I’ve been wrestling with what to make my New Year’s resolution. Granted, I’m a few days behind the curve as it’s already the 5th, but I figure it’s not too late to pull the year out of the hole.
Initially, I had an idea. Not so much as a resolution, but more of a 90-day experiment. I’ve been big on developing habits; I’ve got two running right now: writing every day for 90 days and reading for 90 days. I feel like indoctrinating myself in particular habits over a defined, attainable length of time will be more fruitful than setting myself up for a year’s worth of unrealized ambitions.
The habit I thought I’d start up in the New Year was sharing. Over the first 90 days of the year, I would give something every day. The point was most specifically directed at my writing. I would give my writing to the world; I would, in my own parlance, create conversations with others. I’d keep the scope of the gifts manageable—it could be an essay or a note. As long as it was something written by me for someone else, not just a never-read monologue, which is often how my writing ends up.
But I’ve already run into snags with this ambition. While I have shot out a few things, the exercise also elucidates another need in me: the need for replenishment. In other words, it’s undoubtedly great to give, but it’s also great to receive. It’s not every day that we are givers. Sometimes, the most we have to give is an admission that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Today seems to be one of those days.
I woke up in the late fashion that has characterized almost every day this year. I laze out bed, piss, turn on my espresso machine, meditate for 15 minutes, pray, write in my journal for a half-hour or so, and I get ready to face the world. The problem is, my life can seem so insolated—I’m living alone, answerable to nobody really. I’ve no deadlines, children to support, wife to nag me. All I’ve got is this vague desire to give. But what happens if I don’t give? Nothing really. And what happens if I don’t give tomorrow? Nothing again. In fact, the way I’m set up right now, I could go on not giving for some time to come. If I picked up a part-time job or something, I’d really be fucked. My overhead is so low, I could just ride out my life in this half-existence, giving little, taking little, feeling little (pun intended).
So I’m pretty fucking clear that is not how I want to live my life—a redundancy in the operating system of society. I do want to give. I want to mean something to someone, or perhaps multiple someones. Therein lies my ambition to give for 90 days; it also motivated by the fact I’m just happier when I’m in a generous state. I sleep better, get laid more often, eat better, feel happier. It’s a better way to live.
But what happens when you don’t know what or how to give. I know it sounds like a bullshit story from someone with too much time on his hands, but it’s the truth: I often don’t know what or how to give. I think this conundrum is part of the reason why people invent religions—it’s a framework to give. When in doubt or feeling restless, go to the church or temple and they’ll put you to work. It’s also a reason why many people stay in satisfying and unsatisfying jobs—it’s something to do.
But I don’t particularly want to join a religion and I don’t particularly want a job. I know what I want to do: I want to help people through my writing. It’s just something that no one is asking me to do and it’s not something I necessarily know how to deliver.
So I’ve resolved to expand my New Year’s resolution/habit-building exercise building to include asking for help in addition to giving. Both endeavors work to achieve similar if not the same ends. If we are to assume that conventional reality operates cyclically, then both giving and receiving are drivers of that phenomenon. On another level, they both inspire the feeling of humility. Receiving, by its very nature is an act of humility. It says, “I don’t know how to do this…please show me how.” It’s an admission of lack of power and knowledge. By soliciting someone or something else’s help, you automatically become more open, more humble and, paradoxically, stronger because you are now tapped into a larger system, even if that system is just one other person.
I asked for help yesterday from a guy named Rick Jarow, who’s a spiritual writer. I said, “How do I do this?” “How do I get people to interested in what I’m writing?” And this leads to another part of asking for help: by actually incorporating someone or something else’s assistance, you’ve suddenly gone from monologue to conversation. Suddenly, this guy Rick and I are having a conversation about how I should proceed. It’s no longer about just about my ideas. Now it’s the fusion of our ideas. It’s a conversation.
I mentioned that giving is also an act of humility. I realized that one of the primary reasons I become stingy is for fear that what I’m giving is not enough. In the act of giving, we bare our limitations. We say, “this is all I have to give right now…I hope it’s enough.”
I don’t have much humility in either direction. I don’t ask for help when I need it and I don’t give it because I often get clouded over by fear that it’ll shake my pride. Up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t reading or writing much either. I guess that’s why I have to make New Year’s resolutions around these things.
In the end, it’s just a matter of doing it. The reasons and the mechanics fall by the wayside, and all you’re left with is the thoughts in your head and the choices they inform. At the end of the day, I want my thoughts and deeds to mean something.