Tuesday, January 1, 2019


So, in addition to many other goals I'm going to try to achieve very soon, I recently assigned myself the task of posting a new blog entry.

The entry was supposed to be about Christmas. The problem is that I waited too long, and by the time I gave myself that job, I was already enmeshed in the foggy funk that envelops me every year around Thanksgiving and beyond. I've already written in this blog about how I'm not a fan of Christmas in America. Phony joy, pretenses of shiny happy families, fake pine wreaths showing up in stores right next to skeleton decor (hence in September), Jesus-deniers and even haters lustily singing carols and hymns without a thought as to the words they're uttering, not to mention commercialism and materialism run amock... It depresses the hell out of me. How can I write anything other than negative vitriol when I'm deep in the grim throes of my holiday bleakness? I can't.

So I'm not writing about that. I'm going to write about patterns. By doing so, I'm still sort of writing about Christmas. And I can tackle that now, because we're well out from under the last gift exchange, the final car trip, the culmination of shopping and listing and preparing and cooking and eating and wrapping. Honestly, I had a nice holiday! I really did. But now the tune has changed because we've successfully reached a new year; my spirit is lighter, I begin to sing with real enthusiasm, and by the time we dismantle the tree, I'll be genuinely smiling in spite of the fact that Christmas has been hijacked yet again by some strange force that has very little to do with what it claims to represent. It's okay. I can take it. The important part is Emmanuel. I can celebrate that every day, because Jesus isn't just "God with us" on December 25. We get Him every day! That is truly good news.

But back to patterns... I'm coming to the conclusion that most of humanity is rather lazy. It's easier to be an imitator instead of an innovator. Much less effort is involved when following others, simply falling into line without questioning things like purpose or destination. When people are ridiculously busy and distracted, it requires so little effort to resign oneself to the bovine course of action. To top it off, we love comfort--not just cushy easy chairs, but also the comfort of familiarity. When the same situations arise and end the same way, when people we know behave in the expected manners, we might hate every minute of it but also feel comforted because the scene fits our expectations.

This truth, that humans prefer simple-minded thoughtlessness and familiarity, is clear to me on a personal, familial, nationwide, even global scale. It's everywhere. The same things keep happening, over and over, through homes and seasons and civilizations and--yep, here it is--during holidays. We call them traditions. Sometimes, I wonder whether they should be called traps.

It's not easy to react differently in familiar circumstances. I'd add that I suspect most of us don't realize that we are behaving predictably; many are unable to discern a pattern, particularly our own patterns of behavior, even when they're pointed out to us by others. No one wants to believe that they're predictable, that they tend toward emotional laziness, that they're unoriginal or through long-standing behaviors are contributing to a well-established (dare I say generational?) problem. Most of us cling to the hope that we're "different."

By and large, though, humans are not different. It's hard to be different. (And people wonder why I'm so gloomy. It's in my blood. I could do this all day.)

So what's my point?

I'm going to claim 2019 as my year to break some unhealthy patterns. I need to spot them, in myself and those around me, in situations that involve me, and then I need to cease protocol and behave or react differently. Sometimes that will mean not reacting at all. (This is where you recite to yourself that tidy little verse about knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change, yada yada yada...)

Do you have some unhealthy patterns in your mind? In your family? Your life? Would you care to join me in trying to identify them, and then change the pattern for the better? What a worthy pursuit! If we succeed in just one pattern shift, 2019 will be a better year than the last. What do you have to lose?

No comments: