge to her voice that people often have when they’ve been hearing nothing but terrible things for an extended period of time. The sigh she let out as she spoke hinted more at resignation than anger. Her request sounded as though she had all but given up the fight against negativity and was grasping for one last moment of hope to remain grounded.

I didn’t blame her for trying to lift the mood in the room; the office lunchroom conversation had not exactly been pleasant. It had been relatively short and the subject matter may not have held the same overbearing weight as the headlines screaming from the newspaper lying in the middle of the table. Still, discussing a coworker’s week-long struggles with digestive issues and the various challenges that go along with planning one’s wedding were enough to start bringing her down and she’d had enough.

“I don’t necessarily have good news,” I answered. “But how about an adorable picture?”

She smiled and nodded vigorously. I scrolled quickly through the photos on my phone, selected a shot I’d taken earlier that week of my children sharing a milkshake and passed the phone across the table. I grinned as she began kvelling; I mentioned that I could not believe the similarities in their faces, from the outlines of their noses to the curves of their cheeks to the shapes their lips formed as they puckered around their straws. She asked with a knowing smile if they love each other and I couldn’t answer yes emphatically enough.

I was glad that I had been able to help her smile at that moment but her request stuck with me through the rest of the day. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times recently when all I’ve wanted was for someone to show me something positive. The news has been one terrible thing after another after another. I pass multiple homeless people every day as I make my way through the city. I work with children who are doing their best to handle significant mental illnesses, many of which are as heartbreaking as they are scary.

Still, somehow, we keep breathing, keep moving, keep pushing through.

I made my phone calls and home visits during the rest of the afternoon, my coworker’s request periodically re-entering my consciousness. My wife and children had spent the day in the city with friends and I went to meet them when my visits were finished. Their faces lit up when they saw me and I had a passing thought that I had found my own personal piece of “good news.” We remained in the city for some time longer and then made our way through the evening rush hour crowds to take the subway home.

The subway had just started moving when I heard someone singing from the other side of the car. I couldn’t see him clearly through the commuters standing between us but I caught glimpses of his face. His skin was dark but his smile shone, practically eclipsing the pale fluorescent train lights. It was difficult to make out the songs over the murmurs of the other passengers and my daughter’s ongoing commentary (“Train! Ride train!”). I could tell that the people around him enjoyed it, though; their applause sounded more enthusiastic than the soft, polite claps I was used to hearing for subway performances.

The man began moving toward our side of the car, asking for donations as he weaved slowly between the other passengers. He stepped gingerly past our stroller, careful to protect his guitar from hitting the handles or the people sitting nearby. The family of tourists behind us said that they had not heard him playing and he began strumming immediately.

“Don’t worry… about a thing,” he sang.

I smiled, quickly recognizing the Bob Marley song. Shayna motioned for me to pick her up so she could get a better look at the musician. I planted my feet to balance her weight with that of my work bag and the movement of the train and hoisted her into my arms. I leaned in next to her ear and joined in softly.

“‘Cause every little thing… is gonna be all right.”

I leaned back against the subway pole and turned slightly so that Shayna could see the man with the guitar without having to look over my shoulder. The man returned her gaze as he sang, his warm smile continuing to shine.

“Don’t worry… about a thing,” the man sang again as he returned to the chorus. This time, though, I harmonized with him loudly enough for everyone near us to hear.

“‘Cause every little thing… is gonna be all right.”

Shayna giggled and smiled back, captivated with our duet. The man’s eyebrows rose briefly from the surprise of having an unexpected partner but his expression shifted quickly back to enthusiastic joy. We finished the song together and I passed him some money as he thanked me for joining in. He gave me a fist-bump and one last gracious smile before moving into the next subway car to perform for a fresh audience.

Positivity

I found myself thinking of my coworker again. She was right; the world seems so often like it’s crumbling around us that it’s difficult to find reasons to keep a positive attitude. That train ride made a difference, though. My kids saw their father sharing an interaction with a man who came from very different circumstances, not least of which had to do with the color of his skin. I felt good about providing an example for the way I expect my children to treat others, especially those less fortunate than we are. And, as for my singing companion, I can only hope that he appreciated my joining with him in what I assume was one of his lower moments.

There is still good news around; sometimes we just have to spread our own.


The “Reasons to Stay Positive” graphic was borrowed with permission from the creator, Ms. Dani DiPirro. Follow her @PositivelyPresent on Instagram.

Fitting In at Dad 2.0 Summit

It had been a warm day.

I had expected the temperature to be higher in New Orleans than at home in New York, but even I was surprised to feel uncomfortable in anything more than a t-shirt. I’d spent the afternoon by myself, making my way through the French Quarter to buy souvenirs for my wife and children before the conference started. I ended up with a fair-sized haul: Mardi Gras masks, a pair of t-shirts and a children’s book for my kids, plus a cookbook and beignet mix for my wife. I was sweating by the time I returned to the hotel because I had been walking quickly, weaving through the other passersby walking slower than me; an hour and a half in the Big Easy was hardly enough to shake my New York City impatience.

It was around two hours later when the tone was set for the rest of my time at my first Dad 2.0 Summit. I had traded my sneakers and t-shirt for loafers and a button-down and finally put some food in my stomach (I had barely eaten since putting down a cheap sandwich at the airport). I found myself standing in the hotel courtyard with what must have been over one hundred other conference attendees. I was exchanging pleasantries with one of the few people I had met face to face before when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

The man was a few inches shorter than me and looked to be a year or two older. His hands had been shoved into his pockets and he gave a sort of half-smirk as he looked me in the eye. I recognized him as one of the other dad bloggers with whom I’d had countless conversations online, between our shared contributions to Dads Round Table and more general interactions in the dad blogger Facebook group.

“Hi, I’m Aaron,” I said as I extended my hand.

He glanced quickly at my offer but his hands didn’t move from his pockets.

“Don’t try to introduce yourself and shake my hand like I don’t know who you are,” he said. The half-smirk spread to the rest of his face as if to say, What’s wrong with you?

“Er– okay,” I said nervously, bringing my hand back to my side. I had never been so thankful to be holding a drink in my other hand.

“Hi John. It’s nice to finally meet you in person,” I said, trying a different tack.

His smile became more genuine and the conversation took a more natural turn. We began speaking about our respective flights, our families at home and our latest online projects. He shared his insights from having attended previous conferences and gave me some suggestions about pacing myself and taking notes because there was going to be a lot to take in.

I had no idea how right he was.

A few days later, after returning home to my family, my job(s) and the rest of reality, I’ve finally been able to start processing my experiences over the last week. I’ve begun reviewing my notes from the different workshops, updating my social media profiles according to the suggestions I received and thinking about strategies for solidifying the connections I made with brand representatives at the conference. I’m doing my best to stick to a plan, rather than just throwing things at a wall and hoping something sticks, but it’s still been somewhat slow going.

Through it all, though, I keep coming back to that moment on Thursday night when John tapped me on the shoulder. I had similar interactions with dozens of other people during the course of the weekend. I would offer my hand and introduce myself, their eyes would light up with recognition and they would respond by either shaking my hand or wrapping me up in a bear hug.

The most jarring part was getting used to the idea that I could fit in with these other people,1 most of whom were much more experienced in this world than I. Some of them had turned their blogs into genuine revenue streams and were able to leverage their brand connections into amazing experiences for their families. Some of them had been professional writers, working as newspaper reporters and broadcast journalists; one was even the founder and managing editor of a magazine. These people had built social networks, parenting organizations and baby gear businesses and I… well, I consider it an accomplishment if I publish a new blog post each week.

None of the accolades seemed to matter, though. After my initial shock of meeting people whose names I had recognized online for five years, the conversations became more about writing, parenting and the brotherhood that we had all joined. We were all fathers and content creators who had joined together to compare notes, share insights and lift each other up to new opportunities. We were all at different stages of parenting and blogging but we all had the same goals: to become better at each.


