Christopherson Column: Resolving to live life better in 2021? I suppose it’s a start
“Sometimes it’s not easy living in this house.”
My wife says that from time to time. Sometimes when she’s really feeling it she’ll substitute “tough” for “not easy.” She’ll utter those words within earshot of me, but she never really says it directly to me. There might be a cat or a puppy in the room to hear her in more direct fashion, or one of our sons who might be around. Sometimes, she makes her periodic pronouncement seemingly to the air.
She’s not angry, necessarily, when she says this. Truth be told, it’s more deadpan than anything, but, make no mistake, her words have purpose. They always comes in the wake of me saying something or doing something – nothing ever major – and she just feels the need to reiterate the fact that, from time to time I am, shall we say, a real piece of work.
Take this little anecdote from Christmas afternoon: The gifts had been opened, snacks from the night before had been removed from the fridge and spread out on the kitchen counter for round two of grazing, and a Vikings defense employing players I’d never even heard of was getting embarrassed by the New Orleans Saints.
With another Christmas almost come and gone, my wife noted as we sat on the couch, might I have any New Year’s resolutions in mind?
“To be better,” I said.
“Better. Better at what?” she wondered.
“Life,” I responded.
Once again, it was fast becoming not easy living in our house.
“You want to get better at life,” she confirmed in an especially monotone monotone.
“Yes,” I said. “Better at living life.”
And thus endeth that little exchange.
But it got me thinking. I’ve never been a real New Year’s resolutions kind of person, at least never with any seriousness. But if I’m going to be better at living life, maybe I should actually put forth some effort. And that starts with putting my aspirations to paper.
• I resolve to try my best to remain young at heart and mind, while also realizing that, at my age, it’s not always possible to be young at body.
Case in point, someone got it in their head during Christmas Eve evening festivities at our house that my wife and I should engage in a planking competition with our oldest son, who’s pretty fit. (As is my wife.) There were two rounds, and I actually surprised myself by how long I was able to prop my body up with my elbows and toes while keeping my stomach from touching the floor.
But I knew what was coming. Not the next day, mind you, because whenever I exert myself in rare, unusual fashion, the pending pain and stiffness remain blissfully absent 24 hours later. But the day after that, look out. The morning after Christmas, I happened to cough while at the same time engaging my battered, still-in-shock abdominal muscles to get out of bed, and my wife actually got to the first “1” while dialing “911” before I managed to grunt out that I probably could get by without an ambulance.
• I resolve to interrupt people less, and by “people,” 99.9% of the time I mean my wife. I’ve resolved to do this before, and if there is one resolution I truly take seriously, it is this one.
I’ve long said that there are two kinds of people in this world, poor storytellers and excellent storytellers. Now, it’s not that my wife is a poor storyteller, it’s just that I think I am a better storyteller, and the result is me cutting her off so I can tell a story the way I think it should be told.
I have gotten better recently in my personal battle to interrupt less. I think she would agree with that. But for a while there it got to the point that if we were with any group of people and she started to retell a witty yarn or a thrilling tale, she would literally hesitate under the assumption that I was going to jump in and take over.
That’s not a relationship dynamic you want. And this interrupting thing? It’s more than a bad habit, it borders on an addiction, and many are afflicted.
• I resolve to be less pre-judgmental. The inclusion of “pre-” is key here. To not be judgmental, I think, almost goes against our human biology, our very wiring. Fair or not, everyone is judgmental of others to varying degrees.
But to jump to a negative conclusion about an individual person or a particular group of people...to be pre-judgmental before you have barely a shred of evidence to back you up, is where I and a whole lot of other people have a real chance to improve ourselves.
• I resolve to give credit where credit is due. Like that whole pre-judgmental resolution I just detailed? My wife gets the credit for that one; it’s one of her New Year’s resolutions that I am also going to take a run at. And as she explained it to me further, I even let her finish.
Progress! And 2021 hasn’t even officially arrived yet.