By DIANE PHILLIPS
Down deep inside all of us behind our outwardly well-adjusted exterior there are conflicting wishes. We wish we could be a genius who invents something that changes the world or we wish we could be rich or thin or beautiful or best of all rich, thin, beautiful geniuses who invented something that changed the world. But we settle for what we are because either we believe we are ill-equipped to be anything else or we are ill-prepared to do the work required to become all those things we wish we were.
Most of those grand wishes – to be the genius who cures cancer, so thin our friends whisper behind our back, so beautiful heads turned when we walked into a room – most of those grand wishes are fleeting. We don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on them except for once a year when we do this strange thing known as making New Year’s Resolutions.
New Year’s Resolutions were clearly invented by a non-genius who got tired of looking for work and had way too much time on his hands. The idea that everyone should, on one day of the year, decide what they will do from that day forward and pledge to do that thing that somehow escaped their notice all year long when they could have been working on it is preposterous. Yet we all do it. Preposterous has never kept us from trying anything.
So this year I decided since I was never going to be smart enough to cure cancer or beautiful enough to turn heads I would turn my attention to the one thing I was blessed with, a solid brain that refuses to sleep even when I beg it to, and every day put that brain to an uncommon use. Not only would I try to come up with an original way of looking at things at least once a day, I would begin practising it ahead of time so I would know whether pressuring my brain to perform was a good idea or just another stupid one before I committed myself to it as a New Year’s Resolution (from here on out called NYR).
In case you are still interested in the saga, I’ll confess. The first day of full-out brain practice went okay. I said to my brain, think of something that is commonly known but not well-enough described or concisely enough considered. That led me down the path to what makes one day more special than the other. It is not because something grand happened, or because you won the lottery since chances are pretty good that you did not. What makes one day more special than the other is the contrast in the details, an amazing sunrise so breathtaking you cannot describe it because you cannot do it justice. It is the broad smile on an old friend’s face who is sincerely glad to see you. It is in the warmth of a handshake or hug of a loved one or way a dog rebounds and runs across the yard to catch the toy you threw.
It is in the contrasts between what happened in one moment and what happened the moment after. Routine keeps life balanced, contrasts make it interesting. That may not be a terribly deep thought but it worked for the first day’s practice leading up to the big NYR. So taking that one step further, if contrasts are interesting, what could be more interesting than the ultimate contrast, love-hate relationships? We all have them.
We love waking up in the morning and hate having to rush out of bed. We love checking things off our to-do list and hate having to make another to-do list. We love having things to do and hate that everyday our things to do keep us from having free time. The love-hate relationships apply to small things, like not that this is of any significance except you may identify in some way, but I have a set of six dinner plates and accompanying dishes which I inherited. These are really good plates with cobalt and gold. No one buys plates like these anymore. If I had a dishwasher, which I don’t, they would not be able to go into it. They are so good that I never use them. One might chip or someone might drop it or company might feel constrained and not wave their hands around when they are telling a story that demands hands because there is antique treasure on the table.
So the plates stay in the cabinet and once a year I take them out, wash them, dry them and think about how they got to where they are more than half a century since they came into my possession.
Do I have a love-hate relationship with a set of dinner plates that are as useless as they are beautiful? No, I have a love-hate relationship with the knowledge that what was once a prized possession is now something that is merely work and takes up space and how we all (since I never like to take sole blame and thus take comfort in the thought that others are in the same boat) hold on to material treasures and spend too little time on the non-material. Notice it was not immaterial because that would have a totally different meaning.
So that led me to Day 3 of practising for my NYR. Since many of us have things we own that we rarely or never use, yet we hold on to them, what about the thoughts we hold on to that are just as useless? How do we disavow ourselves of them? How did we get to them to begin with?
Here are three. If we resolve to wrestle with any one of these together and get it right, it will renew the faith of many of us that the idea of a NYR may really have some merit other than being a champagne-induced quip gone with the headache by morning.
First, can we please stop looking at everything through partisan eyes in The Bahamas? We love our freedom of speech but hate that if we really speak freely it will be held against us. How we vote should not determine how we are viewed. The consequences of red, gold or green are so intense that one man I know refused to have red in his house at Christmas. He bought white poinsettias and his wife decorated the tree with turquoise and silver.
Partisanship is so divisive that I once saw a prime minister I was traveling with to inspect hurricane damage hightail it out of a small restaurant/bar he had entered to grab a cold drink because one of his cronies told him the owner voted the other way. What was the man going to do, poison the soda? So if we love our freedom of speech, can we please be free to speak without fear of retribution? That would be a good NYR.
Second, can we please take our health seriously? When four out of every five people in the country are obese, how do we justify our love of the wrong foods while hating what they do to us? If we followed our sense of smell or our desire to experience that greasy dripping burger with the juices turning our chin into a slimy version of its former proper self, we would all experience momentary fulfilment until we entered the regret and self-loathing consequences session that followed. So the second good reason for supporting continuing the NYR practice is to eat the foods we can learn to love as a national goal.
Third, exercise. In addition to loving the foods we should hate, most of us, me for sure, have a love-hate relationship with exercise. We are not quite as bad as the famous photographer who said she could sum up her feelings about exercise by saying she wished cigarettes came already lit. I love swimming, walking or working out once I start, I just hate the thought of getting dressed and ready to work out when I could continue to watch Morning Joe.
Our National NYR should be to lose a collective million pounds or thereabouts. To make sure that happens, each of us has to resolve not something broad like we resolve to lose weight, but something specific like ‘I promise not to eat bread Monday through Friday even if the scent of that hot loaf is like making me drool.’ That would be a real NYR.
Also, while we are at it with serious, detail-rich resolutions, can we please resolve to achieve a few simple things that would make a lot of difference?
One, name our still unnamed magnificent waters the Lucayan Sea. We have the most beautiful waters in the world. Why have we not dignified them with a name? Why are we still lumping them in by name with the Atlantic Ocean? The Caribbean was named after the Carib Indians. The Lucayan Sea pays tribute to the indigenous people of The Bahamas and represents their peaceful nature, not a bad idea in these far too violent times.
Next, can we please do away with tacky signage? Garish signs with multi-coloured flashing, rotating lights are cheapening our built environment. Such a simple thing. Think of how different a street with trees and natural flora looks by comparison with a street junked up by jumbled signage. Bringing standards to signage is one of the quickest, easiest steps we can take to beautify the island.
Can we resolve to name a mayor for the City of Nassau and may we also find the funds to adorn our historic buildings with historic plaques?
If we can achieve even a portion of that national NYR list, I promise never to question why we make NYRs again and next year I will add all the mushy stuff about how we should all vow to treat one another with love and respect and all the critical economic recovery and growth elements.
As for the contrast, why we make New Year’s Resolutions when no one sticks to them, maybe merely having a goal makes you feel better. Maybe that’s all it needs to be.