1. I say “people” instead of “men” because there was a strong contingent of women there, both representing brands and their own blogs. I learned as much from them as I did from the other dads.

Nerves of Steel

I’m nervous.

I don’t feel this way very often and, even when I do, I rarely let on. I pride myself on being flexible, adapting to situations as they come, taking in new information and adjusting accordingly. People tell me that they admire my calm, that they don’t understand how I can appear to be so relaxed in the face of difficult meetings, challenging personalities or mountains of paperwork. Somehow I manage to remain stoic, composed, cool under pressure through it all. I channel Yoda and Mr. Spock; I don’t let emotion get in my way.1

But this morning, I’m nervous.

I’m sitting on the subway, making my way to a school visit for work. My legs have been trembling for enough time now that I’m slightly worried about what will happen when I try to stand up. My pulse has quickened and I recognize the awkward discomfort in my stomach. I’m still the image of a duck, unflappable to observers, while their feet paddle furiously beneath the surface. I doubt anyone around me can tell anything is wrong just by looking at me, even though I feel like my body is tying itself into knots.

It’s not because of work, by the way. The visit I’m making this morning should be a cakewalk and, in general, work rarely gets me bent out of shape. I’ve been a social worker long enough and had enough people yell at me, threaten me and, in one case, use anti-Semitic slurs toward me, that I’ve come to accept the stressful parts of the job as simply that – part of the job. I enjoy my work because of the interactions with people, even when those interactions are uncomfortable.

My foot starts tapping on the subway floor, making my bag shake as it rests on top of my leg. I close my eyes and take a few breaths, inhaling deeply and counting the seconds as I let the air out, forcing my escalating anxiety back under control. It occurs to me that my current struggle to maintain my composure is fitting, given the piece I’ll be reading publicly in a few days, though that realization doesn’t help me feel much better.

My foot stops tapping as I hear the subway doors open. I open my eyes again to check the station but it’s not time to get off yet.

This is what happens to me anytime I speak in public. Miniature lessons in graduate school, reading Torah in synagogue during Shabbat services, the presentation I made to my entire department at work; the context doesn’t matter. It always starts out the same: my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest, my stomach does backflips and my legs turn to jelly right before I’m supposed to start. Then I breathe, start speaking and I’m on my way.

This is a new experience, though. I’m going to be reading my writing at a blogging conference for dads later this week and, days beforehand, I’m terrified. This conference has a lot riding on it, after all. The connections I make there can open up new writing opportunities for me and different ways for me to support my family. If I trip over a word or two as I’m reading, are these representatives going to think less of me? Are they going to lose sight of the story I’m telling because they’re distracted by my verbal fumbling? Am I going to lose my place and, in the process, the interest of a brand that would have otherwise pursued me?

Then there is the fact that I’m going to be away from home for three days. How are my kids going to behave while I’m gone? Is my wife going to be pulling her hair out and cursing at me while I’m schmoozing with other dads? What if someone gets hurt while I’m busy taking selfies with Chewbacca or test-driving a Kia or talking about football with Von Miller?2 I still remember the guilt I felt when Eitan fell into a wooden piece of playground equipment, bashing his chin and needing to be rushed to the doctor for x-rays. I was only on the train then; how will I feel if something happens and I’m thousands of miles away?

I take another breath. I inhale, hold it for a second, and slowly let it out. Then I do it again. And again.

And again.

I tell myself that I’m overreacting. I remind myself that my wife is amazing and that “capable” barely scratches the surface of her strengths as a parent. Plus, I’m only going to be gone for three days, two of which Eitan will be in school for. I remember that I’ve interacted online with many of the other dads countless times and that reading my post will only be five minutes of a much broader experience. I think of the congratulations and other well-wishes I received when the announcement was made about my participation at the conference.

