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New Beginnings

2010 was a tough year for many, thanks to rampant unemployment, a still-hobbled economy, and a generally pessimistic feeling that has been pervasive for years now. Come to think of it, the whole decade of the – what shall we call it, the oughts? – has been pretty dismal. Good riddance to it, I say! It started out horribly (9/11), continued in misery (Iraq/Afghanistan wars, the whole Bush presidency), and now, at the end of it, we are paying the heavy price for all that trauma. And who gets blamed for it? Barack Obama and the Democrats. What short-term memories the electorate have.

But things are looking up. Finally. The economy is starting to slowly recover. Taxes will be lower this year for us working stiffs (the FICA percentage has been lowered, putting an extra $100 in your annual salary for every $5000 you make). We have a leader who, while he’s made some tactical errors, is pretty up to handling the enormous job he has undertaken. And yes, we have finally allowed gays in the military, which I see as a huge sign of social progress (federal gay marriage rights can’t be far behind). While this may not seem of interest to the average (heterosexual) Joe, it should be. The elimination of any prejudice benefits everyone. I’ve always been convinced that if it weren’t for gays, the world would be a pretty awful place. Their contributions – in the arts, entertainment, fashion, design, aesthetics – make the world go round. Everyone has benefited from gay creativity. So stop demonizing us already.

So here we are on the precipice of a brand new year, and decade (technically, I guess the decade started last year, but I’m not technical). A fresh start. A new beginning. Do you have changes you want to make? Most of us do. But changes don’t come easily. Old habits do indeed die hard. But that’s also good news. It means that new habits will also die hard. So start some. Create a new ritual or two to keep yourself on track.

One of my goals is to eliminate speaking ill of others (or, to take it a step further, even thinking ill of others). A huge task for many of us, yes, but I believe one with an enormous payoff. The less we criticize others, the less critical and judgmental we will be of ourselves. Plus, when we shoot our mouths off about a situation, company, or person, we often don’t know what the hell we’re talking about. We don’t have all the facts, just our narrow perspective. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Cut them some slack. Take some responsibility for your own part in the strife. Some of the nicest people I know, who I admire greatly, are those who are not judgmental. They never speak ill of anyone. I want to be one of those people. They are a joy to be around, and people are naturally drawn to them. They engender trust and goodwill.

The task won’t be easy, I know. It will begin with just being aware of all the critical thoughts and words. This will be followed by stopping them in their tracks once the awareness is there. Lastly, replacing the old, familiar judgmental response with a new, enlightened perspective. Something like, “Everyone is doing the best they can, with what they have, where they’re at.” Including me. New Age teacher Louise Hay is fond of saying that we should never, ever criticize ourselves (or others). It serves absolutely no purpose. No good comes of it. So why waste time on it? I only wish our leaders in Congress would be more circumspect with their rhetoric. Some of them have the right attitude, including our current president.

Change comes in small doses, but it does come. Small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking (an old adage of the motivational speaker Og Mandino). So make some small changes. Yes, you’ll slip up. No matter. You don’t need to be perfect. Just start by being aware of undesired behavior, and, when aware, making a small change. It really doesn’t take long for the new awareness/behavior to set it. I think it’s mostly about our intent, our desire, to change. Momentum does the rest.

Happy 2011. May your daily mantra be, “The former things have passed away… behold, I make all things new!” (Book of Revelation, Chapter 21).

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