I found this picture in a box of old family photographs I came across as I attempted to put a dent in the mess that is my basement. A half-century of existence, a decade and a half of marriage and 13 years of offspring and the effluvia that is discarded as the children mature all leave copious amounts of crap to sort through when one gets up the courage to do so.
Looking at the picture I would date it from the 1920s. The only things I can tell you about this picture are: these are relatives of mine, and every single one of them is without a doubt dead.
I spend every December reviewing my life and my past, looking at what went well in the past year and what didn’t. I like to reinvent myself from time to time – to become a more perfect imperfect me. Sometimes I just do it to shake a rut, while other times my life has depended on it.
My fate is the same as the people in this picture: oblivion. Not only are they dead, but anyone who could possibly identify them is dead, too. There are no markings on the photograph to give me even the slightest clue as to the date, or the names of the people here, so this picture is all that remains – anonymous ghosts frozen in time – as I will too one day be, my face in a photo moldering in a box in my great-granddaughter’s basement (or scanned and resident in the cloud).
I feel however that before my personal oblivion there are likely a number of years left. I think as part of my reflection on the past I was drawn to go through this big pile of pictures. I shredded two – they were of the ‘let’s embarrass someone on Facebook with this‘ variety and I thought it better they not exist. Others were all part of a puzzle of faces that wove together in a mosaic of family, friends and neighbors. Of places that no longer exist, of events long forgotten until I picked up the photo again.
I cannot prevent a similar oblivion for myself one day, but I can make the best of the time I have, whether it be a day or another 40 years. I’ve put together some personal goals for the coming year and I thought I would share – just in case you yourself are looking to make some changes in your life and would like to take a look at someone else’s thinking on the subject.
I’ve broken them down into 3 categories – mind, body and soul.
I will focus on the things on this list alone and do no other things. There is much more I want to do but this can wait for another year
I will continue educating myself on weight, obesity, health and happiness
I have written and published a book in 2013 that will change people’s lives, and that I will be proud to have written
I will continue my practice of identifying my attachments and eliminating the unnecessary ones
I am at my target weight of 185 on March 1st, 2013 and I maintain that weight +/- 4 pounds
I will continue to perfect my eating practice to include more healthy foods and more joy in all foods I eat – including cheats
I practice yoga regularly and have found a way to do it that I enjoy and that makes me feel stronger, more flexible and more happy
I will remind myself daily that my core is my family, my passion for helping people, and for becoming a better person by defining my values more clearly and practicing them more perfectly
I continue to perfect living my life in a manner that will teach my daughters by example to be strong, independent, kind and loving people
I will practice awareness more perfectly and take in more of what life presents me
I will continue to practice doing something every day to show my wife I love her and cherish her
I will continue to practice gratitude for all that I have been given
I will not waste time on ‘hobbies’ or ‘pastimes’. My time will not be frittered away in pointless organizing, or anything that can be delayed or deferred that is not part of my core
I will work to cultivate more joy in my life and in everyone’s lives around me.
I reduce my possessions and will enjoy the ones I have more
If this post strikes you as somewhat morbid or sad it isn’t supposed to be. It is a reminder that time is fleeting and we can’t wait around for things to change.
There is an old Latin phrase ‘Memento Mori’ which translates as ‘remember you will die’. It was said to have originated in ancient Rome: As a Roman general was parading through the streets during a victory parade, standing behind him was his slave, tasked with reminding the general that, although at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall, or more likely be brought down. The servant is thought to have conveyed this with the warning, “Memento mori”.
None of this is meant to depress, but to inspire. We can’t allow our time to slip away. Enjoy the present, and if you can’t, get working on a plan to do so now.
I don’t want to sit around just waiting for oblivion.