I feel the knot in my stomach begin to loosen and my legs start to regain their stability. I stand, slinging my bag back over my shoulder and move toward the door if the subway. I know that I will probably feel nervous again just before my turn to speak but I feel much calmer now. I hold the bar nearby as the train comes to a stop and the doors open. I take another quick breath and step off the train.


1. My kids are the only real exception to this rule. I don’t become a blubbering mess in crises but there is some sort of glitch that causes my brain to suddenly have difficulty processing new information. It’s the only time I imagine I really look shaken.

2. These are all things I’m going to be able to do at Dad 2.0 because Lego, Kia and Best Buy are sponsors.

Not Quite Broadway

I took a personal day this week to be a parent chaperone on my son’s class field trip.

The trip was to a local theater to see a live performance of the children’s book, Click Clack Moo. I wouldn’t say it’s the most popular book ever, but Eitan has it and enjoys it very much. The basic premise is that Farmer Brown’s cows and chickens get very cold in the barn at night so they go on strike. They refuse to give Farmer Brown any milk or eggs unless he supplies them with electric blankets. The cows learn to use the old typewriter that Farmer Brown left in the barn to send him their demands; hence, the title for the book.

It’s a cute story; just trust me on this.

The show itself was cute, as well. The theater troupe turned the story into a musical and updated it a bit for the younger target audience. The most notable difference was the addition of Farmer Brown’s granddaughter, Jenny, who is visiting him. She has brought her laptop so she can check her email and keep in touch with her friends. Farmer Brown takes away the laptop (and the printer that Jenny also brought for some reason) because he feels like Jenny is never willing to help out on the farm and sticks it in the barn. I’m skipping parts, obviously, but the lesson of is about finding ways to compromise and work together toward a common goal, rather than sticking to one’s opinion at all costs.

My point, though, is less about the show or it’s message and more about taking the day to be with my son and his class. The time I have to spend with Eitan has continues to dwindle; my caseload at work was increased in the fall, I’m still teaching religious school twice per week and I’ve taken on some more private practice clients, as well. We’re all too familiar with this refrain by now; keeping busy means I’m making money to support my family but it’s a struggle to find time to actually be with my family. In fact, now that Shayna has begun expressing herself more clearly, I’m waiting for her to have her own “Daddy lives work!” moment. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

I try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can to stay involved. I take days off to volunteer for field trips or go to work late so I can be at the school for early morning class programs. Also, if making these arrangements means that I have to finish assignments at home in the evenings once in a while to make sure I get my paperwork done, so be it. I want Eitan to know that I’m working a lot but that he and Shayna are my top priority, no matter what else is going on.

There is an additional benefit to going on a field trip with a kindergarten class, though: it’s fun. Let’s be clear: Click Clack Moo was hardly sophisticated theater. The show was enjoyable for what it was but we’re not likely to see cows chanting with picket signs at the Minskoff Theater anytime soon. There is something to be said, however, for spending an hour watching people in ridiculous costumes, hearing relatively clever songs and, most importantly, listening to children laugh through the whole show. There’s a reason J.M. Barrie put orphans in the theater1 at the premiere of Peter Pan; children’s laughter reminds adults how to relax and just enjoy themselves.

It wasn’t only the performance, either. Between the bus rides and the waiting periods before and afterward, Eitan’s classmates and I had conversations and played games together. We played I Spy, told jokes and made faces at each other. The kids asked about my age and then told me how old their parents were. They told me about their families, their interests and each other. I don’t mean to paint myself as the Pied Piper of kindergarten children; certainly, some of my experiences as a camp counselor and as a father are clear indicators that there are limits to my powers of influence over kids. But these children, in particular, engaged with me because they knew I was their friend’s father and because I was an adult willing to listen to what they had to say.

This is not a commentary on other parents, either the other chaperones on the trip or the parents who were not present. Certainly, I understand that everyone faces a different set of circumstances regarding their availability to participate in these types of events. I’m fully aware that most jobs do not offer the kind of scheduling flexibility that mine does and that supervision for a family’s other children is not always as straightforward. Far be it from me to make any judgments about the ways in which parents demonstrate their involvement in their children’s lives. I just know that I had the opportunity to spend extra time with my son and his friends and I wanted to take advantage.

Eitan’s smile when he saw me waiting in the school lobby was all the justification I needed to know I had made the right choice.


1. My apologies that the video clip doesn’t show the opening of the play, when the kids actually start laughing. The adults in the audience watch a man come onto the stage dressed as a dog and have no idea how to react. It’s the children’s laughter that helps them relax and accept the entertainment. Again, just trust me on this.

Joy Breaking Through Grief

These seats are not nearly as comfortable as they look, I thought.

I fidgeted in my seat on the train, trying to find a better position. The dull ache in my left thigh that had bothering me for the last week or two returned, though I did my best to ignore it. I positioned my work bag on my lap, placed my coffee cup under the armrest next to me and took out my train ticket. I managed to slide out of my coat, doing my best not to disturb the heavyset man who had sat down next to me.

I had just settled in when I heard the conductor’s voice come over the train’s public address system.

“Attention, passengers: there are no trains coming into or going out of Penn Station at the moment due to signal problems. I repeat, there are no trains coming into or going out of Penn Station due to signal problems. As soon as we have more information, we will notify you.”

Of course.

The train car became filled with the sounds of people shuffling in their seats as they took out their phones to send messages about the travel delay. The voice of a young man behind me broke through the silence, informing the person on the other end of his call – and all of the passengers in our car – that he was sitting on the train and not moving.

So much for the quiet car, I thought.

The man next to me unfolded his copy of the New York Times and began to read, pausing every few moments to let out a cough. He pointed his mouth away from me but I found myself wincing anyway. To say that the last week had been taxing emotionally would be an understatement and I was going to need more energy for the coming weekend too. Getting sick was not an option.

I spied one of the train conductors walking along the platform toward the front of the train. She was speaking to someone through her walkie-talkie but I couldn’t make out any of the dialogue. She boarded the train again and I heard the sounds of the train’s brakes being released. The train lurched forward and we began moving through the tunnel.

I leaned my head back against the high seat-back and looked out the window. We cleared the tunnel and I gazed at the thick fog encroaching over the marshes near the train tracks. I could see the patches of ice that had managed to remain solid in the pond, despite the quick thaw of the past few days. The water rippled slightly as a breeze floated by.

I began picturing my wife’s uncle as my thoughts began to drift. I could hear him calling to his wife with his thick Brooklyn accent and trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to carry the tunes at the Passover seder. I imagined his hands, thick and strong, even as he aged, and the profile of his face, which had always reminded me of Yogi Berra. I thought of his smile, always warm and welcoming, and the way he always pulled me in for a hug instead of just shaking my hand.

The seats at the funeral weren’t so comfortable either, I thought, shifting my weight again.

My phone buzzed with the arrival of a text message from my brother, jolting me back to reality and reminding me why I was on the train in the first place. His wife had given birth to their first child last week, a mere two days after we had received word that my wife’s uncle passed away. My thoughts were replaced by the image of my brother’s newborn baby boy cradled in my arms when we went to visit him for the first time. He was bigger than my kids had been when they were first born but he still felt tiny, barely more than folds of skin and a mop of hair.

The edges of my lips curled slightly to form a sad smile as “Circle of Life” began playing in my head.

I began thinking about the highs and lows of the previous weekend again. I pondered my wife’s expressions of frustration as she mourned, the joy in my brother’s smile as he spoke about his new son and the Biblical phrase, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” I felt the familiar weight of intense emotions build between my shoulders and tried to remind myself that the coming weekend was supposed to be joyful. I knew, of course, that the circumcision of a Jewish baby boy is supposed to be cause for celebration. I just couldn’t quite shake the pangs of sorrow that were still lingering from the previous weekend.

The man next to me coughed again, startling me out of my reverie. The conductor’s voice came over the PA system again, announcing my stop. I shook my head quickly to recenter myself, gathered my belongings and excused myself out of the row. I made my way down from the train platform to my wife and children waiting for me in the car. The nerves in my thigh protested again as I sat down in the front seat but I felt the rest of my body relax. I didn’t know exactly what the weekend had in store for me but I did know that being around my wife and kids always seems to make things easier.

Here we go, I thought.

Welcome to the Party

A friend of mine sent me an article a few days ago.

The piece ran in Time Magazine, famously known for its annual award for Person of the Year and for Billy Joel not understanding the magazine’s contents (among some other journalistic credits, of course). It was entitled “How to Raise a Sweet Son in an Era of Angry Men” and it focused, predictably, on the parenting techniques that are often used toward young boys. The author, Ms. Faith Salie, a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning and author in her own right, cites numerous differences in the messages we send our male and female children, from the clothes they wear to expectations of behavior to their potential accomplishments in life. The idea is that parents send different messages to their children based on gender. Over the last twenty years or so, girls have begun hearing much more frequently that they can feel, accomplish and be whatever they want. Boys, however, are still expected to conform to “masculine” interests and professions.

“Boys will be boys, but girls can be anything,” she writes.

Ms. Salie’s argument focuses on the feeling of anger, in particular, and the ways in which men and women use anger to inform their actions. Her examples were predictable: angry men act out by hurting other people, while angry women act out by banding together to fight for equality and social justice. Her message, as a result, was not only that a child should be given the same opportunities and encouragement to pursue his or her interests, regardless of the child’s gender, but also that parents need to focus more on encouraging their sons to learn how to be more comfortable experiencing feelings in the first place. If young boys are taught how to live with negative feelings, perhaps they will not feel compelled to act out their feelings in such destructive ways.

My friend said that she thought of me when she read the article and I don’t blame her. I’ve written numerous times – like here and here, for instance – about processing the messages that I want my son to internalize about societal gender norms and what it means to be a man in today’s world. For that matter, I wrote my own version of this very Time article in a letter to my son just over a year ago. I imagine this Time article received a fair amount of internet applause and other positive attention, particularly in parenting circles, because of its seemingly refreshing message about the benefits of teaching boys to respect the people around them. Ms. Salie cites pertinent examples of the tragedies angry men have caused and makes a strong argument about the differences in the messages that boys and girls receive about their roles in society. It is a good piece of writing and I would recommend it to any new parent.

But I felt bored.

I don’t mean to disparage Ms. Salie or her writing. As I said, I think the article is an important message and there is no question that Ms. Salie has clearly found a larger audience for her message than I have. As I was reading, though, I knew that I had read similar think-pieces about parenting approaches for boys any number of times before. Time is supposed to be a news magazine but Ms. Salie’s argument felt like the latest entry in the “Here Is Some News That Is Not Really News” category. The attacks against conventional gender norms have been around for years and examples of men pursuing more developed senses of emotional intelligence have never been easier to find.

Welcome to the party, Time Magazine. It’s nice of you to finally join us.

All that being said, however, I should cut Ms. Salie and Time some slack. I pride myself on being self-aware and on examining the origins of my own biases and, in this case, they are fairly easy to identify. It makes sense that I would feel like this topic is not exactly newsworthy; I’m a social worker who specializes in working with children and I’ve seen my fair share of examples of the ways anger can lead to destructive behaviors, particularly in adolescent and young adult boys.

More importantly, I know that there are many places in the United States in which challenges to social conventions are not as easily accepted, not to mention the rest of the world. People hold life experiences and perceptions of the world dearly, particularly when the legitimacy of those perceptions is called into question. The messages that Ms. Salie describes being communicated to her son, as well as similar lessons which Trudy and I have seen being taught to Eitan, speak to the very reason why this article needed to be written, even if the message was not necessarily “new.” This type of article will need to continue to be written until our society finally accepts responsibility for changing the concepts we have been instilling in our children. We’ve seen progress; we just need to see a bit more.

New Year’s Non-Resolutions

The end of the year tends to spur people into becoming reflective. I’d argue that I tend to be fairly reflective most of the time anyway but there is something about the end of a year and the start of the new one that makes me think on a slightly broader scale. I live much of my life focused on the present; what tasks need to be completed, why are the kids crying, how do I get from point A to point B, etc. There are so many small fires to be put out that I sometimes forget about finding ways to stop them from starting in the first place. That is what this time of year is for: taking stock of where we were and what we’ve done and making decisions and plans for the coming year.

To that end, I thought of a few things I have in mind for the coming year. I’m not going to call them resolutions; I find that word has become too closely associated with fixing the pieces of ourselves that are “broken” and that’s not how I see myself. I have my share of flaws, to be sure, but there is a major difference between being imperfect and being broken. In that vein, I was looking for ways to build on the foundation that already exists, rather than making sweeping changes or starting from scratch. To use computing terminology, I want to upgrade the current software instead of repairing faulty wiring or installing an entirely new operating system.

One more thing: the tweaks I mention below vary in their degrees of importance. (There’s a reason I’m calling them tweaks.) It’s much easier to maintain slight adjustments over the long term than it is to keep up with large scale changes. I’d rather commit to smaller shifts that are more realistic than come up with loftier goals that set me up for disappointment.

And so, without further ado, I present my 2018 Non-Resolutions.

1. Stop the Hoarding

Let’s be clear: I’m not a hoarder. I don’t obsess with acquiring new things and I have no problem getting rid of garbage and junk mail that come into my apartment every day. Show me something I haven’t used in three years and I’ll throw it out without batting an eye (usually). What I do have a problem with is that I make piles. Piles of receipts, piles of electronics chargers, piles of papers that I may need but I’m not entirely sure. I make these piles because I don’t know where something should go immediately or because I’m just putting it down and intending to put it away later (which, of course, I never do).

2018 Non-Resolution: no more piles. If something is out, I’m going to put it away immediately. No more putting things down and “coming back to it.” I’ll have a specific spot for things I’m not ready for yet and make sure that it’s empty before I go to bed each evening.

2. Better Quality Family Time

A few nights ago, Trudy and I were watching television,1 which is not exactly a rare occurrence for us. Most of our evenings end up with the two of us sitting on the couch and watching a show while also scanning through social media feeds on our phones or doing work on the computer. This particular evening, though, ended differently. We had put away our phones and were actually sitting right next to each other, as opposed to near each other. We were both fully present in the moment2 and we were only focused on the show and each other. It was just… nice.

2018 Non-Resolution: focus on one thing at a time. Watch the show and nothing else. Be with Trudy and nowhere else. Play with my kids and be present with them. Leave the phone aside and keep my attention on the people I’m with so I can get more done and enjoy being with the people closest to me.

3. Keep on Writing

This is a harder one than it may seem. There are times when the words just flow out, when I have the entire post formulated in my head before I even start typing. Then there are other times, though, where I start and stop numerous times before finding an opening that seems to stick. I’ll be the first to admit that some posts are “better” than others – more creative, more heartfelt, more meaningful. It depends heavily on the subject matter of the post. But, no matter how the post turns out, I know that I feel better about myself when I can publish new posts consistently.

2018 Non-Resolution: keep the streak going. I’ve published a new blog post in nine of the last ten weeks (I took Thanksgiving week off) after having gone through a four-month dry spell. I’ve been feeling more confident about my work and my ability to find the words to describe my experiences. I need to make sure I continue my progress.

These are a few of my non-resolutions. Feel free to leave some of your own in the comments section, whether they’re significant life-altering moves or little adjustments to make your daily routines go more smoothly. Either way, I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. May 2018 bring all of us more laughter than tears, more successes than setbacks and more love than heartbreak. Oh, and of course, plenty of writing material.

Happy new year.

 


1. For the record, we were watching The West Wing. We never watched the show when it was airing and we started binge-watching it around Christmas when our current shows were on winter break.

2. I mean, as much as one can be when watching television.